Have you ever found yourself pining for the good ol’ days? Idealizing those times when you used to be able to do things that would get certain results, or when you used to feel better, or when everything was so much easier than it is now?
My friends, we all get stuck in the past sometimes, and even spend time thinking that our lives from here forward are inevitably going to be worse. But is that actually true? (And – more importantly, for my beautiful Bs who are working on managing their minds – is that thought helpful?)
Today’s episode of the Fitness Matters podcast will help you step out of being stuck in the past, and step forward into your brilliant future, where you can achieve any goal you want.
WHAT YOU’LL LEARN:
👉 THE PROBLEM with thinking things used to be better
👉 WHY your brain will always look to the past
👉 THE FIRST STEP to feeling better now and in the future, and
👉 HOW TO actually get started
When you are unclear about where you are going, you’ll be stuck in where you’ve been.
You guys, this revelatory episode can help you with finding a healthy weight, making peace with menopause, aging gracefully, and so much more. Are you ready to dig in? Let’s GO!
What You Used to Do (full transcript)
You’re listening to the Fitness Matters podcast with Pahla B, and this is episode number 243, “What You Used to Do.”
Welcome to the Fitness Matters podcast, where every week we talk about the fitness matters that matter to you. I’m Pahla B, YouTuber, certified life and weight loss coach, soon to be author and your best middle-aged fitness friend. Are you ready to talk about the fitness mindset that matters to you? Me too. Let’s go.
Ready to read and better yet, talk about another great self-help book? Join the Pahla B Wellness Over 50 Book Club in partnership with Chirp Audio Books. Our July/August pick is “The Untethered Soul” by Michael Singer. And you can grab it at a great discount with no monthly subscription fees at chirpbooks.com/Pahla. That’s P-A-H-L-A and while you’re there, be sure to click the follow button, to get exclusive access, updates, and information about our live event. See you there.
Hello. Hello. Hello, my friends. You guys are so happy. Nope. I’m so happy to be here with you. It is neither happy nor sad nor anything. It simply exists. Some of my friends in the Get Your Goal group are laughing at me right now because this is something that we talk about a lot. Hey, let me just go off into left field here before we even remotely start talking about the topic. Something that I talk about a lot with my Get Your Goal group friends is giving your power away. It’s a concept that I actually have not talked about to the best of my knowledge. I have not made an entire podcast episode about it. And hey, let’s just have a little mini episode within an episode right here while I tell you this. This is a concept that it is a foundational, fundamental truth about you. You have all the power in the world. Meaning that you have the power to think about anything anyway you want to. I mean, we do talk about that.
We talk about that obliquely. When I tell you to find your thoughts and decide if they’re helpful, the ability to think about your thoughts is, basically, your power to recognize that you have thoughts and to direct them intentionally when you want to and notice their automaticity when they are automatic. That is the crux of your power. And we, all of us, all the time, give away our power. Because here’s the thing. You have thoughts and then your thoughts create your feelings always, all the time. Every single feeling you have ever had is an inside job. It comes from your thought. That feeling is what drives your actions and then those actions are what gets you results. This is how the world works. And every single thing we’ve ever learned from anybody ever is that all of the power is from things outside in the world.
Like, “Oh, those circumstances were very stressful.” Or, “Oh, Johnny made you feel very sad.” Or, “It was a really happy occasion.” And so the thing that I say to my Get Your Goal friends all the time is it was neither happy nor sad. I point that out all the time rather obnoxiously. I’m one of those pedantic teachers, just in case you don’t know that about me. I am absolutely my third grade teacher, Mrs. Campbell, whom I loved. Who, when you would ask, “Can I go to the bathroom?” She’d say, “I don’t know. Can you?” Because what she wanted you to say was, “May I?” Because yes, you are capable of going to the bathroom, but maybe, or maybe not, you might not have permission to do such a thing. Anyway, I’m a pedantic teacher, and it is neither happy nor sad nor anything else to be here with you. But I have thoughts such as, “I love recording my podcast,” which create feelings of happiness inside of me.
You guys, that has literally nothing to do with what we’re talking about today, but there you go. I love recording the podcast. I really do. It’s fun to be me. Hey, let’s talk about what you used to do. Let’s talk about that in a couple of different ways, in fact. I literally just got off my phone because even though I love recording the podcast, sometimes I still, well, I don’t procrastinate. I’m not going to even use that word. Sometimes I still take time to be on my lunch break. That’s actually what I was doing, but I took a little bit longer on my lunch break than I intended to because I was procrastinating even though I don’t procrastinate by being on Facebook. So, I was just on Facebook, which is its own thing. Actually, I had already written all the notes that I was going to write for this episode.
And then I went on Facebook, and I saw this post and I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is exactly what I’m going to be talking about in this podcast.” And therefore I hope that it’s really helpful for you. So, I’m not going to mention names or try to call anybody out. Here’s the thing, you guys. When I tell you, “Oh, you are probably having this thought,” what I mean is we have all had these thoughts. We have all, at one point in time or another, thought about what we used to be able to do that either used to get us results or used to feel better or used to be something. And then we have turned this around in our mind as though that standard is the only one we ever want. And everything from here moving forward is now going to be worse. Here’s the thing. I used to be able to eat a lot.
And this is something that I actually really struggled with when I first started understanding the moderation thing. I came to moderation from rather significant over-exercising, which at one point in my life was not over-exercising. For many, many years the amount of exercise that I was doing worked great for me. My body felt amazing. I had zero injuries. I was only sore in a way that I like being sore. I was never stiff and sore or couldn’t move. But I was sore like, “Oh, I used my muscles yesterday, and it feels really good. And I still have the capacity to move today and help them feel better.” I was not over-exercising until I was. And it came on me kind of suddenly, to be honest. I didn’t really see it coming. I didn’t really know it was happening.
What I noticed is that I didn’t always feel amazing. And I wasn’t sure what that was all about because to be fair, when this came on me, my sister had just died and both of my kids had just graduated from high school, moved out, moved on to college, lived in their own worlds and everything. I had a lot of things going on that were creating for me . . . Well, no, those things weren’t created. We already talked about this. Those things weren’t creating feelings for me. But I had so many thoughts that I, at the time, because I wasn’t even really doing this kind of mindset work, did not pull apart. I was not figuring out, “Am I sad about this? Am I sad about that? Is this what’s going on? Is that what’s going on?” So my body was going through physical changes, like physiological, biological menopause changes at a time when I was also going through a lot of, I’m just going to call it mental anguish, that was producing behaviors in me that could have very easily led to weight gain.
I mean, I was doing different things. I was eating different things. There was a lot going on. Let me just say it that way. Back when exercising a lot was still working for me, I used to be able to eat a lot. At my little tiny weight, I used to eat well over 2,000 calories a day easily, and I burned through it. And I never felt too full. I never felt like certain foods weren’t reacting well to me. I felt amazing all the time. Now hear what I just said there. I felt amazing all the time. Do you hear how my brain is idealizing the past? Of course, I felt lousy sometimes. We all do. The world is not meant to be perfect all the time.
You are supposed to feel good and feel bad and feel surprised and feel scared and feel excited and feel whatever else. You’re supposed to feel all the feelings. But what we do sometimes is we idealize our past when we think that our present and then therefore our future could not possibly measure up. And here’s the thing that I’ve discovered in my own life. This is something that somebody smarter than me long ago already knew. I just discovered it for myself somewhat recently. Here it is. Thinking about what you used to be able to do with that wistfulness, with that longing, my friends, is really unhelpful. And maybe long-time listeners already understood that because you’ve used the two-step tool. You’ve found your thoughts. You know whether or not they’re helpful, because the way you find out if a thought is helpful is that you listen to how it makes you feel.
And it, in that sense, is your thought. Your thought creates your feelings. So, that was not me giving my power away, you guys. That was me explaining how things go. It really is that simple. You can just put your feelings into two categories, good or bad. If you’d like to have the nuance behind them, you absolutely can. That’s welcome to you, but you don’t have to. If a feeling feels bad, that thought is not moving you towards your goal. But here’s the thing.
I didn’t know what my goal was. For the longest time, I didn’t really think about my body. I honestly didn’t. I felt so good about it that I never gave it much consideration at all. I maintained my weight very easily. I was able to run and exercise as much as I wanted to. At the very beginning of perimenopause, I had a couple of bouts of anemia where I started to understand that my body could do things without my permission. And it was like, “Okay, this is very interesting.” But largely my body was doing what I expected it to do. It behaved in ways that it had been behaving. I wasn’t noticing anything new or different, except that I totally was. I’m listening to myself and I’m like, no, I totally was because I knew that my periods were getting weird.
I knew menopause was coming. And I was kind of ignoring some of the signs until it became incredibly obvious that my body had changed. When I couldn’t eat as much as I used to I was really affronted by this. I really, really, really struggled. I like to eat. I’m a fan of food. I am the world’s pickiest eater. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not like, “Oh, I like to eat something different every day.” Or, “I’m a gourmet cook,” or anything like that. No, no, no, no. I’m just saying that the foods that I like, I really like. I really like to eat them. I really like to eat them in large quantities. I really liked to enjoy eating right up until I didn’t. Right up until I found myself using the phrase, “I used to be able to eat everything I wanted all the time.”
Now technically that phrase is still true because I absolutely still eat exactly what I want. I eat it in different quantities now. And technically speaking, I could still totally eat in that quantity, but it would not get me the result that I want. So, when my body started changing through both mental anguish and just physical, physiological changes of menopause, I was really unhappy for a while. Like for a long while. And some of that, again, was mental anguish, grief. And grief, I mean truly. Not the literal loss of my children, but the loss of them still living at home, the loss of being their daily parent, that was a really difficult transition for me. And it came at a time immediately after losing my sister. So, the two are very intertwined for me. Like that empty nest thing means more empty than just a nest for me.
So that thought kept rattling around in my mind, “I used to be able to eat so much more. I used to be able to do so much more. I used to be able to run. I used to be able to . . . ” I mean, honestly, just fill in the blank. “I used to be able to call my sister. I used to be able to know where my children were at all times of the day or night.” No matter how you finish that sentence, the first part of it creates for me a feeling of pain.
Now here’s the thing about the things that we used to do. When we idealize the past like that, this is a completely normal, natural thing that all brains do. We only have the ability to look at the past for evidence of what our future might hold automatically. Let me put that caveat on there. Your brain will automatically look to the past to create some parameters for what it thinks you will be able to do in the future. Now, what you have done in the past has quite literally nothing to do with what you are capable of doing in the future. And that’s a topic for a whole other day. And I don’t want to get too bogged down on that because I think two episodes in one is plenty. I really don’t want to go for a third. But let me leave you with this so that you can chew on it. And then later we’ll talk about it for real.
What you have done in the past has absolutely nothing to do with what you are capable of doing in the future. And that really is the crux of what I want you to think about today. The problem is your automatic brain doing what it automatically does, which is to say, looking at the past and idealizing the past, because that’s all that it has access to without you stepping in and intentionally thinking about the future.
When your brain idealizes the past, the sort of byproduct of this is that it is demonizing both your present and your future. “I used to be able to do that,” is very subtly closing the door on what you could be able to do in the future. It stops you. It blocks you from thinking about what your options are coming ahead of you. Now the thing about this is that this is, again, completely normal, completely natural, completely the way your brain is supposed to work. And it’s why when I offer you this advice, it’s going to feel difficult. Your brain is supposed to resist making changes. Honestly, it really comes down to biology and physiology that your brain wants to stay the same as much as possible. We’ve talked about this quite a few times. Your brain wants to be efficient so that it doesn’t use too much energy. Too much, of course, is your brain’s standard.
Anytime it uses more energy than it has to – which is to say, thinking an old thought versus the energy of thinking a new thought – your brain’s always going to choose the old thought because it uses less energy. When your brain operates that way it means that in order to accept where you are right now and move toward something that you want in the future, you’re going to have to think intentionally. You’re going to have to practice intentional thinking. Now, this is a concept that we’ve kind of touched on before, and it is what I consider to be a more advanced concept, even though every self-help guru in the world wants you to think intentionally right away. I mean, this is what affirmations are. You change your life by moving towards something intentionally. And honestly, I do it too. I mean, I offer you the tools to think intentionally, and it’s more advanced because the fact is you have to be really, really, really good at understanding your automatic thoughts first.
We just talked about this last week. Finding that pea under the mattress is the first step. Simply piling on intentional thoughts isn’t going to get you where you want to go, except that it does after you’ve dug up all the junk. So, we’re stepping in here at a point in time where you have already at least started digging up the junk. You have understood that this thought you used to have is a thought. You have understood that this thought feels bad and therefore it is not getting you where you want to go. But here’s the thing. Lots of us don’t know where we want to go. And that is tricky. I mean, it’s not, of course. I have thoughts about its trickiness, but I’m going to share something with you. My friends, if you don’t know where you want to go, your brain will always, always look to your past.
And even when you do know where you want to go, your brain’s still going to look to your past. This is where intentional thinking comes in. Your brain will automatically think about the past and therefore project a grim future for you because nothing could ever live up to where things used to be. But also even when you know very clearly where you are going, the automaticity of your brain means that you will continue to look to the past for evidence of what you’re capable of in the future. And what this means for you is that you need to be really, really, really crystal clear about what you want in your future.
And this is a question that I have for you. What do you want? Like for real. I have spent plenty of time thinking about what I used to be able to do. I never, ever once asked myself what I wanted to be able to do now or in the future until I recognized this, until I discovered this particular concept. I didn’t discover it, but I discovered it in myself. When you are unclear about where you are going, you will be stuck in where you’ve been. So, let’s get clear about where you’re going. What do you want? For me the whole thing about, “I used to be able to eat so much more than I can now,” what I realized, the thing that I was missing, the thing that I wanted for myself was feeling satisfied. And what I recognized, I mean, let me jump ahead a little bit here. But what I have recognized is that I’m capable of feeling satisfied with the amount of food that I eat right now.
But the only way that I can be satisfied with the amount of food that I’m eating right now is to not continually think and believe, “Oh, I used to be able to eat so much more.” My friends, if you would like to make peace with menopause, you have to stop complaining about menopause. And by “stop complaining about menopause,” what I really mean is you need to recognize your thoughts as thoughts. You need to hear them and acknowledge them and recognize what they are creating for you and let them go. That thought “I used to be able to eat so much more” does not serve me for where I want to go. Where I want to go is satisfactionville. Sounds so funny when I say that. What I want to feel is satisfied. What I want to do is eat the amount of food that feels satisfying. And yeah, it’s less than I used to.
And yeah, I’m doing less exercise than I used to. And both of those things can feel amazing when I think amazing thoughts about what I’m doing. My brain did not offer me these thoughts automatically. My brain offered me lots and lots and lots of unhelpful thoughts about what I used to be able to do. Some of this advice really is very practical and biological in the sense of making peace with menopause, making peace with how much you can eat now, how much you can do now. The fact that weight loss is – and I know you want to use the word harder. It’s not harder. It’s different. I have so many opinions about that. I hear you. I hear you. Weight loss is so much harder now. Everything was fine until menopause. I’m making a mocking voice. I’m not mocking you. I’m mocking all of our brains. All of our brains do this.
They get this automatic thought that isn’t helpful. Weight loss is different now, and it’s different physiologically. And it’s up to you to intentionally understand the physiologicalness of it. That’s not really a word. The physiology, that’s the word, of it. Hey, brain fog. Thank you, menopause. Oh, nothing like making my point real clear, right? Understanding that my body had changed is what led me to intentionally changing my mind. I chose. I chose. I am going to continue to choose thoughts that support me feeling good about my journey. I know where I want to go. I want to feel satisfied. I want to love myself. That’s actually always been my goal. I had no trouble with it for the longest time. Like truly a rather long time. I’m going to say I had a good 12 years where everything that was going on met my expectations. And therefore I never had a thought. That’s not true at all.
I don’t remember because I’m idealizing the past. I don’t remember a lot of the thoughts that I had that led me to anything other than a feeling of satisfaction. Right now, my brain has offered me thoughts that do not create satisfaction, understanding the physiology of menopause, understanding the physiology of grief, understanding the physiology of change, any kind of change.
And truly the physiology of change is what I have described to you. When I tell you how your brain works, that’s physiology. Your brain is supposed to be efficient. It’s supposed to look to the past. It’s supposed to behave this way. That’s biological behavior. Understanding that – being super clear about what that is and why it’s happening – means that you don’t have to fight against that. These are the parameters. These are the parameters of biology and physiology that you exist within, and you have the tools to do something different than what your body and your brain would do automatically. If you continue, if I continue to work out the way I used to work out, physiologically, my body would respond with, I’m going to guess, lots of injuries. Oh my gosh. If I was still running the way I used to run, I cannot imagine how much pain I would be in right now.
If I were still eating what I used to eat, I cannot imagine what my body would feel like right now. If I were to continue just doing the things that had always been running on automatic loop, my body would respond differently because of physiology. So, I have changed what I’m doing physiologically, physically, and I’m changing what I think so that what I’m doing can feel good, as good as it ever did. Because someday, I don’t know if you’ve thought about this, but someday your brain is going to offer you an automatic thought. Like in 10 more years, your brain’s going to look back to right now and be like, “Oh my gosh, everything was so much easier. I was so young. I was so happy. I could do anything.”
Brains are so funny, right? And sometimes that is the way that I like to kind of come at this and remind myself that at some point in the future, this is going to be the good old days. This is going to be the thing that I look back at and think, “Oh my gosh, everything was so great.” I can actually think right now that everything is so great. I have access to not only my automatic thoughts. You have access to your automatic thoughts by finding them, deciding if they’re helpful. But you also have access to any other thought in the world. And here’s what I want to tell you about that.
Yes, you have access to any thought. And yes, you can think. “My life is amazing, and I love it.” And, “I’m thin, and I’m beautiful.” And, “I can eat anything.” Your brain however, is going to give you a little bit of pushback on that. Your brain physiologically speaking is not going to just accept a new thought. Your brain is smarter than that. Your brain doesn’t want to think new things. This is your brain being efficient. It’s completely okay. Understanding that your brain will reject out of hand a new thought that is completely different from your automatic thought, the one that already has a well worn neural pathway, means that what you want to do is think a slightly different thought. “I used to be able to do this, and it’s possible that I could do something different in the future.”
“I used to be able to do anything I wanted. And it’s possible that during menopause, I could still do things that I love. It’s possible that I can find joy in my life. It’s possible that I can think about this in a different way.” Offering yourself a slight adjustment to your automatic thought will help your brain work within its own parameters to affect an overall long-term change. This is, by the way, my argument against affirmations. I’ve said that numerous times today during our podcast, but I’m actually going to send you to the stop thinking positively episode, because you should stop thinking positively (Ep. 040 Stop Thinking Positively https://pahlabfitness.com/stop-thinking-positively/).
It’s not true. You do, of course, want to think some positive thoughts. Of course, you do. But trying to slap a positive thought on top of your automatic negative thoughts is just not the way your brain works. Understand your brain’s physiology, that your brain wants to stay the same. Understand that your body is making changes. Figuring out how to marry those two things is your work right now. You used to be able to do different things. And now it’s not that you can’t, you still can. You still absolutely can. You can continue to do everything you used to do. Your results are going to be different. You want to change your mind. You want to feel good. So, let’s be really clear what kind of good you want to feel. Knowing what you are aiming for is the thing that will get you there.
What you used to do, it’s irrelevant. It’s information that you have about what you used to do. That’s it. It’s a history book. It does not have to dictate what comes in your future. It will dictate your future if you’re not aware of it. That’s why this whole podcast exists so that you can be aware of what’s going on. Your body is changing and your brain wants to stay the same. When you work within your body’s parameters and your brain’s parameters, my friend, you can do anything. You can have anything you want. You can be anything you want. Obviously within physiology. Being really honest about where you are and clear about where you want to go is the answer. You guys, I really hope this was helpful for you today. And I’m really glad you were here with me. Thank you for listening. I’ll see you again soon.
If you got a lot out of the Fitness Matters podcast and you’re ready to take it to the next level, you are going to love the Get Your Goal coaching and accountability group. We take all the theory and knowledge here on the podcast and actually apply it in real life on your real weight loss and fitness goals. It’s hands on. It’s fun. And it works. Find out more at pahlabfitness.com/get-your-goal, and let’s get your goal.