Overcoming Your Mind

Using the Mind to Get and Stay Fit

When Mark Edwards dislocated both shoulders during a mixed martial arts session in his youth, his approach to recovery was similar to what other men of his generation did.

“If you spit on it and rubbed some dirt in it, it’ll get better,” he says. “But that doesn’t always work.”

Eventually, that injury — and others — would come back to haunt him in the form of multiple surgeries to his bicep, shoulder and knees and, eventually, a metal hip implant. The experience prompted Mark to completely reconsider his approach to health. He quit drinking and immediately set about learning anything he could to “fix himself” without the need for medical interventions like drugs and surgery.

Today, Mark is a Precision Nutrition level 1 coach and a CrossFit level 2 trainer. Based in Tokyo, Japan, he started Minimalist Nutrition + Fitness to help men around the world break bad habits and achieve goals beyond their limits. Over the years, he has noticed that some clients are all in on improving their lives, while others resist change and need more convincing.

“Men tend to be more stubborn about changing, and I think that maybe it’s related to control,” he says. “If you don’t successfully address their way of wanting to control things, you can definitely lose them. It comes down to having to admit that the path you’re on isn’t working.”

Much of Mark’s approach as a nutritionist centers on the psychology that makes weight loss so challenging. It’s one of the reasons he eschews following any particular diet program. While a professional bodybuilding has a strong motivation to stay in shape, for example, most people have superficial reasons, and that’s not always enough to sustain motivation.

“Most people become dependent on that program to maintain their weight once they lose it. But it gradually creeps back up after they’ve left whatever program they were buying simply because there’s nobody sending the meal plans. “There has to be something deeper, or people won’t want to maintain it.”

Getting buy-in from clients is a huge component to Mark’s approach to nutrition and fitness coaching. Because of this, he is careful to never restrict anything from a person’s diet.

When one of his clients was unwilling to give up a table full of snacks in his office, Mark struck a compromise: drink a full glass of water before eating a bag of chips. Two weeks later, the client reported that all that water made him so full he didn’t even feel like snacking.

“But if I had told him to stop snacking, it wouldn’t have worked,”

In addition to nutrition, CrossFit is a huge part of Mark’s life. Now a trainer, he was in his early 50s when he first discovered the sport. The community and camaraderie of going to the gym is something that fits in perfectly with his life.

“It’s convenient enough that I can stay consistent with it, it’s fun, so you don’t want to miss it, and if you don’t show up, people will ask, ‘Where have you been?’” he says. “Everything done there takes account of where you are physically. So, if you’re injured, if you’re older, if you have mobility restrictions, everything can be scaled.”

It’s CrossFit’s ability to challenge people beyond their limits that appeals most to Mark.

“Your physical limits are determined by what you think you can do,” he says. “Once you realize that your head is stopping you from doing something, it carries over into all the other things you do.”

This role of resilience in driving health is one of the reasons why it is one of 11 metrics BellSant uses to measure overall health – and why BellSant provides guidance to help its members build mental resilience.

Now 60, Mark is guided by his favorite line from the movie “Shawshank Redemption”: “Get busy living or get busy dying.” It’s why he has a rather large bucket list. Participating in the Baja 1,000, an off-road motorsport race on the Baja California Peninsula, sits at the very top (even though his wife forbids it).

“I think everybody, every older person — and I hate to even use that word — should have some of these impossible things that are actually possible,” he says. ““I just turned 60, and I don’t feel like I’m 60. There are a ton of things I still want to do.”

Story told by: Millicent Skiles

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