Welcome back to episode number 4 of the Balanced Vibes podcast!
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Books mentioned in this episode (note – affiliate links):
Stress Cure Now by Sarfraz Zaidi MD: https://amzn.to/2SwZzzm
The Mindbody Prescription by dr John E Sarno: https://amzn.to/2YuEE3O
A Complaint Free World by Will Bowen: https://amzn.to/3c1w806
Welcome to the fourth episode of the Balanced Vibes podcast. I'm very, very grateful that you're here because I know that there could be 1000 other things that you could be doing right now but you choose to be here. So thank you so much for that!
Here’s what we’ll cover in today’s post and podcast:
- Why a healthy mindset is as important as a healthy physical body
- Why mindset plays a vital role in making the health changes we want to make
- My personal story with depression and how I overcame it — though I'm not perfect and sometimes I still go backwards!
- 5 tools to help you strengthen your mindset.
A lot of times we are so hyper focused on our food and fitness because these things directly affect our physical body and the way we look. We're always thinking: How is this workout going to change my body? How is this food going to change my body? Is it a bad food? Is it a bad food? Is that allowed food or okay food? How is that going to change my body?
Creating A Change: It's Not About Knowledge, It's About Mindset
We think so much about our physical bodies, to the point where we often neglect our mindset.
However, taking care of our mindset is really, really important. That's why I have all of my clients are do some kind of mindset work too because healing our bodies physically, whether it's from Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, overtraining or poor metabolism, is not the hard part.
Everybody knows that when they're overtrained, they have to just rest more and work out less.
Everybody knows that if they've been under eating, they have to eat more and not fast, for example.
Or if someone has the opposite goal, like maintaining muscle or getting leaner, they know what they have to do in order to get that.
However, the hard part is that we are actually not doing it. It's not the lack of knowledge that is the problem.
The missing part is the mindset.
We're not thinking about things the right way. That's why I have all my coaching clients either do expressive writing, journaling, meditation, either silent or guided meditation, to start learning more about their mindset. There's so many ways to explore your own mindset and make it work for you, not against you.
What Is Neuroplasticity?
Have you ever heard about neuroplasticity? Neuroplasticity is our brain's ability to change. You can literally start thinking differently if you don't like the way you think now and you want to think differently.
So if you're saying that…
I know that I should change my mindset.
All the other people around me can do it.
They were able to recover, good for them.
But I can't do it because I always go back to those old habits…
… Then know that all these things are lies because you can change your brain, thanks to its neurpolasticity. All we have to do is start putting different thoughts into our heads. It's like putting different foods into your body to create the change. So same thing is possible with our thoughts and minds as well.
Through changing our mindset, we can create better thoughts. Once our thoughts are better, also our responses are better, our actions are better and we are able to create that better life that we want. That's why focusing on mindset is very, very important.
My “F*** It” Moment
In 2013, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. I'll get to why this happened, in a second. But for a little bit, about 6-8 months, I was on depression medication and also saw a therapist.
I'm proud for myself for reaching out for help. I remember the moment when I decided to do it. I was lying on the floor of my tiny rental room, had just binged on a half a jar of peanut butter, felt completely miserable, regretted many choices of my life, and I said to myself:
“Fuck, I just can't take it anymore.”
I had been in a relationship that wasn't working for me for a long time. My career choices were wrong. On top of that, and actually related to that, I had binge eating disorder. There was definitely a lot of stuff going on and I couldn't take it any longer. I had also suppressed my real feelings for a very long time, which as I now know, is one of the unhealthiest things to do to yourself.
If you feel like you need help too, please go and ask for it because it can be very, very hard to to break this cycle on your own.
5 Tools To Strengthen Your Mindset
Today, I want to share with you five tips and tools that I have learned from reading many books and following many smart people. They are not scientific tools and I am not a doctor, so remember to always check in with a licensed health care professional when you're feeling depressed. These are just some of the things that have helped me tremendously.
Tip #1: Take A Critical Look At Your Relationships and Your Work
There are two major things in your life that have to be in check for you to feel good, and they are your relationships and your work or school. Why these things are so important? Because they take up a lot of time and energy in our lives!
Let's first talk about relationships. Do some inventory and ask yourself how they are going. Are you happy in your relationships? Do you feel satisfied? Do you feel they bring you joy? Do you feel your relationships are equal?
I'm sharing this because I was in a 4-year relationship that was not right for me, but I didn't know what to do about it. I didn't have the courage to change anything. I didn't had the courage to be alone. I was just thinking that if somebody who I liked also likes me, that's awesome. I really did like this person. He was a good person, but there was no strong emotional or mental connection between us.
That relationship went on for years and years, and as the years passed by, I became emptier and emptier inside. Yet I had no strength and power to do anything about it. As you may imagine, after a while, it really starts to take a toll on you. As I said, it's not necessarily that the other person is bad or wrong, but if you're not clicking, there's no point in staying in a relationship like this. It never gets better, it only gets worse.
The big rock is your work.
Around the same time I was going through the hard times in my relationship, I was supposed to be building my academic career. I was a PhD student and a visiting scholar, and everyone around me were academics as well.
I had had this feeling for a while that maybe this isn't the right thing for me. But at the same time, I also didn't know what else to do. I thought that if I have already started on this path, I have to keep going. But I discovered that it's actually not true. Like I told you also in the very first episode, when I moved to California, and I started meeting all these people who were doing totally different things and not what they went to school for. And they were doing great! They actually followed their passion and they loved what they were doing.
I kind of liked what I was doing, but quite frankly, I had never been exactly passionate about it. Yet I kept doing it for years. Just like was the case with my relationship, I thought that if I just give it more time, if I just wait a little longer, maybe things get better. Well, not too surprisingly, they didn't; instead, I dug myself deeper and deeper into my depression hole.
Tip #2: Know The Difference Between Your True Self and Acquired Self
The next thing I want to talk about is the concept of True Self and Acquired Self. These concepts are from a book called Stress Cure Now by Sarfraz Zaidi.
The author makes a distinction between two people inside of us: One of them is the True Self and the other one is the Acquired Self.
I found this idea of separation between True Self and Acquired Self really, really helpful because it helps me to realize a couple of things.
The True Self is the person who you were when you were born. Think about a little baby and what she needs: She needs sleep, food and then that's basically it. The rest of the time, she's just chilling, right? Relaxing, sleeping, eating, chilling. That's all she does.
This is what we all have inside of us. Your life is so pure and so simple when you are in your True Self.
The other side of us is the Acquired Self that is the result of all the social conditioning, all the expectations, all the perfectionism, all the comparison, all the disappointment that we experienced as soon as we started having some awareness, so basically from around first year of our life until this moment where we're in right now. All the social conditioning has created this Acquired Self.
These two selves are very, very different. The True Self is the pure, the clean version of you, who's really happy and needs very little. The Acquired Self is the opposite of it, shaped by responsibilities, expectations, disappointments etc she experiences. For example, when somebody says a comment or somebody looks “better” than us, we feed the Acquired Self by telling ourselves that we're worse than this other person.
If you have ever been in eating disorder recovery, you know that similar separation is used there too. There is the Healthy Self and the Eating Disorder Self. It's important to know which one is which, and know that the Healthy Self can heal you.
We have to realize when we are getting impacted too much by that Acquired Self, which, to be honest, happens about 99% of our time. Next time when you're feeling like I'm not perfect enough, I'm not doing enough, I'm disappointed in myself, remind yourself that this is the Acquired Self that's talking right now. This is the one who's been socially conditioned, the one who's never happy. You can make the decision to go back to your True Self, that little baby who is happy and healthy, who needs some sleep and food, and is happy with all the simple things.
Of course, things are not always as simple in real life, but in so many cases, we can make this very, very important distinction and as a result, we start seeing things much more clearly and not let insignificant things that feed the Acquired Self but wouldn't matter to True Self, affect us.
Tip #3: Feel It To Heal It
The third tip for you, if you're feeling anxious or depressed, is this: In order to heal, you have to feel.
I'm working with a lot of perfectionists. Perfectionism is one of the most common traits between those who get into food obsessions and mess up their metabolism, who deal with overtraining and Hypothalamic Amenorrhea. Many of my clients have told me:
“I'm not going to let myself feel this way, I can get through this, I can power through this, I'm going to deny my feelings.”
This is the root cause of everything depressive! This the root cause of why we're feeling so down and why we're having all this anxiety because instead of feeling our feelings, we're suppressing them.
Very interestingly, this kind of suppression can even cause physical pain. If you want to learn more about it, there is a great book called The Mindbody Prescription that describes exactly how suppressed feelings can even cause us physical pain, not to mention the emotional pain!
But how to you feel your feelings?
First, understand that there's nothing shameful in letting yourself feel. There's nothing to be ashamed of if you want to cry, there's nothing to be ashamed of if you want to punch something. Don't punch other people but punch something, a pillow for example, and cry. Let your feelings out. If you're having a very strong, intense feeling that is eating you inside, instead of pushing it back down, let it out. Suppressing just bottles it up more.
I think we've all experienced feeling lighter after a really good cry, right? We cry because we are feeling hurt emotionally and by crying, we're letting it out. We actually start feeling lighter. I don't know about you, but I've had that experience many times.
Here's what to do when you start feeling something unpleasant: Feel what you're feeling and try to even intensify it.
Let's say that you're comparing yourself to somebody and you get this feeling of Oh my God, I'm not as good as she is.
First understand that this is the Acquired Self that's talking to you. You can go back to the last point of this article and read it again.
Then, start feeling this little bit more, turn it up a little bit. Just try to really feel what you are feeling. It may start to hurt even physically. Then you get to a point where it just comes out, in a form of crying, punching, jumping, shaking, whatever. Just let it out. And you start feeling lighter. You will never experience this lightness if you keep everything inside.
Tip #4: Have Your Moment, Then Move On
My fourth step for you would be to stop your pity party. Sorry, tough love but I have to say it.
You may think, but aren't these two things what you just said, counterproductive? No. They actually work together very well. So, feel what you're feeling and let it out, have your moment and feel all the hard feelings. But then at one point, stop.
I know it's so easy to do this:
Oh, I'm so sad. I can never get there. I will never heal, I will never get better.
Blah, blah, blah. It's almost a comforting, right? We're just sitting here and feeling so bad about ourselves. But here's the deal: Nobody can fix this. Nobody else can fix this, only we can fix this.
So start thinking: After I've had my moment, my pity party, what is the thing now that I can do to start feeling better? Understand that this is not the same thing as bottling up your emotions. You have to let those emotions out first, then pity party a little bit and then get over it and do the next thing that makes you feel good.
What is that thing that's going to bring you back to life? Maybe it is going outside? Sometimes it may feel like I don't want to do anything and see anyone. I don't even want to like leave my house. So comfortable.
But no, you have to get out. You have to meet people. You have to talk to people. You've got to do the things that bring you your life back.
What works for me, for example, is doing some more work. I do something that I know can be helpful for somebody. Maybe I record another podcast episode, maybe I put something up on Instagram. Maybe I write a long blog post. Something that gives me the sensation of: Okay, I can do it.
Move on, doing whatever it is for you that gives you your power back.
Tip #5: Stop Blaming, Complaining, and Quit the Victim Mindset
My last tip for you today is stop blaming and complaining and stop living in the victim mindset. Take responsibility!
I was talking to somebody some time ago who said:
“The diet and culture has made me feel really bad about myself and made me make bad decisions.”
It was not diet and culture who did this; is actually ourselves. Right? The diet culture is probably not going to go anywhere, but it doesn't help to blame them it for what we're going through. We have to take personal responsibility and not listen to it.
Sure, it does suck that diet culture is there. It has a potential of putting a lot of thoughts into our heads if we let that happen.
But we have to stop blaming other people or the dieting culture or our mother or anyone else, and start taking responsibility. If there's something in our lives that we don't like, we have to stop complaining and do something about it.
For example, right now everyone is complaining about the Coronavirus. It's so bad and so hard. Of course, it is hard and bad. But also notice when you're talking about it too much, when complaining becomes a non stop thing. Be aware of it because it's going to take away all your power.
I would like you to look up the book A Complaint Free World. If you don't want to read the whole book, here's basically what it's about: You're going to put a bracelet on your wrist and every time you complain, you're switching it to your opposite wrist. The ultimate goal is to go 21 days without complaining and without switching the bracelet.
When I first tried this experiment, I had to switch my bracelet three hours after I had put it on! So it's not easy! What I found that I was complaining 7-8 times a day… Before that, I never realized that I had been complaining! Yet I was. This experiment can be a very, very eye opening one.
Here's why we don't want to complain: Saying things like I can't do anything about it or I'm a victim of my circumstances is disempowering.
Being in a victim mindset is not a healthy place to be in either. Of course, it is frustrating when we're treated wrong of if we feel like life is unfair. But at the end of the day, we have to think what we can do to change the situation.
For example, when we talk about eating disorders, we tend to say that the eating disorder has all this power over me. But maybe you can utilize that Healthy Self and really speak up for ourselves by saying: I can do it. It's in my power. I can change my thoughts and my behaviors. I can beat this.
I understand that it's not the easiest thing to do — if it was, no one would ever have eating disorders. At the same time, we have to keep trying, day after day. Getting stuck in the victim mode will not make us feel any better.
I hope you found these mindset tips useful.
I realize that today's post had some tough love in it, but remember that they come from my heart. I say these things because I love you, I like you and I wish the best for you. I really want you to start thinking differently so that you can have a better life.
Happy to hear your comments!