Before I even begin to say a word about weight loss, vegan nutrition or even exercise there is one thing that is, even more, important than the above. And that’s your mind.
Your mind can be your best friend or worst enemy. It can help you through tough times or, you can self-destruct into an emotional train wreck.
We all underestimate the power of our brain. We all seem to think that we were born with the brain we have today. Well, in fact, our brain is just like a muscle. If we work on strengthening our brain, it will be able to withstand and capitalise on negative emotions and situations. On the other hand. If we don't train our brain, even the smallest of situation can ruin your day.
Our brain is malleable. We learn. We forget. We thrive. We deteriorate.
Before you take one step on this incredible journey ask yourself. Am I mentally ready for this? Am I ready for the hard work required to transform your body and mind? Are you ready to make the sacrifices to achieve the body you long for? Are you ready to sometimes do things you simply just don’t want to do? If not. Close this page and send it to a friend that is ready. Because this is not for you. Maybe in a few months it will be, but not now.
I remember back in 2007 when I thought I was ready to make the ultimate change and finally “start”. However, I chose the easy way out. Instead of taking the long-term lifestyle approach I opted for highly calorie-restrictive diet. Did I lose weight? I wanted fast results. I wanted to lose pounds in days. The answer was yes. I did lose weight. But the second I went back to normal eating that weight came back. And some. After 1 month I was fatter than when I first started and I was more miserable than ever. I felt like a complete failure.
It, however, was a failure I learnt from as you already know.
The truth was back in 2007 I wasn’t in enough mental pain to make the lifestyle change I so desperately needed. Humans are amazing. In times of true hardship, pain and discomfort is when we adapt to our situations. Naturally, pro-activity is superior to reactivity. But at least we tend to learn from our past mistakes.
So I ask again just one more time. Are you truly ready to make this the last time you “start”? Understand that this is a journey, not a quick fix.
Don’t forget if the journey was easy everyone in the world would already have the body and mind of their dreams.
Let’s open your mind.
So what is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
In 2017 when I qualified as a Mindfulness Therapist I came to realise the process one must go through to be mindful. I absolutely underestimated the power of mindfulness previously.
Simply by being aware of how you feel and your current emotions you’re able to make more rational decisions throughout your journey. Most of us don’t know why we are feeling or thinking about the way we are.
So right now let's try it. Lay flat on the floor take 5 long breathes in through your nose and out through your nose. I like to use 5 seconds in and 5 seconds out. Ask yourself. How does the air feel filling your lungs? How does your body feel laying on the floor? Are your muscles tight? Are you relaxed? Are you in pain?
You just practised mindfulness right there. You were completely present, in the moment, thinking of nothing else apart from that very small but highly powerful experience. Yes, it can be that simple. However, I will dive further with you showing you how mindfulness can help you along your vegan weight loss journey. (Use this breathing technique whenever you need to calm down from any stressful situation.)
OK, so you're still reading. Great. That means your ready to understand your “Why".
That fact that you are still reading says to me that there is a powerful reason as to WHY you’re reading this. But have you identified your why? It doesn't have to be one why. It can be an accumulation of whys like my experience in 2010. Ie depressed, bad relationships, low self-esteem, overweight, unhealthy and hooked on drugs.
Understanding your why is the catalyst to this magnificent experience that you are going to take. The why must be so powerful, so strong that in times of weakness you think of your why and then you realise that the struggle is well worth your current situation.
Now write down your WHY and put it in a place where you can see it regularly. It could be written words. It could be a horrific picture of you. Or it could have been a past picture of you when you were truly happy.
NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) is a treatment in mindfulness I use with my clients so they can recognize their own thoughts and adapt how they think and mentally talk to themselves. NLP is very simple. But the outcomes can be life-changing.
One of the reasons you have chosen to read this is because you love yourself. Maybe you don’t know that yet. Maybe you’re currently disagreeing with me. The reason why you’re reading this is that you know you deserve better from life. This is, in practice “self-help”. You reading this because you wanted to improve your life. If someone hated themselves they would have simply given up by now.
I have a personal training client that is a prime example of this. The very moment I consulted with her I knew that her main problem was how she spoke to herself and for her to accept that what she was embarking on was a journey of self-love. Not loathing.
Yes, she disliked who she had become. But she had the self-respect, determination and ultimately love for herself to make the changes needed. It took over 3 months for this thought process to manifest itself. Each week I see her she's making progress. But it’s not without setbacks. A more recent training session highlighted this.
During an arduous sprint session, she broke down in tears. She had just recovered from a tummy bug and she was a little slower than the previous week. She felt like a failure. However, during our walk back to our cars I explained to her that 95% of people are sitting on there ever-increasing backside watching reality TV, eating an awful diet and getting more and more unhappy. Let alone recovering from illness. With your current circumstances that would put you in the top 1% of people improving their body and mind. Since then I am pleased to say she's still making incredible progress week in week out.
This type of client is in fact very common. And I have found it to be more common within younger to middle-aged women. This is down to a multitude of factors such as social media, TV, magazines, childbirth, peer pressure and general upbringings such as over-demanding or pushy parenting.
“Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.”
The way we talk to ourselves is no different from how we talk to others. Our thoughts and self-talk have the power to help us achieve personal greatness or self-sabotage back into our unhappy past.
Instead of saying to yourself “I hate how I look.” Accept that things are not where you want them to be but instead say “What changes can I make to become happy?”. If you are looking at other women and it makes you sad that you don’t look like her. Recognize these thoughts. And ask yourself “Why am I feeling this way?”, “What can I control in my life so I no longer feel jealous”.
Instead of thinking or saying “ I could kill for a doughnut right now”. Instead, say “I like the taste of doughnuts but I know once I've eaten it I will feel worse.”
It sounds so simple. However, with practice, you can automatically identify which thoughts are helping you in your journey with me and what are hindering. Never underestimate the power in which to you talk and think to yourself.
As you may understand now that mindfulness is all about being in the moments. Being in the present. There is no time better to practice mindfulness than when your eating.
Many of us no longer sit at the table to eat our meals. We eat on our sofas, desks, cars with multiple distractions going on in the background such as TVs, computers, traffic, radios.
We are no longer present when eating. Is the food your eating nourishing you into peak health. Or is it digging you an early grave? Are you even hungry or are you just bored? When are you full? Are you still eating even though you’re already full? How does the food taste? How does it feel in your mouth? Are you chewing enough?. The list goes on. Again incredibly simple to do.
Using mindfulness while consuming will deter emotional eating on most occasions. However, there will be times of weakness or even jubilation. When was the last time you used food to celebrate or commiserate? I think its more common than you think, for example.” I’ve had a stressful day at work? I deserve a glass of wine.” I’ve succeeded with a project, let celebrate and have a glass of wine”. “I've had an argument with a loved one, I need wine”. “It’s Friday, I deserve wine”.
The wine can be replaced with anything, chocolate, fries, cakes, doughnuts etc.
Now I’m not saying that you cannot enjoy the things you love once in a while. I certainly do. But you need to be mindful of certain occasions where you can get into a loop of self-sabotage and false justification. If you are stressed or upset you need to accept this feeling, change the situation where possible by taking action. Whether that be having a conversation with someone or even finding another job.
Then, you need to have what I call buffer actions. These buffer actions are immediate actions you can take that automatically changes your state in negative situations. Such as having a relaxing bath, practising meditation, gentle yoga, running or even walking. The change of physical state will help you change your mental state, instead of indulging in things and activities that with ultimately damage you further.
In times of celebration use the money you would have saved by consuming rubbish and use it to go on a spa day or a weekend away.
Once you disassociate food from your emotions you will then simply use it as fuel to better yourself. However, perfection doesn't exist. So do your best. Simply ask yourself is this going to help or hinder me? As long as the majority of the time you make the correct decision you 'll be on your way to success.
I think you can now start to see the huge benefits that mindfulness brings when it comes to your whole life. Let alone vegan weight loss.
This is the end of Part 1. For Part 2 Click Here
Daniel Welstead - Plant-Based Vegan Personal Trainer in Sevenoaks
Daniel Welstead - Plant-Based Vegan Personal Trainer in Sevenoaks