What’s Fundamentally Wrong with the Quest to be our Healthiest Self

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Hello there, curious mind. 

Before deciding if you’ll read on, I have to give you my sincere honesty – I spent a couple of months this summer working at Fitsmind (and it was pretty damn cool) but they have had no input into this post. I have been very eager to share my thoughts openly, with the hope of course that I find a few people who feel the same, and to shed light on issues that needs our attention! I am humble and proud to share my work on Fitsmind’s journal.

So who am I? My name is Hanna and I’m an avid wellbeing hunter. My fitness journey has been anything but straight forward, and I have gone through ups and downs to come to where I am today – happy, quite healthy and on most days, pretty confident. And I’m not going to try and hook you into reading this by telling you a sob story. In fact, I am very fortunate in many aspects of life – I have never suffered from any severe medical condition. I have been given great education. I have an incredible family who loves me and close friends who enable me to learn and grow everyday.

But while I am extremely fortunate to have so much, I, like so many, keep striving for more. As most of people’s fundamental needs in the western world are covered, we still seek to create needs, it keeps us motivated and it gives us a purpose.

While technology has simplified so many processes, humans tend to have a habit of creating problems that they can later solve. As complex as evolution is, I would argue that this is in part fuelled by 21st century marketing and the desire for immediate need satisfaction.

This behaviour, or consumer behaviour if you like, has created endless opportunities for smart business people across the world. They uncover needs that consumers are not even aware of, and then they find solutions. Solutions that will make you skinny, solutions that will make you healthy, solutions that will make you happy.

But here’s the problem – almost 1/3 of the human population is currently categorised as either overweight or obese. This is terrifying. And along with an ageing population, the long term effects of this reach much wider – we cannot have a growing part of the driving force unable to work, or in need of support from the state. I shouldn’t need to convince you that we need a solution for this problem, but my question is,

“why has the fitness industry failed so hard at solving it?”

However complex that question is, it can from my experience be explained as a never-ending quest, where customers create a reliance on the solution to keep the problem away. You see, regardless of how many miles you ran this morning, or how many vegetables you added to your smoothie, there is always something you didn’t do, something you didn’t add, or something you didn’t buy – that you should have done. You always want to buy more, do more, achieve more.

The problem is that if you are on a “Weight Watchers Diet”, once completing it, there is a big risk you’ll fall back into old habits and gain the pounds back. In fact research shows that nearly everyone who tries to lose weight gains back the pounds within 2 years. This of course is not something Weight Watchers or any other fitness company are too concerned about, if it keeps you coming back to their products. In fact, fitness marketeers so often create images of a perfection in the end of the tunnel, so you spend half of your disposable income on new yoga classes, sugar-free chocolate and “lean in 15” programmes, but it’s not enough. It is not enough because at the end of the tunnel, is another tunnel.

“The fitness industry doesn’t promote a sustainable lifestyle, because if they did, you would eventually stop paying, and they would stop earning.”

We have simply stopped thinking rationally or question the information that we come across. Many customers, including myself, take the fitness and health industry at face value, disregarding our brains as it is easier than evaluating the grounds they have for their many promises. But we really can’t afford to disregard our brains when we are taking lifestyle advice on the big dark web. There are too many self-declared specialists in the industry – and if we don’t critically evaluate what they are saying or selling, we can end up doing more harm than good.

Until we start paying the same importance to our mind as we do to our bodies, we can simply never achieve a healthy-self. A big reason for this is confidence. Glossy magazines and television commercials try to fool us into believing that confidence arrives simultaneously to meal replacers, metabolism boosting green juices or a new ‘bikini body guide’. Truth be told, all of these are going to do nada for your confidence alone. This is apparently not as obvious as it sounds, as people are still paying ridiculous premiums for such products, hoping to feel a little bit better in their own skin. This is quite contradictory to modern psychology which continues to provide us with evidence of how confidence is built from mental strength and resilience.

“The bad news is that this can’t be purchased at your nearest department store. The good news is that with the right tools, you can train it for life.”

At any point in life, you can work on your confidence and feel better about yourself. Confidence can’t arise from a facial cream alone, but from various factors and experiences; from positive life events, from moments of successfully handling challenges or being surrounded by supportive people.

Confidence grows from the ability to focus on yourself and not compare yourself with the society norm or the fitness model on Page 4, while setting realistic yet challenging goals for yourself, to keep on thriving.

Confidence can be strengthened from visualising, by seeing yourself being happy and successful. This is not just a concept, this is something that has been studied by scientists and proven by athletes. Every time you visualise something, your brain creates new neurological pathways so that when you come to perform it is almost like it has happened before. In fact the more you do, the stronger those pathways become, and the more prepared your body is to perform, or for what most of us consider as practice.

Looking a certain way might give you some short term external confidence, but if you are just starting your health journey, training both your body and mind – is the only way you will get sustainable results that can truly make you content, proud and confident in the long term.

Want to be Fab at 50? Healthy and happy? Toned and thriving?

I suggest we stop taking advice from marketing consultants and hobby specialists, and go back to basics.

“What makes you feel good mentally and physically?”

Does going for a walk make you feel better than eating a bag of crisps, reading a good book make you feel better than scrolling through bikini models on Instagram, or stretching your muscles feel better than sitting on your office desk? It’s probably because it is better for you.

There is no one size fits all when it comes to wellbeing, hence listening mindfully to our bodies and evaluating what is healthy for YOU, is the only way to live a healthy balanced life that you can be happy with.

Until we walk this talk, nothing can make us healthy or happy. Being hungry will not make you any healthier than being overweight. We run in circles for too long, without realising that listening to our mind and body is key to finding wellness. Not only does it increase the awareness of the decisions you make, it’s also an incredibly handy instrument to manage change, or reaching a goal.

An example I’m sure many are familiar with is when you’ve fell out of your exercise regime and after a long day at work, you are exhausted and the thought of going to the gym or a loud and perfectly shaped fitness instructor screaming in your face is enough to turn you off.

“Within 5 minutes you have effortlessly found 3 solid reasons why you shouldn’t work out.”

You convince yourself that you are better off without it and eventually you start feeling sorry for yourself because “you are so tired”. Eventually you might even experience physical pain from sitting too long, and BINGO: another excuse to not exercise in your pocket. Conversely, when you start paying attention to the connection between body and mind, you’re actually able to see how your thoughts influence your actions. You can take a step back and witness the whole thing go down, and intervene “Hey you, stop whatever you are doing, you are going to the gym, so stop wasting your time with these thoughts.”

And what’s really cool is once you spend time addressing your mind, your body will obediently follow.

But this is why you simply can’t afford to disregard mental training, and only focus on fitness – if you want to live a long term healthy lifestyle.

So where am I really going with this?

Society as a whole has lost track of the basis of health. While some are running from one spinning class to another sipping on a spinach and broccoli juice, a third of the global population are estimated to be overweight or obese. What happened to the golden middle? Being healthy comes down to doing things that promotes longevity, happiness and wellbeing.

“Sometimes health can come in the form of a hot chocolate enjoyed in a cozy cafe with a close friend, and other times health is a sweat drenched Nike t-shirt hanging out of your document folder on your way to work after a 7am spinning class.”

The real award goes to those who are happy with both, the balance between soul soothing and heart raising activities, the balance between being aware of your weak spots and guiltlessly enjoying 3 hours of Netflix.

This sounds fairly easy and self-explanatory, but just as you need strength to squat a 25 kg barbell, you need strength to get to that barbell, and that strength comes from within. The similarity between them is that they are both crucial components in a healthy life.

The difference between them is that one is not visible, one is not widely celebrated, and this one, your mind, is ultimately what will carry you through injuries, sickness and grief. Taking this into account, it disturbs me that #fitbrain have 2990 tagged pictures on Instagram whereas and #abs have 32 million (or more than 10,000 more).

“Isn’t it evident that mental training is crucial in order to equip society with resilience to deal with economic recession, a worldwide obesity problem, new technologies, new threats and climate change?

In light of all this, Fitsmind and I have set out to make mental and physical training attractive and accessible to all by going back to basics and making sure we provide the market with an instrument to support lifelong health. An instrument that is supported by scientists AND athletes. Because a healthy mind, can only thrive in a healthy body, and a healthy body can only thrive with a healthy mind.