The State of Your Relationships Can Influence Your Health

Wellness means a “state of complete mental, physical, and spiritual well being” (World Health Organization). Wellness involves not only being physically well but having a strong awareness and happiness in other areas of life; emotional, mental, spiritual, occupational, physical, and social. You see, wellness considers humans as a whole being and understands that a whole person has relationships, emotions, goals, beliefs, and desires. The way your body moves is a function of how well the other areas in your life are functioning.

How can your physical fitness be impacted by your emotions, thinking, spiritual beliefs, job, or relationships?  I will boldly say that your physical fitness relies on your emotions, thinking, spiritual beliefs, job, and relationships. For example a research study demonstrated that individuals that attended group exercise classes had more weight loss results than individuals that only received education to achieve weight loos (Turner, Thomas, Wagner, & Moseley, 2008).  This is because support is so powerful.  Support and the people in your life will impact how you feel about yourself.  These relationships can make you feel encouraged, enlightened, and empowered.  Some relationships can make you feel terrible about yourself and cause you to doubt yourself.  Are you discouraged by your weight loss and your health progress?  If so, look at your level of support.

Support for health, weight loss, and wellness goals is great because it offers encouragement, motivation, and fun!  As I group fitness instructor I find myself being motivated by the students in class. I will walk into class thinking I will modify but when the students work hard I am motivated to work hard. The same goes for the other group members. People in group classes push harder when their fellow peers also push harder. Support and relationships are necessary to maintain fitness practices.

Whether you want to admit it or not, you are influenced by the people around you. Although you are a unique and special person we, as humans, need to belong.  Abraham Maslow, an early psychologist, states that belonging is a basic human need.   We are drawn to like minded people, people with whom we can relate, and people that share similar interests.  If you are starting a weight loss or fitness program you will find yourself wanting to belong and “fit in” at the gym.  If you are maintaining your weight loss and fitness program you will find that you have friends with similar priorities.  Abraham Maslow theorized that social needs; social support and belonging, was more important than self-esteem and self-fulfillment.  We base our thoughts of ourself based on thoughts of others.  If you feel you do not belong in the gym because you lack friends and support you will stop going to the gym.

Although friendships and support at the gym is important to maintain fitness the most important support could be your spouse, partner, and family members. I hear stories of many people in the gym striving for fitness and health.  They have a strong desire for weight loss, health, and fitness but they tell me they struggle because their family members are not applying the same behaviors.  They tell me their spouses, partners, or children do not like coming to the gym or they do not like eating healthy.  So the person trying to live a healthier lifestyle is left to eat less healthy and will miss the gym to spend time with friends and family. Research tells us that spousal and partner support is essential for maintaining physical exercise and healthy eating (Khan, Stephens, Franks, Rook, & Salem, 2013).

In order to continue to maintain a healthy and fit lifestyle it is necessary to gather support from loved ones.  Have a conversation with the important people in your life.  Tell them how much working out and eating well means to you.  Tell them why you want to be healthy.  Let them know you are not judging their behaviors and it is not expected for them to join you (however you would love for them to join you, if they choose).  Sometimes family will be resistant to your changes because they fear you will want them to change too. Although you want health, fitness, and wellness for your loved ones, you are not trying to change them.  Explain to them their support is necessary for you and let them know you will be spending time at the gym.  Let them know what foods you are willing to eat and ask them to eat the food with you.  If they do not like what is being served for dinner they have the option to make something they would like for dinner or that you will not be eating what the rest of your family will be eating.  Know that your behaviors will influence your loved ones and eventually they will be pursuing a healthy lifestyle with you.

But most important to your fitness, health, and weight loss goals is the relationship with yourself.  You see getting healthy is a bit selfish.  And that is OK!  This is an appropriate decision to make.  People that love themselves and believe they are capable of health are more likely to achieve fitness goals (Scholz, Sniehotta, Schuz, & Oeberst, 2007).  The research clearly suggests that people with higher self-efficacy are better able to maintain weight loss and fitness goals.  Self-efficacy is defined as the belief in your ability to succeed (Psychology Today).  Do you think that you can?  Do you believe that you are worthy of change?  Do you believe you have the skills to live a healthy life?  If so you have self-efficacy and you are capable of pursing your goals.

What you think about yourself will be reflected in your behaviors.  If you are lifting weights and you tell yourself, “I cannot do another set” then you will not be able to do another set.  If you believe you are too overweight to workout then you may stay away from challenging yourself.  The things you say to yourself will come true.  Psychologist like to call this self-fulfilling prophesy (Psychology Today).  What you tell yourself and what you believe will come true.  If you believe you are not strong enough to lift, when you go to lift the weight you will not be strong enough.  If you think you are too weak to keep doing push ups then you will fail and no longer be able to do push ups. Ask any athlete that wins the Super Bowl if they believed they would lose.  They would most likely tell you “No”, they believed they could win!

If you are not seeing the results you hoped for evaluate your relationship with yourself.  Ask yourself these questions:

1. Do I love myself?

2. Am I worth this?

3. Do I deserve health, fitness, and wellness?

4. Am I in control of my health or is someone else?

If you answer “yes” to these questions then you have the correct thinking to start and maintain a healthy lifestyle.  Next evaluate your relationships with others and communicate your goals to them.  In relationships once we communicate our needs our partners and loved ones are able to support our goals.  They cannot do what you do not communicate to them.  Family members cannot read your mind and it is up to you to love yourself enough to ask them to support you.

If you answered “no” to the above questions, hope is not lost.  You can learn to love yourself.  Try these things.

1. Forgive yourself of your past mistakes.  You did not know then what you know now.  Everyday you change and grow and you are better today than you were yesterday.

2. Remind yourself of a time you did something well.  Did you complete a project at work or school?  Did you make a customer happy or a peer happy?  Those are things to be proud of!  If you can do those things then you are capable.

3. Think of a time you were loved.  This can be hard for some people, I realize that.  Some people grow up in homes and in relationships where love is painful and confusing.  Write down, journal, or meditate on what you believe love to be like.  What does love do?  What does love feel like?  Now it is up to you to create that for yourself.  You get to control how love looks, feels, and behaves to you.  You can make your own love story.

4.  Reward yourself for making a good decision.  Most people do not want to change.  A lot of people are content staying exactly how they are. The fact that you want to change for the better makes you a better person and a braver person than the average person.  Reward yourself by buying yourself workout clothes or a new pair of shoes.  Reward yourself by buying your favorite movie and make a date with yourself to spend an evening enjoying your new movie.  You deserve it!

Support is necessary for health, weight loss, and fitness.  Support involves your circle of friends and family.  Support also includes you!  You may have the most supportive gym, family, and friends, but if you do not believe you are worth it then you will struggle.

Starting today every time you sit down to eat healthy or you workout tell yourself, “I am worthy of health,” “I am worthy of love,” and “I am strong enough to change my body”.

References:

Khan, C., Stephens, M., Franks, M., Rook, K., & Salem, J. (2013).  Influences of spousal support and control on diabetes management through physical activity. Health Psychology, 32(7), 739-747.

Scholz, U., Sniehotta, F., Schuz, B., & Oeberst, A. (2007).  Dynamics in self-regulation: Plan execution self-efficacy and mastery of action plans.  Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 37(11), 2706-2725.

Turner, S., Thomas, A., Wagner, P., & Moseley, G. (2008).  A collaborative approach to wellness.  Diet, exercise, and education to impact behavior change.  Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, 20(6), 339-344.

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