I was truly honored to interview Dr. Kim Chronister — Author of “The Psychology Behind Fitness Motivation” about her psychology background. She was so helpful providing our readers with some food for thought!
SCBD: I’m very much interested in psychology and would love to hear about binge eating, how you keep motivated and other positive influences fitness has in your life.
Kim: Binge eating is essentially eating a large amount of food at a time. In order to have a full diagnosis of Binge Eating Disorder (BED), a person must exhibit symptoms such as a feeling of being out of control during the binge episodes, feelings of strong guilt or shame as a result of binge eating, as well as indications that the binge eating is out of control such as eating alone due to shame, eating when not hungry or eating to the point of discomfort.
Exercise can significantly improve mood and feelings of worth which can often times decrease binge eating symptoms. We know from the research that “feel good” chemicals in the brain known as neurotransmitters are released when you exercise. They include dopamine, norepinephrine, acetylcholine and serotonin. Engaging in physical activity immediately increases levels of dopamine that helps exercise become a self-reinforcing behavior. If you continue on your fitness regimen consistently, and stay with your schedule for the most part, your brain cells in the motivation center of the brain will create new dopamine receptors. As a result, exercise will become a self-reinforcing behavior and you will gain the motivation to continue to work-out.
In my book, “The Psychology Behind Fitness Motivation,” I discuss ways to keep motivated such as writing goals down, visualization techniques, refraining from negative self-talk into positive self-talk, engaging in activities that are exciting and varied and positive reinforcement. I personally utilize all of these techniques to remain motivated for my work-out routines.
SCBD: How did you begin your health & fitness journey?
Kim: While working on my degree in psychology, I found that my energy levels were dropping and I knew exercise had the potential to provide me the sort of high-levels of energy I needed to work and attend school. My body was just not feeling strong anymore compared to how I felt playing goalie and forward in soccer and swimming in swim meets as a child. Motivating people and being active has always is a definite need for me personally so I became a certified personal trainer after finding my own fitness successes. I went on to graduate school in clinical psychology with an emphasis in health so that I could continue coaching others to improve their minds as well as their bodies.
SCBD: How did this book come about?
Kim: While providing in home personal training to clients throughout my undergraduate and graduate programs, I helped clients transform their minds and bodies for the better. Their energy increased, their self-esteem improved, they felt better in their relationships, and many of their general moods became lifted. During our training sessions, I discovered that although the cardio and strength training was essential for their weight loss goals, a lot of their success depended on our conversations about their self-talk, and how confident they felt about doing the workouts on their own in their days away from me.
I truly believe that one misses out on a major benefit of the attainment of fitness if one does not become self-motivated. I feel strongly that there is something much more fulfilling about acquiring autonomy and self-empowerment when it comes to being fit. Research shows that autonomy, which is essentially an assurance that one can do it on his/her own, plays a significant role in a person’s ability to be motivated and stay motivated to engage in physical activity in the long-term. Thus, I decided to dedicate my research to the psychology of fitness motivation particularly for the benefit of depressed individuals.
The relationships that I built with my clients and the discussions we shared led me to examine the ways in which thoughts, and how we handle emotions, affect behavior; and more specifically, how our thoughts affect whether or not we are able to become self-motivated to achieve and maintain our fitness goals. For this reason, I consulted experts in the field of psychology and extensively examined motivational interviewing as well as cognitive behavioral interventions to improve motivation for exercise. I felt the research was so important that it needed to be accessible to the public, and that is how the book “The Psychology Behind Fitness Motivation” was created.
SCBD: Working out is very mental. You must be in the “mindset” in order to head to the gym. Do you speak about that in your book?
Kim: Absolutely! When it comes to fitness motivation, mindset is key. Sport psychologists talk about mindset for success all of the time and it is a huge component of athletic success. It is effective to utilize the exact techniques that athletes use to get into the most effective “mindset” to achieve fitness goals. The components for this effective fitness motivation “mindset” include visualization techniques and cognitive behavioral techniques which are discussed in detail in my book.
SCBD: What is the best advice you can give our readers?
Kim: Motivation is fuel, it drives everyone when it comes to beginning and maintaining a fitness regimen. My four tips that are essential for fitness motivation are:
1. Write your goal/goals down and be specific: Research shows that those who write a goal down are more likely to accomplish that goal. Set a number on the scale, a pant size, or the way you need to feel energy wise (from a scale of 1 to 10) and write it down.
2. Visualize: We know that Olympians utilize visualization to accomplish their goals. Why not use this tool yourself for 10 minutes (minimum) the night before you work-out. Picture yourself getting up working out and feeling accomplished afterwards. Visualize yourself attaining your long-term goals as well (like looking great and feeling amazing at a future social event). Visualization is evidence-based and has a powerful effect on gaining real results.
3. Focus on your strengths: The way you talk to yourself has an incredibly powerful effect on outcomes. If you are doubtful about your fitness success, you are likely to fail because your actions will be aligned with self-defeating thoughts. Focus your thoughts on your strengths, i.e. how you worked out even though you didn’t want to, or how you’ve created a new schedule that accommodates your new fitness lifestyle.
4. Use Positive Reinforcement: Frequent rewards are necessary when setting short-term and long-term fitness goals. Give yourself rewards often and make sure that these rewards do not sabotage your results. Shop for new clothes, use the sauna after your workout, go to the spa, get a massage, get a pedicure, go to a concert, do something novel. If you find motivation beginning to lessen, plan a celebration in advance for which you can focus and show off your results.
To find out more information on the fabulous Dr Kim, check out her links below: