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No matter what you do in the sport of bodybuilding, to be successful, you must be psychologically strong. The physical aspect of this game is secondary—a very distant second—to the psychological component. On the surface, you might think this is nuts, but if you dig deeper you’ll understand what I’m saying. Success in this sport appears to be about physically moving weights—picking them up and putting them down. Nothing could be further from the truth.
When you go into the gym, you need to approach that gym session as your body being an extension of your psyche. You are basically going to tell your body what to do and push it to a point that your body has no choice but to respond and follow suit. Most people go into the gym and plan to go as far as their body will allow them to go that day. Those people don’t morph into contest winning physiques that everyone admires. Phil Heath wouldn’t be where he is today if he relied on his body doing what his body was capable of. Sure, Phil Heath is genetically superior to all of us reading this article, but what you don’t see in his physique is how disciplined he is psychologically. The latter controls the former.
The mind plays a huge role in training but an even more important role in dieting. It is not normal to have high levels of muscle and very low levels of body fat, either. Instinctively, and with an element of survival thrown in, the body is made to store body fat. This is because throughout time, the body would need to call upon stored energy to sustain life either during periods of cold weather or long periods where food may not have been available. Circumventing nature to get huge and ripped takes more than just action. You will need to “trick” the body to get to a level of development that is not natural.
Hunger, in and of itself, is not life-threatening—at least in reference to everyone reading this article. The “problem” with hunger is that it usually only signals a lack of food, not a lack of available energy. You might be lacking in caloric intake, but if you are carrying even just 10 pounds of body fat, you have an ample supply of energy at your disposal. In this case, hunger is tricking you. Your body is essentially lying to you.
If you have dieted for any length of time, you know how your brain plays tricks on you. Many of you reading this have had yourself thoroughly convinced that you need those carbs because “I am over-dieted” or “I am fat and losing muscle.” Nice try. The brain will justify a need and that is all that is happening here. You need to get leaner, you likely don’t need the added calories.
You should understand that this happens to everyone who diets. The difference is that people who are psychologically trained and disciplined will understand that their brain is playing them and that they should not give in. The thought process goes from, “I have to have food because I am starving” to “I eat in an hour and that will get me through.” I tell people to approach dieting on a meal-to-meal basis instead of looking down the pike. If you are starving and you start looking at your next cheat meal being a week away, you are in trouble. Don’t even look to the next day—instead, look to the next meal.
So many of us focus on the physical aspects of this sport, and there is a lot of information available. There is much less information about the mental aspects of being successful. Accepting limitations, whether it be in the gym, while dieting, or even in your career or personal life, is a formula for mediocrity. Bodybuilding should only be one part of a balanced life and the attributes you acquire in bodybuilding will transfer over to the rest of your life, whether they are positive or negative. Remember: “The body will not go where the mind has not already been.” – FLEX