Time For You Features

The Positive Power of Negative Thinking

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By Carole Carson
Special to NurseZone

Jan. 29, 2010 -
As one who consistently promotes the idea of a positive mindset, I may be accused of being inconsistent if I write about negative thinking. Yet I am convinced negative thinking is one of the more neglected elements in an effective fitness program. Let me explain.

When we write our New Year’s resolutions, we can get pretty excited about everything we want. We want to lose 10 pounds. We want to exercise an hour each day. We want to eat healthier food. Very quickly, we’ve listed a number of ambitious goals. Identifying our goals is an obvious first step. But what is the next step to ensure we reach those goals?

I recommend one that remains elusive to many of us: list what we would have to give up to achieve those goals. Becoming aware of the obstacles and developing a strategy for dealing with these obstacles is critical. Unless we take this measure, negative influences will sabotage our best efforts to follow through with our plans.

It wasn’t obvious to me when I began my own makeover that in choosing to lose weight and exercise regularly, I was simultaneously choosing to give up long-term habits and practices and replace them with new ones. I was so focused on what I was moving toward—a lower number on the bathroom scale, better fitting clothes, better health and more energy—that I ignored the costs.

Now that I have more perspective, I can share examples from my current lifestyle.

1. Excuses: I cannot hide behind excuses when I haven’t lived up to my goals and expectations. Either I do what I say, or I don’t. Excuses have been replaced with results, whether perfect or inadequate.

2. Overeating: I gave up eating whatever I wanted and as much as I wanted. I had to replace undisciplined eating with conscious eating—I pay attention to my choices and stop eating when I am no longer hungry.

3. Morning Schedule: I’ve given up starting my day at my desk writing. I had to replace this longstanding practice with an hour of exercise to guarantee that exercise isn’t forgotten during the course of a busy day.

Obviously, I would not have given up the luxury of excuses, the indulgence of stuffing myself or the precious morning hour of writing if the benefits didn’t offset the sacrifices.

That’s why, after making a list of fitness goals, the second step is so important. Becoming aware of the downside of proposed lifestyle changes elevates decision making about benefits and costs to a more conscious level. Having assessed both the benefits and costs, we are better prepared to pay the price when decision making looms large.

I find it useful to go through my plans for the day and anticipate the booby traps. At what time will I be tempted to overeat? At what point will I be distracted from exercising? Is there anyone, including family or friends, who will try to derail my efforts?

Anticipating the negative influences that will inevitably pop up and having a plan to deal with them is an essential tactic in the battle of the bulge. Being human, I’ll still fall off track from time to time, but far less often, and I’ll recover my equilibrium much faster.

If your New Year’s resolutions have fallen by the wayside, here’s a way to renew your commitment and start afresh. First, write your list of goals. Make them specific, measurable and time-bound. Second, write what you would have to give up to achieve your goals. Then keep track of your progress and let me know how you do. You can add a beneficial tool to your fitness kit by tapping into the positive power of negative thinking.

About the Author:
Dubbed “An Apostle for Fitness” by the Wall Street Journal, Carole Carson is the author of From Fat to Fit: Turn Yourself into a Weapon of Mass Reduction, which chronicles her own 62-pound weight loss and the inspirational Nevada County Meltdown. Carole is the national coach for the AARP Fat to Fit online community. Visit
 www.fromfat2fit.com for more information.