Posts Tagged ‘culture’

PostHeaderIcon Be the Peer

I was reading the biography of Nelson Mandela, “Long Walk to Freedom.” There was a part in the book when he was an outlaw. He snuck out of the country to go to a meeting with other political groups who were fighting for equality in Africa.

He said that he felt a strange sensation. He saw that the pilot was black. He actually felt like he shouldn’t trust a black pilot. He had to stop himself and realize that even he, a lawyer who put every ounce of his being into freeing blacks from oppression was hypnotized by the negative conditioning of his culture. Blacks weren’t inferior, it was their oppressors who brainwashed them to believe it.

Hold on a second, Nelson Mandela, one of the most impenetrable persons who ever lived, someone who went to jail for years and came out being the president of the country that tried to oppress him, almost fell into the negative mentality that his people were inferior?

I had to ask myself if I have fallen into this trap, besides my ideals and commitment to mindfulness, and maybe I have here and there. I was told being a girl means I should never lift heavy weights or exert myself too much. At a ripe age of 8 or 9, I was told I could never be a dancer. When I hurt my back, I was told I may never run again. I was told I could never spin a quan dao (ancient kung fu weapon) behind my back because I’m lacking fingers. I was also told I could never do a pull up.

What saved me from succumbing to these attitudes of inferiority was something my father once told me. He told me to “be the peer.” He said that a lot to my brothers and me growing up. We didn’t really understand what he meant until we were older because the word “peer” wasn’t used much where we grew up in Australia at that time. So my older brother thought he said to be the “pear” and that he just had a strong accent.

Photo by ŞULE MAKAROĞLU on Unsplash

But as we got older he started to emphasize the meaning of this term. He said that no one ever pressured him to do anything growing up. Yes, he was a bad boy but he took responsibility for everything he did. He was never swayed to do anything bad. If he did something bad, it was because he wanted to. He was the one who pressured his friends to do things like go to bars or strip clubs. He was the peer, not them.

Granted, my father is not perfect but what he said resonated with me. Whatever you do, take full responsibility for it. Don’t do something just because your friends made you do it. He was telling us to be a leader not a follower. If we do something wrong, we can’t blame others for it because we are the “peer” not them.

When I looked back at everything I accomplished in life and every mistake I made, I take full responsibility. I wanted to do those things. Many of the things I’ve done (like succeed in doing pull ups) I was told could not be done but I didn’t listen. I was pressured to do unhealthy things too, like smoke. I was 7 years old when my friends stole their dad’s cigarettes and started lighting up. I was the only one who didn’t do it, even though my dad smoked two packs a day at the time. But seeing how dependent he was on this bad habit made me wonder why my friends wanted to do such a thing.

They wanted to be like their parents. I knew better. Years later, I got to witness the hell my father went through in the process of quitting the habit. “Don’t be like me” he’d often say, especially when it came to drinking and smoking. “Do what you know is right for yourself.” This is not an easy way to raise a child, not by example or by demands but by teaching me to think and take responsibility. It made me into a very sophisticated individual who questioned everything I did. It made me always ask myself if what I was doing was right, even if it was something everyone else was doing.

My dad also made life very difficult for me. He told me I couldn’t do many things (mostly because of my gender) which frustrated me. But one day he said that he wanted to make things hard because life was hard. He didn’t want me to back down just because there was an obstacle in my way. There are a lot of things I resented growing up, about the way I was raised. Much of how I was raised could never be understood at the time, but now I understand how these tough lessons made me what I am now.

Fighting for the right to be who I am took an emotional toll growing up, so when I have to stand up for myself as an adult, its not anywhere near as difficult as what I had to go through to stand up against my father. I don’t take for granted the fact that there will be obstacles and I don’t look to others to give me validation whenever I choose to do something. Most people don’t even try to talk me out of anything because they know I’ll do whatever I want anyway.

Why am I writing about this now? Because its a scientific fact that most people go with the crowd. Overweight people tend to be more overweight when they spend their time with other overweight people. We eat, drink, and take on the lifestyle of the people around us. Our culture tries to control our interests and our behavior through the media and we often blame society, our family, our friends or our jobs for our own short comings. But if this is so, there is no hope. That’s like saying that if all your friends are fat, you can never be thin and toned so just give up. But that’s not true. There will always be outliers.

If your family succumbs to an unhealthy lifestyle and you don’t want to be like them, you can’t just disown your own family. I don’t think that’s right, but you can take on the attitude of being the peer.

Here’s an example: My husband was gaining a lot of fat because he had an office job where people brought donuts and other unhealthy foods to work. He just didn’t want to keep gaining weight so he started bringing vegetables to work and making his own salads at the work kitchen. He lost 20 pounds and his co-workers were so impressed by the results, they started changing their diet as well. This is what my dad meant by “be the peer.” Whether its right or wrong, what you do should influence others and not the other way around. My husband wasn’t trying to be a leader. He was just doing what was right for himself.

Another example is Old Age Stereotype Bias and the fact that negative stereotypes about aging have proven to have negative affects on people’s lifestyle, cognitive ability and overall health. Knowing this, I have created my own bias about aging, one that has served me well. My belief is that as I get older, I get better because I continue to learn and experience more. This leads to greater skill and wisdom. Cultures that have this stereotype tend to have older populations that are happier, healthier and live longer.

When I train older adults, I try to influence this positive attitude on them, rather than letting their negative biases about aging influence me. The result is that my older clients are improving, not regressing. Their balance has improved, their bones and posture has strengthened and their quality of life is better. Rather than deteriorating, they have gotten better. Also, I choose to be influenced by the many fit and healthy seniors I have worked with over the years. They have taught me that you can be older and still be very fit.

You can read more studies on health and aging stereotypes here:

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jger/2015/954027/

In conclusion, I just want to say happy belated father’s day to all the dad’s out there. And happy independence day. Embrace your individuality. Remember that your attitudes and beliefs make you what you are. Society will always try to put you down with their stereotypes and negative beliefs but you don’t have to be influenced by it. You be the influencer.

“Be the peer,” Rolando David Morales (my dad)

For other paradigm shifting motivational blogs, check out

Due to the quarantine, the average person gained about 20 lbs. in the past 2 years. So just updated my blog on calorie burning for those of you who need to burn off that excess fat:

PostHeaderIcon Voodoo, Beliefs, Health and Society

One of my favorite English teacher’s in high school once shared that her grandmother was a voodoo witch doctor who apprenticed her in the art but she walked away from it. When we asked her why, my teacher said she couldn’t stand to watch people get sick and die because of a voodoo curse. “Do voodoo curses really work?” we asked and she said that they did through the power of suggestion.

There are many documented cases of people dying of curses from all over the world and a few more studies to back them, which I will site below. These studies have been used to explain the nacebo effect which happens when people are told about the harmful effects of a drug or disease, and this causes them to experience those effects. We know that if we believe that something will make us better, even if it is only water or a sugar pill, there is a much greater chance that it will. This is known as the placebo effect. The nacebo effect is the belief that something that is harmless will harm you and that placebo effect is the belief that something that has no healing properties will help you. Nacebo creates negative consequences and placebo positive ones. Basically, our beliefs are a huge indicator of how well we heal or how ill we become.

Another example of the nacebo effect was an incident at a ball game where someone got horribly ill and everyone believed it was the food. The whole audience started feeling nausea and even vomited, believing that the food had poisoned them. When the news spread that the cause of illness was not the food, everyone felt better.

Clifton Meador, a doctor at Vanerbilt School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee, documented many cases of the nacebo effect including the one of Sam Shoeman who was diagnosed with end stage liver cancer in the 1970s and was given only months to live. When he died exactly at his allotted time, an autopsy showed that the tumor never spread. “He didn’t die from cancer, but from believing he was dying of cancer,” Meador stated. “If everyone treats you as if you are dying, you buy into it. Everything in your whole being becomes about dying.”

There was a study published in 2007 in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine by Irving Kirsch and Giuliana Mazzoni of the University of Hull in the UK. They asked a group of students to inhale some air that they were told contained a “suspected environmental toxin,” linked to headache, nausea, itchy skin and drowsiness. Half the students watched a woman inhale the air and supposedly develop the symptoms. The results showed that the students who inhaled the normal air and were told that it was a toxin were more likely to get symptoms. The ones who watched the woman get symptoms were even more likely to get symptoms themselves. This result has been compared to many mass psychogenic illnesses in which word of a virus gets out and people get sick without being exposed to it.

Many studies involving control groups where people are told about the side effects of a particular drug resulted in them getting side effects whether they took the drug or a control.

These studies and many more posed some ethical questions in the medical community. “On the one hand people have the right to be informed about what to expect, but this makes it more likely they will experience side effects,” stated Mazzoni.

Reading about the nacebo effect resonates with me because I see it often in my profession. After personal training and teaching fitness/yoga for over a decade, I’ve observed many patterns of belief.  Some people have the strong and unwavering belief that the body is adaptable and that it can heal and get stronger. Others let the fear of exercise lead them to believe that it will hurt them which keeps them from sticking to an effective regimen. Fear of illness or injury can be a self fulfilling prophecy. I’ve also seen people overcome great obstacles and perform skills that were once deemed impossible due to their belief in themselves.

To read my article on beliefs and learn examples on how empowering beliefs can help us accomplish what others deem impossible, you can click here:

http://heroestraining.com/?p=57

I’m tackling this issue again because, at this point in my career, I have been using what I have learned about programming and changing people’s habits to help me change my own beliefs and habits.  I’m realizing, it is my job to prop up the people who don’t believe in themselves and so their new belief in success will lead to just that.

Often, people have thanked me for being the only one who believed that they can change. It helps me to look back at my own life and remember the teachers, friends and family members who put me down or destroyed my drive by telling me that what I wanted to accomplish was impossible. Then I think of all the people who believed in me and how they changed my life.

I asked myself, who do I want to be? Do I want to be the teacher who once told one of my students that her belly fat was a part of age and that she couldn’t get rid of it? Yet, after taking my class for a month, the belly fat came right off. Do I want to be like the trainer who told me that a woman can’t do pull ups especially one who only has two fingers? Yet, I just did 30 pull ups unassisted the other day. Do I want to be like the physical therapist who told a few of my clients that it would take them months and months to heal? Yet, after a few weeks of training with me, they regained their range of motion in a much shorter amount of time.

The truth is there are doctors who won’t perform surgery on people because they can sense that the person’s belief in death will make him less likely to survive. There are teachers who have given up on trying because they think that the children just don’t care. There are trainers who turn down clients just because they feel they don’t have the right mind set. Many of us are taught to do this. But one day, I asked myself, “If I only train people who already have the mindset for it, what good am I? What about the people who really need it?”

There have been times when I have had to be honest with someone and tell them that they can change even if they didn’t believe it. I could tell that what I said hurt them greatly. Then, weeks or months later, they came to me and thanked me for changing their mindset and being the catalyst for them to find the path to health.

What touches me most is seeing new comers come to my class, struggling with the learning curve that often comes with starting up a new fitness regimen. Instead of complaining that they are taking up more space in the class or assuming that they are part of the wave of people who only come for the new year and leave after a month, I have seen my students tell them that they have gone through the same learning curves. I’ve seen my students offer support and encouragement to newcomers overcome with fear and apprehension.

This gives me hope that no one is hopeless. A society’s culture is simply a shared system of beliefs. We are fighting a war against obesity and chronic diseases, fueled by a fast food, inactive and stressful culture. Many of us have won the battle and have created new habits of health and well being. It is up to us to create a new culture, one that embraces positive change, healing and support.

So I ask you, do you want to be a voodoo witch doctor and curse people with your doubt? Or do you want to be the healer that motivates them with hope? What can we do to help change the beliefs of a generation?

For a more studies on how our subconscious fuels our beliefs and habits and how we can change that with awareness, click here:

http://heroestraining.com/?p=700

For a list of my blogs in the category of motivation, click here:

http://heroestraining.com/?cat=5