by Raymond Moody, M.A.
I don’t have a trainer at my gym. I probably should because there are times when I just lack the motivation to work out. My gym does offer me a complimentary fitness evaluation and training session each year. It conveniently falls in February as soon as all the holidays are over and my body has changed in shape and size from my holiday eating habits. I am not one of those people who do New Year’s Resolutions but each year the trainer asks me what my fitness goals are and what are the barriers that get in my way. This year I confessed to him that I have developed some bad eating habits and that I probably need to give up the sweets. I also told him that I sometimes just show up to the gym and can’t seem to disengage from the daily stress and focus on my workout.
Similar to what I do when working with clients in the therapy room, the trainer asked me what I would like to work on first. I chose the bad eating habits. He asked me to give him some examples of times when I am most likely to eat junk food. I shared with him that sometimes when I am stressed, usually at the end of the day; I crave cookies and often indulge in a package of Oreos. We actually talked about the emotions that I was having before I ate the cookies and the beliefs that were accompanying those emotions. If I wasn’t sitting in a gym I would have thought I was sitting in the office of an REBT therapist.
In my conversation with the trainer, I identified that I am most likely to crave cookies when I am feeling depressed. The beliefs that I often have that make me feel depressed include: I should have accomplished more in the day, some of the things I did in the day weren’t perfect and I should have done better, and I shouldn’t have to work this hard. These beliefs are also accompanied by the thoughts that if I eat something sweet that I might feel good for just a moment and it may help lift my mood. To be honest, sometimes eating a row of Oreos does lift my mood but it is a habit that conflicts with my fitness goals.
When I am focused on my fitness goals I need to make sure that my emotional goals are in alignment. Since I am most likely to indulge in eating cookies and other sweets when I am feeling depressed what are the things that I can do to avoid feeling depressed? I can allow myself to have more flexible beliefs and watch out for the demandingness, awfulizing, and self-condemnation that leads to feelings of depression. Any time I hear the word “should” I can try and recognize it as the combination of “you must” and “you are or it is horrible because you didn’t.” I will often be challenged with wanting to accomplish more in the day but recognizing that sometimes this is not possible and that I will be ok when it happens I can experience more healthy emotions. I believe that having healthy emotions will help me engage in other more healthy behaviors.