Patricia Moreno, a fitness instructor who battled “I’m so fat” feelings for decades, was used to being at war with her body. Then she had an aha moment so profound it made her jump up and down. She laughed. She cried. She leapt on an exercise bike, threw a towel over her head and imagined a fusion of exercise and inspiration that could fuel any life change. The founder of the IntenSati workout explains it all to Life Reimagined:
Your method involves repeating affirmations to change your attitude, like “I’m committed” and “I really, really want it” while working out. How did you get the idea?
I had been in the exercise industry for some time, and by 2000, I was at my wits’ end. I had struggled with being overweight my whole life, and while I was great at dieting to lose weight, and really really great at exercising weight off, nothing I did was sustainable. My weight was always going up and down.
I had been doing a daily live exercise TV show for a few months, and the weight was creeping back on. The producer called me in to talk about it, and I was mortified. When you’re that self-absorbed, to have someone else point out your weight…it devastated me. That was really my rock bottom. I knew I had to find an answer. I kept saying to myself, “I can’t be the only one who has this struggle. There must be others. Why can some people lose weight and keep it off, and others can’t?”
See also: Can You Really Change Your Mindset?
I knew the answer wasn’t dieting; I had been doing that for years. Same with exercise. So I set off on this search—yoga, metaphysics, brain research, you name it. I started going to seminars with gurus like Wayne Dyers and Anthony Robbins, which taught me a lot about affirmations. It all kept coming around to this idea that you are what you think you are.
Tell us about your aha moment.
In 2002, I was at a seminar, and we were walking on the beach while saying these affirmations. And it just hit me. I thought I was fat. I always thought I was fat. So I would always be fat. That was my self-concept. So even if I’m not fat right now, I’ll be fat again soon. We always become what we believe we are.
It hit me like a bolt of lightning. I realized I needed new affirmations, and I needed to add them to a workout. I needed to use exercise to change physiology and affirmations to change emotional state. That changes who you are. People could use these affirmations to transform themselves, improve themselves.
See also: How Optimism Conquers Stress
I actually jumped up and down, right there on the beach. I hyperventilated. Then I ran to the gym and got on a bike, put a towel over my head and started pedaling and doing affirmations. It was pretty mind blowing. It was like someone had given me the answer. I knew I’d never seen a workout like this and I had to create it.
Did it work right away?
No! There were a few versions, including some early ones with weights and intervals. But the idea of using the vocabulary to create strength and confidence was there. If we were punching, instead of saying “Left” or “right” I’d say, “I am strong.”
But people didn’t like it, and thought talking out loud was weird. I finally had to threaten them and say, “Look, this class is about changing the way you talk to yourself. If you don’t want to do that, go take another class. But if you stay, you have to talk. Out loud.”
But they caught on after a few classes?
Yes, and the attitude change was so powerful, people were crying. We all have an inner voice, and almost all the time, it’s negative—full of doubt, worry, criticism and complaint. When you do this workout, that’s interrupted. Imagine the relief—no one is nagging you or torturing you, and you’re free.
What makes this different from listening to Kelly Clarkson sing “Stronger” while you work out? Or posting affirmations near the bathroom mirror?
It’s very different. So you decide to change your attitude this inner voice with an affirmation, but then you are doing a move that takes strength. It puts you in the physiology of strength as you say it—you’re not sitting in a chair, you’re actually getting stronger. You are literally becoming the affirmation. And all these affirmations—they are kind of like emotional incantations—bring in things that can help us in all areas of our life, not just physical strength but gratitude, kindness, and new beginnings.
See also: Mindfulness-It's as Powerful as Medicine
How do the affirmations work outside the realm of exercise?
Change your attitude. Attitude is everything. No matter what you are facing, a negative attitude is never going to cause you to be successful. Attitude causes you to choose one behavior over another. So you have to get yourself into an empowered state of mind. Once you learn to access your strength, your courage, gratitude, self love, you know where to find it, and you can use it to change your ideas about money, to find a new job, to start dating again.
But any positive change in your life? It starts with an attitude. You don’t get happy by being unhappy! You are what you think you are.
Photo credit: by Gustavo Caballero/Getty