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Falling off the wagon

What does a happy body feel like? Do you know the feeling? Do you feel it right now? Is your happy body one that looks great; one that feels good; a body that does what you want it to do?

There could be many sources for how you view or believe what a happy body is. If it’s simply about what you look like, prepare for a long, hard slog – both to achieve it and maintain it. If it’s about developing a body that feels great and does what you ask of it (isn’t that the ultimate happy body?), the rewards will be so much more fulfilling and long-term because it’ll align with your innermost need – self love and acceptance.

Sabotaging your efforts

Chatting to a client recently, the conversation went something like this. Client “No matter what great intentions I have when I start dieting/exercising/changing unhealthy habits, I always seem to end up sabotaging myself eventually. I do the opposite of what I’m ‘supposed’ to!” (Watch this video for more on what drives the self-sabotage.)

The first red flag was her use of the term ‘supposed to’. In other words, ‘must’, ‘have to’, ‘should’, the “RULES” state, etc. This suggests that the drive to change comes from an external source (your doctor / husband / wife/ mother / magazine) and that you have no personal say in the matter! ‘I want to’ on the other hand, suggests total involvement and a motivation that’s intrinsic.

The second red flag is the self-sabotage issue, which happens to the best of us. The fact that most of us expect to ‘fall off the wagon’ at one time or another suggests that we don’t believe we’re destined to succeed! Simple as that. We inherently feel bad about ourselves. Or we fail to value and appreciate ourselves sufficiently, or we just don’t like ourselves, full stop. There’s a wagon in our mindset that represents the perfect body. What a terrible position to be in – where did this thinking come from (blame your parents).  What message do you give yourself on a regular basis? Are you harder on yourself than you are on others? Why? And for that matter, what message are you teaching your kids about self-value? (Watch this video for my thoughts on how to teach your kids healthy self-love.)

Creating your happy body

So imagine the scenario. Outwardly – consciously – you feel you’d like to achieve a specific goal and you do everything in your power to succeed at it. At an unconscious level though, you really don’t think you deserve to succeed – you’re a bad person; you’re not worthy of success; you might have to face something you don’t want to face if you succeed etc. So a total conflict of interests, but guess which one’s going to win? Yep, the unconscious! We’ve used this guy all our lives, to protect us, to serve us, to guide us…. It’s not possible to just change our behaviour and thinking overnight, so time and energy needs to be spent coaxing a different mindset out of hiding. (Watch this video for more on the process of changing habits.)

Is it possible to be fit, strong, healthy and happy, all at the same time? Yes indeed – I’ve seen it happen for clients and have experienced it first-hand.  The key challenge is rarely in the work it takes to eat the way you ‘should’ or move the way you ‘should’. It’s knowing what ‘should’ is for you. What’s the ‘wagon’, and is it where your body is truly happy?

So, let’s rethink the wagon, or even unhitch it altogether, and work on just being happy…

Tanya Wyatt, Happy Valley pond

Tanya Wyatt

Tanya has written regularly for various health and fitness magazines such as Men’s Health, Marie-Claire, Cosmopolitan and Shape (she also served on the advisory board for Shape), as well as for local South Africa newspaper publications. In 2004, Tanya wrote two internationally released health and fitness-related books, both  published by New Holland. She recently wrote her third book, currently submitted to publishers for consideration.


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2021 Tanya Wyatt / The Happy Body