You hear it all the time: Despite everyone’s best intentions, they lose steam on their wellness-based resolutions, even though those are the ones that rank highest on the priority list. We asked Tracy for her thoughts on why this happens.
Tracy Anderson on:
Tackling New Year’s Resolutions
Whether you voiced it at midnight or not, chances are pretty high that you embraced 2013 with a healthy and body-conscious resolution lurking in the back of your mind. And chances are, you said hello to 2012, and 2011, and 2010 with a similar agenda. It can get pretty boring (and dare I say depressing) to feel like you never manage to move getting in shape from an action item on your to-do list, to something that is a joyful and central part of your everyday life.
“So why exactly is getting fit and healthy—and staying fit and healthy—such a Sisyphean task?”
Quite frankly, keeping these sorts of resolutions has very little to do with an actual treadmill, and everything to do with shifting your mindset: Because the biggest hurdle between you and your goal isn’t sore muscles or shin splints—it’s your brain.
If you haven’t been spending the past few months really exercising (walking the dog doesn’t count!), drinking lots of milk, sitting in the sun, or getting daily massages, chances are that you’re handicapped by low serotonin levels. And unfortunately, it is very challenging to summon physical motivation when this level dips—it’s why you’re losing the tug-of-war between the gym and your reality TV-laden DVR. What’s worse is that carbs can trigger a momentary uptick in serotonin, which is why it can be so hard to kick a bagel-for-breakfast-every-morning habit: We can become addicted to carb-induced highs, which only contribute to the problem. It’s a truly vicious cycle.
But all is not lost, because just as depressed serotonin levels can trip you up when you’re trying to get started, once you begin the process of elevating and regulating those levels through exercise, they’ll be your biggest ally and cheerleader on the road to fitness.
Exercise creates an increase in brain levels of L-tryptophan, which is the amino acid building block for serotonin. And our friend serotonin is a neurotransmitter that shuttles impulses between nerve cells. It plays an integral role in almost everything, from our ability to learn to how we feel—it’s responsible for regulating appetite, mood, aggression, sex drive and sleep. And perhaps most importantly, it’s essential to our digestive health and the functioning of the GI tract muscles. In fact, over 95% of the body’s serotonin is found in our guts, underlining the intense connection between our brains and bellies!
“…it’s all too easy to fixate on inches lost or miles logged—but results don’t happen overnight…”
When you’re kicking off your exercise program, it’s all too easy to fixate on inches lost or miles logged—but results don’t happen overnight, and it can be disheartening to feel like you’re not making concrete progress immediately. So instead, spend the first few weeks of your new regimen focusing solely on elevating your serotonin levels through 40 minutes of daily activity, which will be enough to not only replace your daily pasta habit, but will allow your brain’s other habit-forming functions to regulate and harmonize as well.
While it takes consistency and commitment to a substantial program to be able to completely control the physical results of your efforts (they’ll come with consistency, whether you obsess about them or not), you can begin to control your mind—just through understanding a bit more about how it works.
Our DLS (Deep Limbic System) is the central area of the brain. It may be smaller than a golf ball, but it stores our strongest emotional experiences. Our Prefrontal Cortex is the control center for these emotional reflexes, including empathy, judgment, impulses, and the ability to plan and focus. Meanwhile, our AGC (Anterior Cingulate Gyrus) is our brain’s gear shifter, which lets us control all of our options and make decisions. When our AGC gets out of whack, it can lead to eating disorders, addictive disorders, and even things that may seem trivial, like feelings of anxiety.
“…by focusing on what’s happening in your mind—rather than your tape measure—you’ll set yourself up for long-term results.”
The ultimate goal is to manage your emotional health through a balanced routine that helps you create harmony within your system. It may seem like a complex dance, but it starts with the first step—as fitness and health become central to your daily routine, your brain will do its part to support your momentum and help you keep your fitness goals. And in turn, by focusing on what’s happening in your mind—rather than your tape measure—you’ll set yourself up for long-term results. Suddenly, it’ll be hard to imagine a day without exercise because your body and mind will crave the serotonin release. This is one of the reasons why there are so many purposed movements in my fitness Method. The advantages to a truly in tune mind body connection gives endless results past getting the butt you have always wanted.