“Fear is the opposite of everything you are, and so has an effect of opposition to your mental and physical health.” ~Neale Donald Walsch
My initial foray into health and fitness started from a deep place of fear.
I feared my weight and my appearance, always wondering what new trend I’d encounter in a magazine or on social media that would point out the latest way I was inadequate.
I feared the big health scares that we’re told could kill us at any moment if we aren’t careful. Diabetes. High blood pressure. Cancer.
Many of us have all been on some part of this same path. But when we let fear sit in the driving seat, it actually pushes us in the opposite direction of true health and happiness. We’re driven to make exercise or diet choices that never seem to satisfy, and the body we see in the mirror never seems to be what we want.
And so like many of us, I hopped from one exercise plan to another. I jumped from one eat-this-but-not-that diet to another. Meanwhile, I never arrived at a place of feeling healthy, whole, and happy.
This feeling I was seeking—this thing I was trying to get out of my body and my physical pursuits—was a teaching moment for me.
As each so-called “healthy” lifestyle change led to dead ends, and as I saw friends struggle with weight despite their strongest efforts, I slowly realized that our health is only as good as our mindset.
See, fear is completely unsustainable as a motivation for our health journey. We don’t like to dwell on all the ways our mortal bodies are threatened. Information alone isn’t heart knowledge, which is why so many of us intellectually know we shouldn’t smoke or eat so much fried food, but maybe we eat French fries for lunch anyway.
Fear of our own bodies doesn’t work either. Our unhappiness might make us go on a diet, but for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction, so we inevitably get off of that diet. Then we feel the pang of guilt and more fear, and the fear-driven cycle repeats itself.
To break this cycle, we have to talk about not just our gym habits or our eating habits or our favorite green juice, but also our mind habits.
If we change our minds, we change our bodies. The body is the physical incarnation or manifestation of our internal beliefs and thoughts. While so-called “body problems,” like extra weight where we don’t want it, may bubble to the surface on the body level, the answer isn’t solely on the body level but also on the level of our mindset.
My health path switched lanes dramatically when A Course in Miracles reminded me that nothing real could be threatened.
The book teaches that our real, inner self is already whole, perfect, and securely loved. That’s real, but we’ve bought into the illusions that Hollywood, magazines, social media, and the world sells to us.
When we accept that we’re already whole and that this truth cannot be threatened, we can finally release the fear we feel when we perceive a threat to our body. Body image threats—“I’m less if I don’t weigh less” or “I lack if I don’t have more muscles”—lose all of their power and dissolve the moment we hug this truth close to our hearts.
To paraphrase it in non-religious psychological and philosophical terms, everything that we see around us is simply our minds’ projection—our world, our “reality,” reflecting back to us our own internal beliefs and mindsets.
This is true when it comes to the types of careers we chase, or the types of friendships we create, or how we relate to money or sex or love. It’s especially true for how we perceive what we see in the mirror and how we care for our body.
If fear is an unsustainable motivator for weight loss or staying healthy, and if fear actually makes us make unhealthy choices, then we must return to a core place of love.
We must release the illusion and accept that our real self is whole. Similar to how darkness is just an absence of light, the fear we’re feeling is not an actual thing, but rather an absence of love for our true selves.
Approach exercise, diet, and physical health with a love-focused mindset, and suddenly we change how we treat our bodies and we begin to see the physical results we’re looking for.
Remember, when we get healthy on the mind level, the body manifests this new mindset through our subconscious choices.
There are a few ways that we can each start to center our diet, weight loss, and fitness on a spirit of love instead of a spirit of fear:
1. Remember who you really are.
In A Course of Miracles, we’re told that we’re already whole, divine, and full of light, but we’ve just forgotten that and need to be reminded of it.
Unfortunately, so much of the messaging that we’ve internalized tells us we need a certain waistline or a specific number of abs to be good, whole, and lovable.
Begin to remember who you really are, and remember that your real you is not threatened. You are divine, and therefore you’re wholly love, wholly lovable, and wholly loving—no matter your physical appearance!
2. Identify and let go of your triggers.
So many of our dietary choices are driven by subconscious, fear-based emotions like anxiety and stress. For example, researchers have found that stress—which is really fear of a situation that we can’t control—causes us to crave unhealthy, sugary snacks.
Fear also causes our body to release cortisol, a hormone that boosts appetite and makes us store extra abdominal fat.
Every diet we’ve ever tried and failed at focused solely on the physical symptoms, like stopping late-night snacking. But remember, a problem like late-night munchies isn’t just on the body level but on the mind level.
Take a step back and observe the situation for any underlying triggers—a problem in the office, or maybe a toxic friend—that may be provoking fear.
Self-care is having the courage to heal by identifying and creating boundaries between you and any toxic situations present, carving out time to relax and de-stress, and saying no whenever appropriate.
3. Build an abundance mentality.
It’s time to exercise your mindset muscle just like you exercise your physical muscles. As a certified personal trainer, I have reviewed dozens of psychological studies that show how positive self-talk and a positive mindset motivate us to stick to our health goals. It’s one of the big differences between people who stick to their New Year resolutions and those of us who don’t.
In our health journey, an abundance mentality means we choose to exercise and bless our physical bodies because we want to add more positivity to our already abundant lives, not because we’re trying to fill some sort of inner emptiness.
For me, when I walk into the gym with a mindset of abundant success (“I love myself, so I want to sweat a little”) instead of a lack mentality (“I can’t believe I ate that, I need to burn it off now”), it changes everything about my workout endurance and the physical results I see.
4. Drop the fear-based language.
When I talk to people, they often refer to their diet struggle. Or they see health as a battle between their mind and their body. “No pain, no gain,” is something athletes yell at themselves as they complete one last mile or one last burpee.
Struggles, battles, and pain are no way to refer to the physical temple within which our divine love lives. All it does is reinforce the false idea of separation between our spiritual and physical manifestations.
Your body is not something you need to battle and beat into submission. As we drop fear-based language, we empower ourselves and the people around us to view each of our bodies with more love.
5. Create love-based diet, exercise, and wellness goals.
The health stool has three legs: Our internal mindset, scientific research on proven exercise and diet techniques, and actual action. Research may say, “Do XYZ to get stronger,” and we take action. But the mindset aspect is a game changer.
An action done in fear has a different outcome than the same action done in love. As a personal trainer, the industry knows that it’s our thoughts and beliefs systems that actually transform our bodies.
For example, every summer, people tell me they want to look ripped or toned for the pool season and that they’re worried about abs or love handles. This is a fear-based wellness goal.
A love-based wellness goal might look like this: “I want to be more flexible so I can play with my grandchildren.” Or, “I want stronger legs so I can go hiking more.” Goals built around love connect us to positive, abundant life experiences.
Instead of eating or not eating something because we’re terrified or our body, we can replace this fear with love. If we love our body, because it houses our divine nature, how does that change what we do?
Love looks like a little bit of sweat at the right time, enough sleep every night, and nourishing, yummy meals that make you feel good.
The more we stay connected to love instead of fear, the more we’ll see this same love reflecting back to us when we look in the mirror and when we glance down at the bathroom scale.
Ask yourself right now, “If I am whole, healed, and loved, what changes would I make to feel more of that love in my own body today?”