I want to introduce you to a little mind trick that’s helped me get control over my body many times. It’s how I gave up smoking, how I cut down on sugar, and how I manage to exercise even when I don’t want to.
I call it the teaching-a-small-child method.
We have a strange relationship with our bodies, they are part of us, and yet in many ways they are somehow separate. It’s as if our brain has one personality and our bodies have another.
In fact, seeing this is a big part of my technique, view your conscious mind as the adult in the relationship and your body as a child to whom you’re permanently connected.
The personality of our bodies, if I can call it that, shares many attributes with small children. Neither really has an understanding of the future and the consequences of today’s actions.
Children don’t understand why you shouldn’t eat the whole tub of ice-cream right now. They haven’t developed the ability to see a link between what they do today and what will happen tomorrow. All they can recognize is that there’s immediate pleasure to be had, and more ice-cream means more pleasure. So why would you ever choose not to eat the whole tub?
Your body sees the world exactly the same way.
Children are also very needy. They depend upon their adult parents for food, safety, love and shelter. But given the chance, a child will quickly expand their list of needs. They don’t just need food, they need “food that tastes like candy”. They don’t just need shelter, they need “their own room with a computer and a TV just like Johnny has”.
Given the opportunity, children will expand their needs exponentially. Once a child can see that their every desire is going to be met, they will demand more and more just to see how far they can push their luck. The line between “wants” and “needs” blurs and vanishes.
We’ve all met children whose parents aren't strong enough to deny them anything, and seen the results of that situation. A spoilt child is likely to become a miserable and poorly-adjusted adult.
Your body’s personality is almost exactly the same.
Dealing with your body involves the same strategy as a smart parent uses dealing with a child. It becomes a battle of wills, between the wise adult and the demanding, ignorant child.
Given the chance, the demands your body makes upon you will jump from “I want to be fed”, to “I only want to eat hamburgers and cake and everything else is just disgusting and I don’t like it”. How would you deal with a child who made such demands? Deal with your body in the same way.
Your body may want to lie around on the sofa, taking drugs, sleeping too much, and eating bad food. But your adult mind knows better and should establish its dominance.
If a child wins the contest of wills between themselves and an adult, the relationship is likely to become damaging. A child who gets everything they want is not a healthy child – emotionally or physically.
Because of this, most sensible adults are quick to establish authority with their children. “I love you, but I’m the one in charge,” is the message that must be gotten across.
With your body, it’s the same. You are the adult in the relationship, so you must establish control.
Your body, like a child, is likely to be constantly testing this authority. If it feels it can get away with asserting its will, then things are likely to deteriorate rapidly.
Unfortunately, bad body relationship skills are often learnt from our parents, just as bad parenting skills are. If your mother and father allowed their bodies’ “wants” to get the better of them, then you’re likely suffering the consequences.
Nevertheless, the relationship with your body is such an important one, that you must unlearn the habit of giving in to its demands. It's not easy to do, but you must begin showing that things have changed and you're the one in charge now.
A spoilt child, who suddenly finds their dominance challenged will almost certainly fight to keep control. They will scream and yell and beat their fists on the floor, determined to force the offending adult to give in.
Likewise, a spoilt body will use every trick it can come up with to make you back down if you try and re-establish control. It will complain of aches and pains, be tired, prevent you from sleeping, force through sharp demands to meet its “needs”, and whisper seductive things in your ear.
With the child and the body, the best reaction to these attempts is to be an immovable force. Let them see that it’s not going to work. Whatever they try, you are the one who's in control and that’s that.
You are also advised not follow the parent's strategy of making excuses for their misbehaving offspring. Avoiding necessary discipline because a child is hyperactive, has ADD, or is sensitive is just a way to dodge difficult choices.
A body which has a bad metabolism, a low-addiction threshold, or any other number of excuses is simply looking for a way out a tough situation. No matter what nonfatal affliction prevents you from doing what you know you should, there are probably millions of other people who have overcome the same thing. So should you.
Most people know what they have to do to fix many of their bodily problems. These things aren't rocket science. It’s not a question of finding the right diet, the right clinic, or the right exercise device. It’s just a matter of finding the willpower to do what you know you should.
By seeing your body as a child who you’re teaching the correct way to live, you give yourself a way of turning a difficult task into a contest and a game. Even better, like being the parent of a well-taught child, it gets easier with time. As soon as your body understands that it has become the subservient party in the relationship, it's much less likely to put up a fight when you ask it to do something difficult.
Follow this strategy, and good health will likely be the result.