By Octavio Fenech, September 16, 2013 – reprinted with permission.
I saw that you were doing a weight loss hypnosis group and It occurred to me to share some of my experience In getting in good shape and what I found out was affecting my decisions didn’t have much to do with the “traditional” reasons.
First off let me say that my situation was not so much weight loss as getting in shape. I’ve always fluctuated in my weight but even at my most overweight I was never fat. My problem was more about being out of shape – flabby muscles, no muscle tone, low energy, etc. Since I’ve always been obsessed with nutrition I mostly ate right but I just didn’t get any meaningful exercise – and I hated the thought of exercising. It was repellent to me.
After a good while of thinking about things I realized that at a certain point in my life (not too long before that) I used to love to go out dancing. And by that I mean modern warehouse party, electronic music dancing. It was a regular feature of my social life and I would walk into the party at 11pm and had to be dragged out of the place at 4am – soaked in sweat as I had been dancing pretty much continually for hours. And I’m not talking here about ballroom dancing, I mean the hands-In-the-air-like-you-just-don’t-care dancing. It doesn’t take a genius to note that pretty much translates to a super intense aerobic workout; and I loved every sweaty minute of it.
So obviously I was not opposed to vigorous physical activity, even the ones that pushed me to excesses yet the thought of walking into a gym was repulsive. the It started downing on me – from every gym class I was In from the 5th grade to college, I was one of those kids picked last for the team. Not so much because I was physically unfit but because I think it was pretty obvious I just didn’t care too much. I grew up In a home where pretty much no one followed sports or played them so I never had much Interest In them. As I got older any sort of gym class started to become a social nightmare for me. I knew I was always going to be the outfielder, never the pitcher. I knew the football or basketball was never going to be thrown in my direction.
As I grew up my Interests went to art and literature, further putting me in a camp separate from the sports people – i.e. the jocks. And throughout high school and college there were the usual politics of jocks being the school stars and the animosity between the arty eggheads and the them just grew (from both directions). I have one memory in college of deciding to try out weights. I got Into my work out outfit, walked to the gym, walked In the door to see a bunch of football jocks blasting out Aerosmith and I turned right around and went back home. The Idea of walking in to imagined (though probably true) ridicule was demoralizing and absurdly enough the fear of learning to blend in such an environment also held the nightmare that I might become one of “them.”
So first off we have a social aspect regarding exercise which I find is often overlooked. A lot of people who are out of shape or obese are carrying around similar emotional baggage regarding their past experience with organized exercise. Whether It’s neurosis about being picked by jocks In junior high or the fear of looking like a ridiculous amateur are some of the deep Issues that many need to overcome before they can even get started with the Idea of exercise alone at home with no one to watch them. this Is Important and I’ll get back to It In a bit. suffice to say for now that when I went dancing I was with a group of friends, going Into a space that was non-threatening to me, and doing the type of dancing where no one judges you on skill (everyone’s too busy doing their thing).
Before I go on, there’s another Issue to tackle. I found exercise boring and – after all – I was a little Intellectual, wasn’t I? Counting repetitions was for idiotic jocks, of course. With that said, I did eat well, though I thought counting calories was for dieting idiotism. But how and why did I eat well? Because I was fascinated with nutrition, not just food but also vitamins, supplements, etc. I found the subject Interesting so I became much more aware of what the effects of any food I ate had on my body. So without ever counting a calorie, I ate right. what this comes down to is that I ate well because I found the subject Interesting. Furthermore, I went out dancing not just for the social experience but because at that time in my life electronic music was really coming Into Its own and I was very Interested In the subject. I was dancing for hours because electronic music was of high Interest to me. If my friends had invited me to go to a square dance, I would have skipped It.
So… to make a long story short I figured I my two hurdles were – overcoming my social Issues with exercising (from grade school humiliations to the fear that success meant I would turn Into a “jock”), and becoming Interested In exercise – not just for the desired results but as a subject In and of Itself.
The direction I took was to start learning about the original “strongmen” of side show and the like In late 19th to early 20th century America, which Is a particular moment In history I’ve always been fascinated with. This made exercise Interesting to me and gave me the “temptation” to try these things these men were doing with no modern gym equipment. Anyhow, what I went with is not Important, what matters Is that I picked up a genuine Interest In a form of exercise. It could have been martial arts with its long history and adjunct philosophies or even square dancing and its regional history. What matters Is that It was a genuine Interest that wasn’t prescribed by my doctor, wasn’t pushed on me by my girlfriend, wasn’t part of my health Insurance plan. It was something of my own.
I know this Is going on for too long but basically what I’m getting Into Is that there’s a need to tackle the anti-exercise blocks people have In them before trying to install In them the habit… childhood embarrassments, mean jocks, fear of ridicule, etc.… after that Is worked out enough, then an Interest In an exercise activity needs to be seeded and nurtured and I would say coming to the subject sideways, whether It’s Asian philosophies, NYC bike tours or whatever so the exercise Itself Is not necessarily upfront, at least not at the beginning. A NYC lover might enjoy a few commercial bike tours and then come to realize that she can explore beyond the tourist sights by biking around on her own and before you know It that person Is ditching the subway and biking to work every day. No lectures about how she won’t lose that 20 pounds unless she exercises. When she picks up the love of biking there’s no way she can fail or be judged by others. She just likes to bike around the city and it also happens to help her shed those pounds.