Put Your Mind Behind Your Muscle

Use your brain to train and eat — it takes mindfulness to reach your fitness and health goals.

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To help you succeed in your exercise and eating program, we’ve borrowed popular tenets from mindfulness and positive psychology. Here is a motivating plan packed with useful techniques for shaping your booty — or your whole body.

Train With Your Brain

Your brain is like a muscle, and like any other part of your body, it needs to be trained to perform at its peak. When your mind is on target, you’re more likely to be at your best and reach your goals, inside and outside the gym.

Mental Fitness Techniques

1. Implement mindfulness skills

  • Scan yourself. Move your mind across your body to get a good image of yourself, and observe how you feel before you start tackling your workout.
  • Set your goals. Prior to a specific workout, take note of what you intend to accomplish.
  • Don’t let negative thoughts rule you. Be indifferent to negative thoughts. Don’t empower them and don’t try to suppress them. View them as temporary.
  • Be in the moment. Take delight in the exercise you’re doing by thinking about how the grass feels under your feet as you run, how beautiful the surroundings are or how amazing your legs are to be doing what they’re doing.
  • Meditate. Before training, sit quietly for five or 10 minutes. Breathe deeply for eight seconds, let your belly inflate, hold for a few seconds, exhale for eight seconds and let your belly deflate. Do this 10 times. Focus on your breathing.

2. Calm your brain

  • Toss the baggage. Make a list of past mistakes, failures, etc., and let go of those negative things so you can start fresh.
  • Ditch excuses. Reboot your motivation by adjusting your attitude. If you’re tempted to skip workouts because you’ve lost some weight, remind yourself that you’ve come a long way, so why sabotage your efforts? If you’ve had a hard day at work or with the kids, don’t bail — give yourself a half hour and you’ll find the energy for your training.

3. Visualize The Outcome

  • Daydream. Take a few minutes to “see” a challenging workout. If you’ve worked through it in your mind, it will be that much easier when you physically do it.
  • See yourself at the end. After you’ve set a goal, visualize yourself at the completion of it. Imagine what it will look and feel like when you get there.
  • Make it real. Believe wholeheartedly that what you’ve visualized is the real thing. Truly “feel” what it’s like to have the booty you want.

4. Talk to yourself

  • Adopt a mantra. Repeat a mantra, or simple phrase, to help direct your movements and keep you focused. Use a mantra that is light and easily rolls off the tongue. It could be something as simple as “I am strong.”
  • Take a yes-or-no attitude. To pump yourself up for a workout, make up your mind quickly and hold yourself to a decision, like, “Yes, I will sprint up this hill” or “No, I won’t let this hill intimidate me.”
  • Inspire yourself. Use an affirmation that is truthful and not negative. Don’t lie to yourself if you are working on your glutes by saying, “I have perfect glutes.” Rather, look at the process in a positive light. You might tell yourself, “I am in the process of tightening my tush.”
  • Use powerful words. Pick 10 power words like happiness, strength, gratitude. Repeat them to yourself and see them written in your mind’s eye. Use them to regain a sense of calm and focus when you’re stressed.

5. Adopt a positive attitude

  • Foster early successes. Build on early successes by documenting them. Keep a log so that you have something concrete to reflect back on. This can help propel you forward.
  • Be grateful. Make a list of the things about your body that you’re grateful for and focus on those things during workouts. While you’re in the moment, appreciate how your body feels.

Eat With Your Brain

Starting a new eating plan may seem daunting at first. But if you take a mindful, logical approach, you’ll be able to create a sense of awareness that won’t leave you feeling deprived as you change your menu. Recent studies have shown that practicing mindfulness can reduce unhealthy eating habits by addressing the emotional connections to food. In other words, if you understand that you’re reaching for a bag of chips because you’re bored or mad, this is good news. Attentiveness can help you to not only enjoy food more but also help you eat less of it. By eating mindfully, you give your brain time to register that you’re full or at least you give yourself time to consider what you’re putting into your mouth and what effect it might have on your weight.

Mindful Eating Techniques

1. Shop prepared.

  • Find recipes. Oxygen has lots of great suggestions! Flip through the pages or go to the recipe section of this site. Find a few recipes you want to try in the coming week. Make a shopping list by writing down any ingredients you don’t already have on hand.
  • Put the list in your purse or pocket. This way you won’t have the excuse that you forgot your list.
  • Eat a snack. Don’t go to the store hungry. Try some Greek yogurt with berries and nuts beforehand.
  • Take a new route to the store. Don’t go past those bakeries or coffee shops that might trigger a binge.

2. Navigate The Right Aisles.

  • Stick to the list. Tape it to the cart handle or place it on the baby seat of the cart so it’s visible.
  • Shop the perimeter. That’s usually where you’ll find the fresh produce and nuts, lean meats, whole grains and low-fat dairy products.
  • Use caution in the middle aisles. The middle aisles hold a lot of land mines like chips and cookies, but they also have the oatmeal, olive oil, low-sodium canned vegetables and other clean foods that are on your grocery list.
  • Park your cart. Leave your cart at the end and venture down the middle aisles only to get what you need. You’ll carry fewer items in your arms than in a cart.
  • Use self-checkout. If you can pay your bill faster, you’ll spend less time staring at the displays of junk food that are near the cash registers.

3. Mind What You Eat.

  • Minimize distractions. Shut off the television and leave your smartphone in your pocket so that you can fully focus on your meal.
  • Make it an experience. Pay attention to the flavor, texture, smell and appearance of every morsel.
  • Tune in to your body. As you take every bite, notice how your body is reacting. Be aware of whether the food is filling some kind of an emotional void. Take note of feelings of fullness.
  • Stay in the moment. Slow down and give yourself time to eat “in the moment.”
  • Choose what to eat. That is, you must make the choice to eat clean instead of eating mindlessly. But remember, nobody’s perfect. Just because you slip up once, that doesn’t mean it’s all over. Acknowledge the dietary stumble and start again at your next meal.
  • Eat smaller portions. You can cut 100 or 200 calories a day by shrinking the serving sizes of what you eat. You can also save calories by skipping soft drinks and substituting water or tea. In a year or so, you’ll be 10 pounds lighter.

4. Build On Your Successes.

  • Consider this just the beginning. This plan is the start of your clean-eating adventure.
  • Recognize that some mindful-eating rules will seem strange. It might be hard to be away from your smartphone at first, but after a few weeks you’ll appreciate the break from texting and tweeting.
  • Don’t absolutely rule out any foods. Instead, find cleaner alternatives to your fatty favorites.
  • Pat yourself on the back. Reward yourself with a pedicure, a massage or some other personal indulgence that is totally unrelated to food.

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