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Eva M. Selhub, M.D. Headshot

Checking the Ego Into Rehab and Sticking to a Fitness PLAN

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CROSSFIT
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As a motivational and inspirational speaker on the subject of health and wellness, I often get asked, "How can I stick to a diet and exercise plan and more importantly, how do I get your arms?" I, in turn, answer that I owe my arms to CrossFit and that I basically checked my ego into rehab and found a plan that worked.

You see, because of my ego I feared failure. I was too embarrassed to be "bad" at anything, and though I used the excuse that I was scared of hurting my back, I was also really scared of hurting my ego. So often, rather than trying something new, I did nothing at all.

My fear of being of failure coincided with a need to prove some sort of worthiness to myself, since being an accomplished physician wasn't enough, which led me to be unnecessarily competitive with myself so that I pushed too hard and too fast. The result was invariably injury or burn out. So I stopped.

I chose to pay less attention to my body and what I could not control and more to the things that gave me instant gratification and feedback. So I poured myself into my work, into writing, spending time on the Internet, and eating delicious, yet fattening foods. I made myself so busy that I had little time or energy, especially for exercise. I tried to boost my energy with more comfort foods and caffeine, and then felt guilty about my actions. To override the guilt, the "What the Heck Effect" would kick in. You know the effect -- you say to yourself, "I cheated and screwed up anyway, what the heck! I might as well screw up the rest of the day." And so I ate my favorite baked or fried foods, only to find myself feeling more fatigued, inflamed and of course, fat.

So the cycle raged on until, that is, I found CrossFit, which had just the recipe that would work for me -- a recipe that would enable me to let of my ego and make fitness a way of life.

Think about it yourself.

How many times have you resolved to really lose weight or get fit? How many New Year's resolutions have you made that concerned exercise and eating healthy? Maybe you joined a gym believing that if you spent the money you would certainly go, or you bought a new miracle diet book, believing that this time you would lose weight and keep it off. And you even stuck to your regimen, for a month, perhaps two, until, that is, your schedule got hectic, your life too stressful, and your mind too bored and unmotivated as you failed to meet your set expectations.

According to an article in the Journal of Clinical Psychology from the University of Scranton, losing weight is ranked number one as a new year's resolution and staying fit and healthy as number 5. Only 8 percent actually achieve their resolution and 24 percent never succeed though they continue to make an attempt every year.

In addition, 50 percent of people who start an exercise program drop out within six months. And according to this same article from University of New Mexico, the reasons people stop exercising include low self worth, worry of how your might be perceived by others, overestimating expectation, boredom, lack of an exercise partner, lack of time and lack of energy.

Conversely, people are more likely to stick to a fitness plan when they receive positive feedback from a health professional who inspires them, have support from other people, set expectations that are based set goals that are reachable, and are participating in programs that are tailored to their fitness levels. In addition, by adding anti-inflammatory nutritional components to the diets, motivation to exercise, perception of exertion and ability to perform are all improved. (Selhub EM, Logan AC. (2013 June/July) Sports Nutrition: In the context of lifestyle medicine. Integrated Healthcare Practitioners, pp. 62-67.)

It is no wonder that CrossFit's recipe of intense and challenging exercises, great people, positive feedback, motivating professionals, loads of fun, and encouragement to eat anti-inflammatory food, worked for me. It has also enabled me to put my life experiences together with the research and devise a PLAN for you that can go along with whatever type of exercise you choose to do.

The PLAN:

P: People, Positive feedback, Play

If the studies show that you are more likely to prioritize exercise and stick to healthy eating when you have social support and positive feedback, you want to find yourself one or two buddies or even better, a community to play with and be motivated by.

• You want to find people who can encourage you or celebrate your gains with you as you set and meet your goals.
• You want coaches or fitness professionals who can provide you with programs that meet your fitness level and offer you positive feedback that is both constructive and encouraging.
• You want to focus on your friendships, having fun, feeling good and making fitness part of your lifestyle rather than a chore that has to get done to lose weight.

L: Let go of your ego, Laugh and Listen

Being relaxed, open and attentive will help you enjoy the process of getting fit and will also keep you from getting injured. The more fun you have, the more likely you will stick to the program. You also will less likely find yourself becoming disappointed and dejected because you are no longer setting unrealistic expectations that your body is not ready to meet.

• Check your ego into rehab.
• Laugh rather than cry when you find you cannot do something and ask for help.
• Be open to learning new skills and listen to your coaches as well as your own body and how far it can be pushed.

A: Accountability, Acceptance, Active rest

One of the most important facets of having an exercise buddy or community is that he, she or they will hold you accountable for showing up, accepting where you are and making sure you to care of yourself. Like me, you may have days that you wake up unmotivated and not wanting to get out of bed, much less exercise. But when you know that your friend is counting on your going or that you have set a goal for yourself to achieve that requires your showing up, you will go anyway.

• Be accountable to someone else, but most of all to yourself and your goal to be healthy.
• Accept where you are with respect to your fitness level and that you also need to rest and allow your body to recuperate and regenerate.
• Choose to spend time on your "off" days actively making healthy choices and spending time socializing with your buddy and community outside of the gym.

N: Nurture, Nature and Nutrition

Studies show that you are more likely to exercise and keep it up when you are out in nature. Research also demonstrates that the myriad of benefits you get from being out in nature and eating natural foods (rather than processed) include a reduction of inflammation in your body, improved mood, more energy and increased motivation to exercise (Selhub & Logan, Your Brain on Nature). If you think about our early ancestors, the term "survival of the fittest" was coined because they had to be fit to run and capture their food, squat for long periods, or carry heavy parcels while roaming from one base camp to the next. They ate what was naturally available -- fruits, vegetables and wild game, lived in groups, ate together, danced together, hunted together and lived symbiotically with nature. I'm not telling you to move in with and hunt with your exercise buddies, but I am telling you that it behooves you to:

• Nurture your nature as a human being and get back to nature. Squat when you are waiting around, walk rather than drive if you can, and start cooking your own food more often.
• Figure out a way to nurture your nature through nature by incorporating activities in the great outdoors.
• Eat foods that occur in the natural environment that fuel you to thrive not dive into illness.

Now get with the PLAN!