Why diet and exercise is like The Game | Smart Photography

Why diet and exercise is like The Game

If you're wondering what 'The Game' is, then I have simultaneously introduced you to it and made you lose it at the same time.
Sorry about that!

If you already knew what it was - well, sorry about that too.

Wikipedia has this (and quite a lot more) to say about The Game:
The Game is a mental game where the objective is to avoid thinking about The Game itself. Thinking about The Game constitutes a loss, which must be announced each time it occurs. It is impossible to win most versions of The Game. Depending on the variation of The Game, the whole world, or all those aware of the game, are playing it all the time. Tactics have been developed to increase the number of people aware of The Game and thereby increase the number of losses.

What's it got to do with diets?

On the face of it, absolutely nothing.
But here's how my brain works, and maybe yours does too.

If I were to start vaguely thinking I wanted to lose weight, and embarked on a healthy eating plan, my brain would scream 'DIET' at me constantly, and I would think about nothing but food. I might be consciously saying "it's healthy eating, that's all, a long term change to how I eat, not a diet", but there's no fooling my subconscious - it would think diet and this game would be up. Pass me the crisps. As soon as I think diet, I desperately want to eat all the cake.

I could try and tell myself I worry about my health, don't want to end up with diabetes, and all manner of other things - unless I can convince my brain that these are real and urgent concerns, it's thinking diet and I am sunk.

As it is with diets, so it is with exercise

I'm not going to lie, I am lazy. A gym-dodger. Exercise-phobic.
The very thought of standing with a group of other people, sweating our collective way through an exercise class makes me feel queasy.

I've joined gyms. I've told myself it's for 'my health'. My brain knows I am thinking weight loss. So dragging myself to a gym becomes a monumental effort. I'm not up to monumental effort. I don't go. I sit around feeling guilty about the money spent on the membership (and the trainers, and the gym gear because I was totally going to go).

The answer

Ah, no, sorry, I'm not a weight loss guru - I can't tell you how to shed pounds.

And I'm not a psychologist either - I can't tell you why my brain likes to work against me and is anti-diets/exercise.

The answer for me

Diet is an easy one - I don't diet. I eat what I want and put little thought into how many calories, except I pay grudging attention to making sure I have a healthy-ish sandwich for lunch, and eat veg with dinner. My meals aren't small, but they're not unhealthy, and that's as far as my thinking goes.
I make some actively healthy choices, but I also eat cake (and not a sliver, a hefty piece). I'm not on a diet, even my sub conscious agrees, and I therefore don't think endlessly about food and crave chocolate (except at Easter, when I couldn't rest until I had eaten all the eggs).

I do exercise. I have 2 dogs. It's easy for me to go for a walk, because I have to. Would I choose to? No. But it's not for me, it's for the dogs and so it's exercise that has to happen. There is no way I would get up in the morning and go for a walk/run, with no motivation. The dogs remove the element of choice. No element of 'trying to lose weight' here, so my brain is with me - just crack on and do it.

I appreciate that that's not helpful, because our lifestyles are very different!

The big thing I have changed this year is to start going to yoga. A group class - ie everything I hate, loathe, detest and do not want to do. And you have to block book and pay for 6 + classes at a time.

This has nothing to do with toning, weight loss or any other 'triggers' that my brain will sabotage - it's purely a health thing, after years of back pain, I decided to finally take the advice I have been given countless times by osteopaths and build my core strength, with yoga.

Do I like going? No. About as much as I ever liked going to the gym, maybe less.

Do I go? Yes, every week (and I am thinking of adding in an extra class a week too).

I may not enjoy it, but it does feel like exactly what my body needs. I think it's working for me. My brain doesn't talk me out of it, or make it seem like the most hideous of all chores. My brain somehow agrees that it's doing me good.

My brain doesn't want to help me in The Game

That's what I've learned. If 'The Game' in this instance is anything weight loss related, my brain is wired to sabotage me.

I don't profess to know why it does this (but I do know this isn't the only way my brain stops me doing things I want to do). So I have to acknowledge that, for whatever reason, my brain doesn't think weight loss is a 'good' aim. If my aim is something different - directly relating to health, or something else entirely (my dogs), it won't sabotage me.

If your brain's the same, then you need to work out what your brain agrees is a noble aim. It could be running a marathon and raising lots of money. It could be, like me, sorting out a long term health problem. But don't try to pretend it's something else, if it isn't - if your brain is sabotaging your efforts, you haven't found your 'thing' yet - your 'reason' that your brain agrees is good enough.

Much love,

Leave a Reply 2 comments

Sarah c - May 10, 2019 Reply

That is so true Anna, you’ve described it so well. Sadly I still haven’t found the thing that will work for me with exercise or food, but I’m still working on it x

    Anna Smart - May 10, 2019 Reply

    The part of it I don’t discuss here is the mind-flip of becoming satisfied with who you are now. If you can do that, your brain will ditch it’s high alert status.

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