The Power of Words

I’ve been working actively toward achieving greater health for almost a decade now, and with my new goal of getting certified to be a personal trainer, I’m thinking about it almost all the time now. Today, I want to talk about some words that set off warning bells for me. Hopefully after a short discussion, you’ll start to see the power – and the danger – of these words, too.

Always and never. These are biggies. How many times have you read either (or both) of these words in relation to a new diet craze? Always eat protein. Never eat carbs. Always count every calorie. Never eat pizza or ice cream. If I tell you never to eat pizza, what’s the one thing you then want to eat? Pizza! Any kind of eating plan that tells you to always or never do something is not sustainable in the long run or, probably, pleasurable. Instead of compiling lists of things you should always and never eat or do, think instead about the smart choices you can make every day. Or not. If you wake up tomorrow and want a stack of buttermilk pancakes with real butter and maple syrup, go ahead and have it. The world isn’t going to stop spinning, although the diet gurus may feel faint for a few minutes.

Just. Just do fifty jumping jacks every morning before you get in the shower. Just eat a bowl of oatmeal every day for breakfast. Just cut your calories in half. Just run a 5K. The word has such defeating implications when it comes to food and movement, doesn’t it? When someones uses that small little word, they make anyone who can’t (or won’t) adhere to the rule feel inadequate. Just implies that something is simple and easy to do, so why aren’t you doing it? Don’t let this little word get you down. Strike it from your fitness vocabulary!

Only. It only takes 15 minutes to see flat abs! If you only follow this one rule, you’ll be skinny (the implication here being skinny = happy and/or healthy). See above.

I think one of the most powerful things you can do for your mental health when you are trying to incorporate a new level of health and fitness into your life is stop thinking in these extremes. You don’t need to work out for five hours a day or eat 800 calories to be healthy (in fact, if you do these things, you’re doing damage to your health). You don’t need to always or never or just or only. Stop allowing these extremes to enter your life, and you will take away their power. Remember, the only person who can ultimately determine the best way for you to get healthy is you.