The Most Important Muscle for Losing Weight

Fitness is all about decisions. Getting up early or stopping at the gym on your way home in order to workout, politely declining the donuts that your boss brought to the office, ordering the side salad instead of the fries. In particular, it’s about making the right decisions even when you don’t feel like it.

Consistently making these choices is far from easy. However, this is the real work that must be done day after day, hour after hour, in order to obtain the results you want, need, and deserve. Happily, as difficult as this process is, you have a muscle that can make the work easier; you just have to invest the time and effort in strengthening it.

The “muscle” I’m referring to is your Prefrontal Cortex (PFC).


Your PFC is located just behind your forehead. It is used to perform executive functions of your brain. Far from your brain stem, which regulates your body’s vital functions, and your limbic system, which stores memories and generates emotion, your PFC is engaged in consciousness, abstract thought, and focusing attention. It is powerful enough to modify other areas of your brain, including those that must be adjusted to change the behaviors involved in fitness.

PFC strength workout

Just as a muscle gets stronger through repeated activation (contraction), your PFC becomes more powerful by being repeatedly used. As this important “muscle” gets stronger, you can put it to work in the heavy lifting of changing the behaviors that affect your fitness. But how can you strengthen your PFC?

Remember that the PFC is used to focus your attention. Researchers have revealed that this area of your brain is particularly active when you notice your attention has wandered from the task at hand and you exert mental effort to directing your attention back to where it had been prior to wandering.

For example, as you are reading, perhaps your mind wanders to other thoughts so that you are, in effect, just scanning lines of words without really understanding them. Each time that you become aware that your mind has drifted, and effortfully make the mental adjustment needed to abandon the errant thoughts in order to again grasp the meaning of what you are reading, your PFC has performed the equivalent of one rep.


As you continue reading, you catch your thoughts drifting once more and bring them back to the last sentences that you had paid attention to. Another rep. As you keep activating your PFC in this way, it can become stronger, enabling you to read for longer and longer periods without mentally digressing.

An important key is to not get frustrated as you work to apply the muscle of your PFC to a task that challenges your focus. If you catch your mind wandering, calmly direct it back to where you want it to be. In time, this important “muscle” will grow stronger. You will then be able to apply it to greater and greater challenges in order to become the person that you want to be.

Nate is the author of Exercising Backwards, a publication designed for the new members of premium fitness clubs. His blog,, focuses on the “inside” aspects of fitness motivation and personal growth. Nate is the Director of Personal Training for Anytime Fitness in the Fox Valley, WI region.

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