Close your eyes and try to think about anything except a white bear.
Give yourself 60 seconds and think any thought you want … except do NOT think about a white bear.
How’d that go?
Probably not so well. The white bear effect is a concept that illustrates the more we try to avoid or suppress something … the more we end up feeling or thinking about the thing we’re trying to avoid or suppress.
This applies to thoughts. It applies to emotions. And it applies to food.
You probably think I’m going to tell you that the more you try to avoid certain foods, the harder they are to resist.
Well, that’s not where I’m going with this … even though it’s true.
I think what’s even more potent is how this relates to your every day mindset.
Consider how you feel about your body and the pursuit of your goals.
Do you wake up, look in the mirror, step on the scale and feel joy? Do you feel peace?
Or does it feel more like frustration? Stress? Mental turmoil?
I’m speaking from experience here. I used to look in the mirror every single morning and I would start my day feeling frustrated and angry.
Frustrated that all of the hard work I was putting in wasn’t showing the way I wanted it to.
And angry that I had been on this journey for so long and had nothing to show for it.
Like seriously, WTF.
Then, when I was first told that I had to eat MORE to get leaner … I felt two very pronounced emotions …
Fear and anxiety.
I was afraid of gaining weight. I was afraid of going back to the 250 lb. version of me and I was afraid of losing control.
That fear stayed with me for a long time. When I was confronted with the opportunity to change …
To stop dieting so extremely, to stop stressing myself the fuck out, to start working smarter, not harder …
I froze. I froze in fear.
Time and time again.
The problem was that I tried to suppress the fear. I would try to manipulate my emotional state to force myself out of the feeling of fear.
But as we learned from the white bear effect … the fear only comes back stronger when you do that.
Fear and anxiety can control you and hold you back.
I spent most of my life never experiencing anxiety … until I became a chronic dieter.
Then, it became normal for me to feel anxious. Anxious about going out to eat when I couldn’t meticulously track macros. Anxious about stepping on the scale each morning. Anxious about the thought of gaining weight. Anxious about needing to eat more. Anxious about hiring a coach who could actually help me.
Fear and anxiety controlled me.
Because I refused to feel them. I tried to numb, suppress, and avoid.
Never did I accept and acknowledge.
Until one day I was listening to a podcast with a guest who was an expert on overcoming fear.
She talked about this concept of monsters in the closet. When you don’t know what they are, what they look like, or what their intentions are … it’s really fuckin scary.
But if you see them, meet them, get to know them, and understand that they’re trying to help you … then it’s not so bad.
She kept saying that you have to become friends with fear. You don’t avoid fear or overcome it. You simply get really friendly with it.
You turn it from an unknown, into a known.
You name it. You thank it for trying to protect you. You identify what it feels like and why it’s there.
And from that frame, you can make the decision that best serves you.
So I tried it.
And it worked.
Change your life by understanding and acknowledging your fear and anxiety.
Shortly after that podcast episode, I hired a coach that changed my life.
He got me eating more. Working out smarter. Improved my body composition more in 12 weeks than the previous 12 years combined. And it sent my life on a very different path (in a good way).
I see way too many people on a daily basis who are frozen by fear … just like I was.
Afraid of eating more because the scale might go up. Afraid of investing in themselves because they’ve done a bunch of programs in the past that didn’t work. Afraid of making a change because it’s uncomfortable and unfamiliar.
Yet, staying the same doesn’t seem like a viable option, does it?
If it did … you wouldn’t be saying how frustrated you are with your lack of progress.
Trust me when I say … it doesn’t need to be that way.
You can get really familiar with the fear that’s holding you back. You can understand why it’s trying to keep you in your comfort zone (it thinks you’ll be safer that way).
Then, you can put your arm around it and say … thank you for trying to help me … but I’ve got it from here.
And then do the thing that you know will change your life.
I think the coolest experience for me was when I finally made the decision to do things differently …
Immediately afterwards I felt this “oh shit” feeling. And then shortly after that I was overcome with peace and gratitude. Like I had passed a life test or something.
I leaned into that feeling and I frequently think about it whenever I’m confronted with a decision that triggers a lot of fear and anxiety.
I know it’ll be uncomfortable. I know it’ll be scary. And I also know it’ll be ok.
My hope is that it doesn’t take you as long as it took me.
That you can learn the lesson sooner and change your life for the better.