Is there a part of your body you hate that you’ve tried and tried to “fix”? Do you like the way that you look? Do you find yourself getting trapped in negative self talk? What you may not realize is that you’re telling yourself a story that is keeping you stuck.
My flabby arms
“We all have stories that we tell ourselves about what our lives are—and those stories are always wrong.” -Shawn Coyne
For as long as I can remember I’ve had flabby arms. Yes. It’s true. And yes, I hate admitting this.
I hate my arms. I really do. I hate the way they wobble when I run and the way they look in short sleeves. I hate it when people touch me on my arms because I’m scared they’ll be disgusted by the inordinate amount of fat stored there.
You might be asking yourself If you hate your flabby arms so much, why don’t you do something about it? Good question. I guess when you believe something to be unchangeable or insurmountable you don’t really bother even trying to change because it would be self-defeating.
Which leads me to the real point I’m trying to make here. How much of what we accept as true is actually just a limiting belief keeping us stuck? Is it possible to change what we believe is unchangeable?
I’m genetically predisposed to have flabby arms. It’s just a part of who I am. But is it really? What if my entire life I’ve been believing a half truth which is really just a lie?
Where do our stories originate?
How many times do you find yourself listening to the same looped narrative about yourself or someone else?
I’m too sensitive. I’m not good with money. They’re always going to be like that. Those people are arrogant and entitled.
I believe that stories are powerful. Powerfully motivating or powerfully destructive. These narratives are usually planted within us at a young age or during a time of trauma and struggle.
If you want to get results you’ve never had before it’s important to root out where your beliefs are holding you back. Otherwise you’ll always have one foot on the gas saying Let’s do this! Let’s get healthy! And the other foot on the breaks screaming for safety.
If we could interrupt that narrative, reverse it, or replace it what could be possible? More freedom? More self-acceptance? Better relationships? More confidence?
Let’s take me for example. What would be possible for me if I could start to appreciate the blessing of my arms? I would have more peace of mind. I’d be a lot less afraid of what people thought. I wouldn’t be tying my value or self-worth to a body part. And I’d probably be willing to work a little harder to get stronger arms.
When I was 12 my dad and I were in the driveway after school shooting a few hoops. Clueless was a huge deal at the time and I remember very clearly wearing a baby blue button up top with white daisies printed all over it. It was a stretchy top, from Gadzooks or Hot Topic. You know the kind.
It clung to my little pre-teen body, especially my arms.
While working on my free throws my dad must have noticed how my triceps flapped side to side as the ball was released into the air.
He came over and grabbed the back of my arm with his index finger and thumb, decisively pinching a full measure. Juicy. Fatty. Plump. I can’t recall the exact comment but you know it doesn’t really matter. The object of his point was clear. Your arms are fat.
He grinned, innocently unaware as most men are of how impressionable young girls are about THEIR BODIES. I shuddered and hid my feelings. Clearly, I’ve never forgotten this moment. And clearly, I’ve let a harmless comment and interaction with my dad influence years of negative thinking.
Because I’ve always seen myself to have flabby arms I’ve never allowed myself to wear sleeveless shirts, to put in the hard work of building more muscular arms, or seeing my arms as thin when they were.
For years I’ve let a negative belief stagnate my growth and prohibit my freedom.
Recognize what part of the story is true and what part is not
As I said, it is true that right now my arms are flabby and out of shape. And it is true that women in my family have more robust physics. It’s true that my dad did pinch my arms.
But that’s just half the truth.
The other half is that I have healthy arms that have been flabby in the past and have been a little less flabby at other times. I have arms, I’m able bodied, and I can change the way my arms look if I put in the work. My dad loves me and would never want to give me a hard time about my body. He doesn’t and didn’t think I was fat.
We tend to let the lie part take over so we can keep ourselves safe from risk.
Expose the lie and break through the limiting belief
One thing I never expected from writing and launching a book in 30 days, was how much my confidence would soar. I’ve never been confident. Ever. I’ve always been a little sheepish and shy. But finishing that book has taught me that I can do exactly what I thought I’d never do and it’s starting to affect other areas of my life.
A few weeks ago I was catching up on some reading. Coffee was the topic. Specifically how it affects hormones. I’ve been drinking coffee for years. At least a pot a day. After reading this, I knew the final frontier as a health coach was to quit. So that’s exactly what I did. One day I was drinking a pot and a half of coffee. The next I wasn’t.
I made up my mind.
Coffee wasn’t the only thing that this new confidence touched. Another story I’ve been telling myself for years is that I hate running therefore I’m not a runner.
One day I could barely run half a mile without stopping. The very next day I ran two miles in one go.
You see once we break through one limiting belief it’s really hard for our minds to keep believing the other lies we tell ourselves. If it’s possible for me to do this when I never thought I could, then what else is possible?
Is “anything” really possible?
Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve. – Napoleon Hill
In the documentary film Hungry For Change, Jon Gabriel talks about his unusual weight loss journey. You have to understand that John is a very thin man. He’s tall, tan, lean, and young looking for his age.
But in the film you see a photo of Jon from the late 80’s. He’s unrecognizable. Frankly, he’s enormous. He even says so. Jon changed his mindset about his body. He lost over 200 pounds through visualization. He visualized the man he wanted to be and over the course of many years he became what he envisioned.
Likewise, Rich Roll (my other husband) who is considered one of the fittest men in the world was, not long ago, overweight and nearing a heart attack. He changed. To look at him now you would think he had been that way forever. But it’s only been a few years.
Ernestine Shepherd is at 80, the world’s oldest female body building champion. She runs 10 miles every morning and lifts weights every day. She started in her 70’s. She changed.
She’s my hero. She looks amazing for any age and she defies the assumption that as we age we must get old and unhealthy. Nonsense.
You don’t have to accept the narrative if you don’t want to. She and Jon and Rich are examples of the power of questioning the old story and rewriting an entirely new one. If you can pinpoint the false narrative, root out the lie from the truth, and replace an old worn out narrative with a new belief than you can achieve what your mind conceives of.
Whypower over willpower
The cool thing for these people is that change didn’t come by force or willpower. Sure, it came through hard work. But willpower isn’t enough. Willpower is unreliable.
In her book The Five Second Rule, Mel Robbins talks about the condunrum of willpower and motivation.
“Motivation is garbage. You only feel motivated to do the things that are easy. Your mind is designed to stop you at all costs from doing anything that might hurt you. We all have a habit of hesitating. When you hesitate even for a moment, it sends a stress signal to your brain. So then your brain goes to work to protect you.”
Basically hesitation causes the mind to perceive good will as a threat, abruptly changing forward action into self-preservation. That’s why we never feel like doing the hard work. That’s why we know we shouldn’t eat three granola bars in a row or drink two scotches every night after work but ultimately do.
You need something more. You need to keep the most important part of the whole equation front and center at all times…your WHY.
I think about my husband. After 15 years of smoking he decided he would quit. He picked a last day and when that day came he was finished.
Change is possible. It is. But it has to begin with an extremely powerful why and an equally powerful vision.
Why do I want to quit smoking? Because my lungs hurt and I’m scared I’ll get cancer. Why do I want to become an ultra marathoner? Because I almost died at 39 from a heart attack and I want to see my kids grow up. Why do I want to loose 200 pounds? Because I want to finally be the me I know I am on the inside. Why do I want to be a champion body builder? Because I promised my dying sister I would.
The reason for change has to be primal and potent. It has to be so meaningful that you’d do anything to see it through to the end.
Changing the narrative
We all have “problem” areas, right? Areas where we gain more fat or can’t gain any. Calves too skinny, butt too big, tummy too round. We all want to be different and act on our inner wisdom. But we need to be clear minded about what is really holding us back.
Just because I have flabby arms doesn’t mean I have to like it or allow the fact to remain the same. I can change. I’m at a point in my life where the old script is constantly being questioned. I’ve pinpointed the old story, seen that I’m capable of more than I give myself credit for, stopped buying the garbage lie and put away the idea that willpower will get me there. I’m writing a new story. I have a strong why. I know why this matters to me so much. I know that in the deepest part of myself.
I’ve started doing an arm routine. Painful, it’s so painful. I’m really weak right now. I want to give up. I want to keep falling back on the old story that I’m just built this way so that’s how I aught to remain. But something inside me knows I can’t. That’s no longer an option. I have a vision and a why. I’m grateful I have arms and a healthy body. I’m grateful that I’m able bodied. But if it’s within my power to break a negative thought pattern then I will. If it’s within my reach to do better then I will.
What would be possible for any of us if we saw things from a new angle or in a new light? Could we finally break addictions to worry and self-sabotage? Could we finally see the progress we long for? I totally believe it.
Do some thinking about what stories you’re telling yourself, where they came from, and what lie you’re mixing with truth. Weed it out, journal a new vision for yourself, and rely not on willpower but on action fueled by your vision.
What’s your story? What would be possible for you if it changed? Tell me in the comments below.