Facing Fears

The Underlying Influence on Your Weight Loss Failures

Fear is a very powerful influence, and you should question how it affects your approach to weight loss or personal training in Chicago. How many times have you avoided a session with a personal trainer? Have you ever backed out of a weight loss plan? Have you ever taken a different path to avoid another personal training client at the gym? What were your reasons? Fear of failure? Fear of commitment? Fear of judgement?

Although fear can lead you to avoidance, is it always a bad thing? No. Fear can protect you from potentially harmful situations. The mind automatically triggers its efficient response system when it recognizes a learned threat. This system of fear has grown inside of you based on past experiences or what you’ve learned.

If an experience or something else has built a strong enough association, the mind will make it tough to forget and will consequently hide it in our subconscious like a protective mechanism. It usually takes repeated experiences before you internally say to yourself, “Maybe I shouldn’t drive erratically because I will hit another car,” or, “Maybe I shouldn’t work 10 hours per day in a stressful job because I’m at risk for a heart attack.” Either way, it can help you avoid destructive or stressful situations. This inner voice is quite essential when we need a wake-up call from life’s distractions.

We need to remember that our minds thrive on reinforcement and don’t always effectively decipher between good and bad or rational and irrational. The fear of flying is a common example, and one which I can relate to.

Rocking back and forth by the open door of the plane, I looked down 13,000 feet on a still landscape of cornfields and a distant Lake Michigan. Three seconds later my tandem partner pushed me out, and we free-fell 5,000 feet before my parachute popped open. That was the first and only time I ever skydived.

Funny enough, I wasn’t scared while crouching on the edge of the doorway. The experience was surreal; however, I didn’t feel that way 30 seconds earlier.

Most people have a fear of heights, and I can’t blame them. The higher we travel, the less likely we’ll survive in the case of an accident. This fear is a survival instinct.

On that day, though, the height didn’t scare me (or the fear of dropping 13,000 feet with a parachute, which is safe, but still crazy). Above all, the plane ride scared me the most.

The plane was a ten-person, single-engine plane. As it rose up into the sky, you heard the engine roar through the cabin as the wind knocked the plane back and forth like a pinball. I looked down at my new altimeter wristwatch and saw the steady climb in elevation. I had never been more nervous in my life. At the same time, I couldn’t wait to jump.

Why was I more scared of the plane than the actual jump? If you think about it, being in a closed cabin seems safer and more controlled than a free-fall with plastic strapped to your back.

That thought never crossed my mind, though. I couldn’t stop thinking about all the small planes I had seen on the news, including the plane carrying JFK Jr. that had crashed and killed everyone on board. I had a constant newsreel showing me these horrible images and bylines of those fatal crashes playing in my head.

My fear is an excellent tool for survival —when it’s rational. I finally understood why many people fear flying. Despite this fear, though, I still flew up and jumped after debating whether or not I should. I finally realized that it wasn’t rational to fear flying on that day. The weather conditions were sunny and warm, and the airline had a perfect flight history. It’s hard to believe that fear almost steered me from an unbelievable experience.

It truly is a problem when irrational fears overtake our being. Despite our efforts at times to repress or erase them, they tend to scratch and claw their way out like a cat trapped in a bag. They pop up in our minds as thoughtful, rational monologues that appear in our best interests, but are actually self-sabotaging pushes to maintain our current culture, like a familiar job or relationship, even though it causes us stress or leads to weight gain.

It doesn’t seem to make sense. Why would we allow these things to ruminate within us? Why would we allow them to take over our being when we’re not paying attention?

For you, it may manifest itself in an underlying voice telling you “Don’t do this!” Despite your best efforts to eliminate the message, it continues to torment you as an unfiltered guided voice; much like it did to me as I was preparing to board that small plane.

We carve our experiences and our interactions into a writeable disc that plays the background music to our life. Unfortunately—and fortunately—fears are written on the disc along the way, too. They make a deeper groove, and it takes more repetitions to change them.

You need to face your fears by defining their influence on your perspective and behavior, and by repeatedly reinforcing a positive message. Don’t feel the pressure to figure out the root of every fear. It may take more work than you’re willing to handle.

It’s time to redefine the legacy of fear within you.

Reflection Section:

1.) Awareness: Name three fears that steer your behavior (e.g., avoidance, projection, isolation, etc.). Where have these fears stemmed from and what evidence do you have to justify listening to these fears?

2.) Acceptance: Are you prepared to face these fears again with a new self-confidence? If not, what positive message can you repeatedly reinforce? How will you carry this out?

3.) Adaptation: Which fears are unjustified and how will you no longer allow them to change your approach? What positive messages can you reinforce repeatedly to convince yourself that these fears aren’t rational?

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The Underlying Influence on Your Weight Loss Failures
Discovering the underlying reasons why you can't lose weight.