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    Total Conditioning: A Mind-Body Solution

    Excerpted from
    Training for Life: Walk Your Way to Fitness and Weight Loss in 14 Days
    By Debbie Rocker

    True fitness isn't just physical. Training for Life will get your body into dramatically better shape, but the physical changes will be just a small part of a much bigger transformation. Our real goal together is something bigger: total fitness.

    Total fitness is an entirely new way of thinking about the concept of fitness. It's not just about getting thinner, and it's certainly not about doing it short term. Total fitness is about getting healthier and. stronger, for the long haul. And it's not just about your body. Total fitness will get your mind and spirit strong and healthy, too, and give you the self-respect, self-acceptance, and self-appreciation that comes from knowing you can achieve whatever goals you set for yourself.

    In other words, total fitness means getting every part of you in shape - your body and your mind - so you're in prime condition to live the life you want and deserve.

    Another Way of Looking at the Problem

    When you think about your life, and the things about it you'd like to change, I'll bet there's more than just "pant size" on the list. Like many of my students, you probably feel stuck in many different areas of your life. Sure, you're uncomfortable with your weight - but also with your job, your relationships, your income, and other things, too.

    In fact your struggle with your weight is just one manifestation of a much larger issue: your struggle with yourself. And so is your discomfort in your job, with your marriage, or with your paycheck. All the different parts of you - who you are and what you do - are related. To get to a better place, not just physically, but in all these areas, you'll have to deal with that bigger struggle, But the quick-fix diets and the miraculous weight-loss machines and potions "as seen on" late-night television ignore everything we know about the powerful mind-body connection. They suggest that you should address your weight problems exclusively through diet and exercise, as if these issues were separate from the rest of your life. They're trying to tell you - and sell you - the idea that there is a body-only solution to what is clearly a mind-and-body problem.

    You already know that Training for Life means throwing out a lot of stale beliefs and misconceptions. I'd like this particular misconception - the preposterous idea that our bodies and our minds are separate - to be one of the first ones you throw overboard. In this chapter I'll show you how this misconception sets you up to fail at dieting and supports the diet roller coaster you've been on.

    The struggle with our waistlines is a serious problem, and one that I can help you put behind you forever, but I believe it is symptomatic of a greater malaise. I believe we'd struggle a whole lot less with our outer, physical selves - not to mention our bosses, our kids, and our spending practices - if we really focused on developing our sense of awareness, responsibility, and compassion for our inner selves and for those around us. That's why the training in Training for Life focuses as much on what's going on inside as it does on your physical body.

    An Unconscious Life

    Most of us live on autopilot. We are creatures of habit, programmed according to our past conditioning. We eat dinner every night at six o'clock, whether we're hungry or not, and have dessert whether we're full or not, because that's what we've always done. As kids we were rewarded with delicious goodies, bribed to stop crying with edible treats, and punished by having the sweets taken away. So now the Hershey bar we once got for a good report card has turned into a box of Godiva to celebrate a big deal, and the cookie we got to console us for getting picked last for the team has turned into a pint of ice cream after a fight with a lover.

    We've continued to cat (and drink) instead of feeling our feelings. We've treated our disappointments with a junk-food pity party in front of the TV and our self-hatred with an extra piece of lasagna. We're grown-ups now, but food (or its many substitutes: a few too many glasses of wine, charges to a credit-card bill we know we can't afford) is still the reward, the consolation prize, and the punishment, all rolled into one. The problem is that now we're completely out of touch with the feelings that are causing us to eat and drink. Without that information we're helpless to break the cycle: feeling, eating, dieting, cheating, feeling, eating, dieting, cheating...

    As odd as it may seem, that excess weight serves us in some important way, although we'll swear up and down that we hate it, especially when bathing-suit season rolls around. Many of us use the extra padding as a buffer to protect us from the feelings that make us uncomfortable: loneliness, self-doubt, inadequacy - and our fear of success, too.

    Truly, you wouldn't put your whole life in such discomfort if you knew deep down that feelings are only temporary and harmless. But our feelings do feel fatal, and not understanding what they are or what they mean makes us feel out of control - and there's nothing we hate more than being out of control. There is one thing that we can control, and that is keeping the weight on; we seem to know how to do that, without even trying. So although we don't control the weather, what people think of us, or what we feel, we can make ourselves overweight and use that to insulate ourselves from failure and success. We can use it to stay in the same, stuck place, confirming what we've been told (and now tell ourselves): that we're not capable, or deserving, of a better life.

    Clearly the way out of this conundrum is to begin to address these feelings, which are the root causes of our self-destructive behavior. Traditional diet programs don't - and that's one of the main reasons they'll all eventually fail you.

    The Chain of Command

    Traditional diets support yet another dangerous fallacy. They tell you that working out will make you look and feel terrific. That's true - but they also say that looking and feeling great will be all the incentive you need to keep going forever. The problem? That's not how human beings work.

    Most of us can follow a diet or workout program for a while, especially when we're losing weight and looking good. So why doesn't it ever last? Why is it just a matter of time before we start cheating or treating and eating again? Why isn't looking and feeling good from the weight loss enough to keep us on track?

    Because you haven't made any fundamental changes to your mind. So all your new behaviors are actually running contrary to your deep-seated beliefs about who you are, what you're capable of, and what you deserve. What we see with our "inner eye" is what we believe about ourselves, so that vision of ourselves is as important as (if not more important than) what we see in the mirror. If you haven't changed your beliefs or the way the current of information flows in your mind, your results won't last. Nobody can keep swimming against the tide without becoming exhausted; inevitably you will give up and go back to behaving self-destructively in order to be consistent with your fundamental belief that you don't deserve anything better.

    I know people who have undergone gastric bypass surgery and lost tremendous amounts of weight; I am sure you have read their stories as well. One magazine wrote about a woman who, after surgery and great weight loss, walked right into a mirror - she no longer recognized her own image! This is a dramatic example of what happens when the body changes and the mind fails to accommodate the change, and as far as I'm concerned, it doesn't bode well for this particular woman's long-term success. It's very uncomfortable to live with that kind of dissonance between body and mind, and I wouldn't want to bet on a contest between the brain, the most powerful supercomputer on earth, and a few stomach staples.

    You may believe that losing weight will improve your self-esteem and silence the negative monologue you hear in your head. But losing weight will fix your weight problem; to fix your self-esteem, we have to address your self-esteem. And that's the key to keeping the weight off for good. If you don't get your mind in shape at the same time as you improve your body, your mind is going to drag you right back to where you started.

    There is no surgery for changing our minds, our beliefs, and what we see when we look at ourselves with our inner eve. But there are simple conditioning exercises that you can do to gradually encourage your mind to accept and support your new lifestyle.

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