Over my years of training I became fascinated by the connection between the mind and the body. I have heard many people, claim that those who focus too much on their physical well-being, end up overlooking their mental health or fortitude. There are also many philosophers, who have attempted to rationalise the connection between our mind and the body. In this article, I aim to deconstruct the impact of physical fitness, diet, and the way that we treat our body overall, on the mind and one's image of themselves.
Physical exercise is an action that involves partaking in exhausting activities (sometimes dangerous ones too) for the ultimate purpose of achieving self-improvement. The action of doing this, by nature, places stress on your mind as well as your body. Some argue that physical exercise cannot strengthen the mind because the adoption of fitness regimens and sports is commonly done by those with deep rooted issues and insecurities, and that those issues will remain regardles of one's physical stature. I argue, that this is only true to a certain extent.
There are many times where your mind screams at you to stop the exercise you're doing because you are supposedly "at your limit". This leads to mental strengthening, since your subconscious observes that the body is more capable than it originally thought: you push through it for those extra reps.
Every rep that you do past your perceived limitation, is like sticking a middle-finger to the voice in your head that says "you cannot succeed". Every time you push through, you prove that part of mind incorrect; when you keep doing this, "you cannot succeed" becomes "fucking do it".
Pushing through to this stage is what takes you to the next level, and what emboldens your mind and spirit to believe you are better and stronger than you were before. This newfound strength within yourself is why your self-esteem and confidence increases. It is true that many people sink themselves into fitness and exercise due to insecurities and low self-esteem. But this is true for any hobby.
Regardless, it is important to consider the idea that physical fitness is one of the best coping mechanisms for such issues. Many insecurities stem from feeling inadequate about our bodies, and these perceived imperfections can be eroded over time by adopting a lifestyle that promotes health and strength. The power of the human body doesn't stop at its infinite adaptibility. It extends to the psychological impact it has too, and it is neccesary that we begin to recognise this.
Many modern and progressive (these tend to be pre-dominantly western) societies push the ideology of being "perfect the way you are", but that ends up encouraging people to accept fixable flaws about themselves instead of attempting to correct them. As it stands, we are facing an obesity epidemic, and some of the highest levels ever recorded of depression, anxiety and overall bad mental health amongst the population, specifically amongst the younger generations. If exercise were more encouraged, it would certainly lead to an improvement of all these factors stated.
Not only is fitness a driving factor for one's mental health, diet is too. Obesity (measured by BMI) has been on a very steady increase ever since the 1970-80s, according to the graph below, taken from the National Institue of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Coincidentally, this is the same time period that many ultra-processed foods were rolled out in the USA, such as Chicken McNuggets, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, Pudding Pops and more. This is the same period where McDonald's and other similar fast food chains, became mainstream in American society.
The issues are only becoming worse over time - there is no sign of stoppage or slowing. Suicide rates are rising too. But it's not like we are reaching a tipping point, and it's not like the mega-corporations or governments profitting off of this would care if we were. It is crucial that we begin to take better care of ourselves and that we start treating our bodies the way they should be. People will continue to die and feel lesser than they are until we begin to move past this era.
The era of hyper-processed chemicals being passed as food to appeal to the new trending diets proposed by fitness "experts", many of which profit off of vulnerable people attempting to better themselves. The era in which people have become so comfortable and so passive that they don't even need to walk to a store, let alone hunt, for their food - everything is now delivered to you by the click of a button. The era in which everything is treated with pills, and medicine focuses on the symptoms rather than the cause of these problems.
I hope this article will help with this. There's nothing wrong with occasional indulgence , but your diet shouldn't mainly consist of food that is heavily altered from its original state e.g. donuts, crisps packets, chocolate bars, and cheap meat cooked by questionable establishments. Focus on consuming naturally ocurring foods, and do your best to cook them yourself so you can be more certain of the process the food has undergone. Focus on meat, eggs and vegetables.
Get to the gym and lift. Go outside and jog. Return home and stretch. Eat well. Create positive habits around your body, and follow a lifestyle that is best for your health. Your happiness will show itself soon. Your subconscious is watching you at all times - it is watching to see whether you respect your body, and whether you stick to your promises. Your subconscious image of yourself directly stems from the way you consciously treat your conscious self - do you eat real food? Do you abide by the promises you make to yourself? Do you criticise yourself as much as you should?