Archive for the ‘Healthy Lifestyle Coaching’ Category
We all have done it. We decide to start eating better, exercising regularly or taking better care of ourselves, yet despite our good intentions we don’t have much success in sticking with these changes.
Our Food & Fitness Behaviors Are Driven Subconsciously
It doesn’t seem like it should be that hard to do what we say we want to do or to make healthier changes we know would make our lives better. As one woman said to me recently, “I am smart, I know this is important, and I’m in control in other areas of my life, so it doesn’t make sense that I can’t be more successful with eating well and exercising.” The truth is that our behaviors around food and fitness aren’t driven by rationale; they are driven by subconscious beliefs and emotions that are intertwined and multi-faceted.
Cocktail Party Sabotage
Imagine being at a business cocktail party that has plates of appetizers being offered around the room and a banquet of pastries, salads, meats, side dishes and desserts. You don’t know many people there and you aren’t very comfortable in these types of situations. You are also out of town and traveling on a tight budget. When you get to the event you buy a glass of wine and look for people you might know.
You don’t see anyone familiar, and while you stand there you are offered some appetizers. You take one, and then as you are approached by others with trays of more appetizers, you take another and another. You try talking to a few people, but don’t really connect to them. Next thing you do is head over to the buffet tables. You fill a plate, and when that’s done you go back for more. You still don’t see people you know, but you do see lots of people talking and having a good time. You go for another glass of wine and talk briefly with a gal who clearly is looking for someone else. You also find yourself eying the dessert table. Soon you are filling up your plate once more with lots of wonderful little cakes and chocolates. You could stand there all night enjoying those rich desserts, but you decide you’ve had enough and go back to your room. You feel sick from all the food and wish you hadn’t had so much. It’s a familiar feeling, and you don’t want to think about it, so you just go to bed.
Uncovering the Real Issues
For a client of mine, who had this experience and is willing to let me share this with you, she finally came to understand what was driving her to over indulge at events like this. As we talked through what happened, she realized that she was feeling a lot of anxiety because she doesn’t know how to approach people who are already talking and then isn’t sure what to say. She was also feeling vulnerable because she’s overweight and believes people automatically assume the worst about her. And she was feeling unwelcome, because she was never welcomed at school parties or events as a kid. And that led to her feeling ashamed of who she was because she was never thin enough to please her parents.
She was surprised by the depth of emotion she was experiencing and could see how using food was a way to push these feelings away at the business event. By talking about them, she was getting a way to validate the feelings and start to get them out, instead of keeping them repressed and turning to emotional eating. She also got insights about what she needed, such as tips for networking and approaching people. There are books and programs for this, which would give her more confidence. She also needed to change her belief that people assume the worst about her, and she had plenty of examples where this wasn’t true. And she could see that she had anger towards her parents for judging her body, when in fact she wasn’t that overweight as a child. They just compared her to her ultra-thin sister and considered her the fat one.
She also realized as we talked, that for her a banquet of free food shouldn’t go to waste, especially since money was tight. She often overate when food was readily available and she hated to see food go to waste, even if it was food she didn’t even like. As a result, she often overindulged, only to feel really sick afterwards and nearly pass out from getting so full. She said this really affected her productivity at work and some days she didn’t even go in because she felt like she was in a fog. I asked her how much that was costing her, and she had an ah-ha moment. Maybe it was costing her more to eat all that food than to simply let it go to waste. Not only did it cost her at work, but it cost her more in healthcare costs and having to buy larger and larger clothes. And it cost her in low energy and poor self esteem. Not only that, the heavier and worse she felt about herself, the harder it was to feel welcome walking up to people at business events.
Creating Easy Resolutions
As you can see, her behavior with food that night at the cocktail event was being driven by many different emotions and beliefs, some of which dated back to her childhood, that she couldn’t see for herself. Yet once she was aware of them and began to address the feelings, change her beliefs and get networking guidance, she found she could attend any event without turning to food as her crutch. She finally felt free and relaxed, and to her surprise she discovered she loved networking and now goes to events frequently.
When you can peel back the layers and understand what is driving your behaviors, you may be surprised yourself to find that what is really going on is more complex than you might expect and may have nothing to do with food. Fortunately, once you know the underlying drivers of self-sabotage, whether they are related to food, fitness or any other behavior, the real issues are usually fairly easily to resolve.
Ellen was finding she felt more excited and enthused when she was trying something new or mixing up her exercise activities. She realized she had always known that variety was important to her, but she had discounted it as being a flaw in her personality. Ellen felt she needed to be more serious and dedicated to specific exercise workouts and had to stick with them for years to come to reach her goals. Yet inevitably she would get de-motivated and quit just weeks after starting a new program. She came to me to find out how to increase her motivation, so she could stay on track long-term.
The answer was in the very thing she was fighting: variety. If variety made her excited and enthused, then this was the perfect thing to leverage as a motivator. Instead of seeing it as a flaw, she could instead see it as an advantage. To accept this, she also had to change her belief that the only worthwhile exercising was structured, specific and needed to be done at least 3 times a week. That was easy; she was delighted to give up this belief. The idea of doing the same routine over and over was unappealing and de-motivating.
Ellen is one of many clients who have this misconception that worthwhile exercise is a specific and rigid work-out routine, which comes from the fitness industry. Even though a personal trainer will mix things up when they meet with a client, the recommendations from trainers for those working out on their own is usually a fixed cardio and strength training routine they can do at home or outdoors several times a week. The reason is you need a trainer’s knowledge to know how to substitute strengthening exercises appropriately and organize them in the most effective order. When they can’t be there to guide you, all they can do is provide a structured set of exercises. This is why in magazines, the routines are very specific and you are given the recommended number of days a week you do them.
Yet, it is ideal to mix up your aerobic and strengthening activities. Our bodies adapt fairly quickly to doing the same exercise in the same way routinely, which means you get less return for your effort the longer you do the same thing. So, to the amazement of Ellen and many of my clients, variety works to their advantage.
The same is true with food. Most people who like variety in their fitness activities, also like variety in their meals and snacks. Again, this can be used to your advantage. Plan for more variety and let the desire to try new things help you to expand your healthy choices.
3 ways to tell if you need variety to stay motivated:
- Do you get bored doing the same activities, whether it is exercise-related or elsewhere in your life?
- Do you feel energized when you aren’t stuck in a routine and get to have lots of variety?
- Do you have more fun when you are mixing up your activities and foods or trying new things?
3 ways to mix up exercising to be motivated and more effective:
- Give yourself permission to get aerobic exercise by being active for x minutes or x days a week. Allow yourself the freedom to decide which activity you will choose based on your mood or what works best on a given day. For example, Karen likes to bike, walk, kayak, swim and do Zumba, and she can pick from any of these to reach her weekly minutes goal. She doesn’t have to commit to doing any one of them regularly. Instead she will go with what feels good that day, without the burden of worrying about what she should do in the future.
- Pick a few types of aerobic activities you want to be good at and do each of them at least once a week. One of my clients is doing Taekwondo, racquetball and walking her dog. She is working toward new belts in Taekwondo, and she is learning how to play racquetball so she can do this with friends. Each week she learns new things and pushes her body in new ways that feels really good.
- Train for a triathlon, which requires mixing up swimming, running and biking throughout the week and adds in greater intensity levels as the training progresses.
Take advantage of whatever it is you prefer to do to reach your goals. If something doesn’t work for you, don’t assume that makes you a failure. Instead see what does work and how to turn it into a motivator that will keep you jazzed for the long term.
My client Lori had stopped eating junk food after learning how easy it was to be consciously in control of her food. She was also finding, much to her surprise, how much she actually wanted to eat whole foods and vegetables. She was having fun cooking up healthy recipes, easily making healthy choices and loving how good she felt. Lori told me she couldn’t imagine ever going back to her daily Dunkin Donuts, McDonalds and late night snicker’s bar routine. She just couldn’t see why she would want to do that again.
Yet two weeks later, when she called in for her session, she had done just that. She felt awful about failing and what she’d been doing to her body, and she couldn’t believe she’d gone back to a routine she knew didn’t work for her. She felt even worse that up until the moment she picked up the phone to call me, she hadn’t even realized how far she had slipped. And then she told me that her daughter had been in a serious accident 10 days earlier and was still in critical condition.
All she’d been able to focus on was getting back and forth to the hospital, rearranging her schedule to be with her daughter as much as possible, dealing with the doctors and insurance company, and dealing with her emotions about her daughter surviving and what would happen in the months ahead. Yet she knew that letting her own health slide wasn’t going to help, and she felt terrible for not being able to keep up her new habits.
The truth is, getting derailed was to be expected and nothing to feel terrible about, especially so soon after making those healthy changes. And once she understood what had happened and why, she was able to get back on track and come up with a healthy routine during the next eight weeks her daughter was in critical care.
What happened was simple. While she was busy focusing on her daughter, she put her eating choices on autopilot and turned them over to her subconscious. Her subconscious then defaulted to her junk-food routine, which was more deeply established than her newer healthy choices. She hadn’t even noticed, because her conscious awareness was consumed by her daughter’s situation.
When you aren’t conscious, your subconscious runs your habitual and deeply ingrained patterns on autopilot. Just like getting in the car and turning the driving over to that part of you that knows how to drive, as you think about other things. Obviously, the more conscious you are of your driving, the more likely you are to make better decisions when a dangerous situation arises. Just as with food. The more conscious you are of what your body needs and how it feels, the more likely you will make healthier choices.
That is why being conscious of how you feel when you eat (whether it is how hungry you are, how you feel physically orhow satisfied you are) is key to being in control of your behavior around food, especially in the first year of making significant changes in your eating routines. In time, when you have fully reprogrammed your subconscious with healthier habits, then running on autopilot is less of a problem. But until then, having a way to stay conscious around food and putting strategies in place to make it easier to make healthy choices during the day is the best way to stay on course, even when you are facing challenging situations.
Lori was so grateful she didn’t have to feel guilty, and she realized that it didn’t take all that much effort to have a good breakfast, keep an eye on her hunger levels, have some healthy snacks with her during the day and get a decent dinner in the hospital cafeteria. It was simply a matter of conscious awareness.
Does it make you uncomfortable to throw out food these days, compelling you to eat it instead? Did you grow up hearing that kids are starving in Africa, to always clean your plate or that throwing out food is no different than wasting money? Many of us did and it hits home during an economic recession, but that doesn’t mean those beliefs warrant eating food that you don’t need or don’t want. Instead, it may be time to reconsider the benefits of wasting food rather than eating it.
If you stop and think about it, whether you finish eating something or you don’t will not save you money, and having a clean plate as an adult is really a habit and doesn’t serve any real purpose. To address these beliefs requires a change in thinking and some techniques to change your habits.
It starts by looking at these beliefs and deciding if they still serve you or not. If not, what belief would make more sense for you now, such as “before I get full, no matter how much is on my plate, I will stop eating and determine the best thing to do with the remaining food.” Sometimes the best thing is to save them as leftovers, mix them with new ingredients for another dish, or ask for a doggy bag. Or you could throw the rest of it out, if none of these are possible.
Throwing food away is more challenging for most of us. It really does feel like money is being wasted, but this needs to be put in perspective. If you can’t see a way to save it, then you are faced with two options. Eat it or toss it. The cost of tossing it may be far cheaper than the cost of eating it – if you take a long term view rather than an immediate one.
Let’s look at the cost of wasting it versus putting it on your waist. Often this issue comes up at dinner time, which is the most expensive meal of the day. If the meal costs $16 and there is 25% more than you need, then the amount you don’t eat is worth $4. If this happens five times a week, and you can’t find a way to reuse the food three of those times, the total cost for the week is $12. Or perhaps you didn’t eat half of the food on some of those occasions, so the total cost is $20. How often do you spend $20 a week on things you don’t really need? Could you buy smaller portions of food, split portions with others or put less food out on your plate to begin with to avoid the extra expense?
Now consider eating all that food instead. If you eat a few hundred more calories than you need or than you burn off, you are putting on weight. As you gain weight, you need larger clothes and you will likely contemplate starting a new diet. Both can be costly. How much have you spent in the last year doing a diet or on buying new clothes – either from gaining weight or yo-yoing down and back up?
In addition, this weight gain often gets added around your mid-section, and this fat is the leading cause of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, and the need for medications. What are you spending in co-pays for doctor visits and medications related to these conditions?
And there is one more thing to think about. Overeating affects your energy level, your mood and your self confidence. What is it costing you to feel lousy and dragged down? Probably more than you think.
While wasting food is not ideal, it is better to look at your options than to carry a black and white belief about waste. The next time you find yourself with more food than you need or want, consider what your beliefs are, if you think they make sense, and what would be better. You have the power to challenge and change your beliefs around food if you stop and look at them. This week, take the opportunity to see what your beliefs about wasting food are costing you.
Why is it so hard to do as you know you should with healthy eating choices , regular exercise and taking better care of yourself? No doubt, you’ve wondered about this countless times. It doesn’t seem to make sense that if you know what you should do, that you don’t do it or at least not often enough. Yet whenever you don’t do something you intended, there is a good – and valid – reason.
Think for a moment of one thing you know you should do, but don’t. Does the idea of doing it feel inspiring or enjoyable? Or does it feel more like drudgery or a chore? If it doesn’t elicit desire or at the minimum some enticement, than it makes complete sense why you would avoid it. Who wants to do something they don’t enjoy or find distasteful? In fact, to follow through on doing what you aren’t inspired to do takes enormous amounts of energy to overcome the reluctance or resistance. Few people have enough extra energy in their busy and stressful lifestyle to do that. And the guilt of not measuring up to the “should” they carry around on a pedestal further depletes what energy they do have.
- Think of something you should do that you don’t.
- What is it about doing it you struggle with?
- In what way is that struggle valid, and what can you learn from your reaction?
- What might work better for you that is a positive and healthy alternative or solution?
- What would you enjoy more or be inspired to do that supports your real objective?
Exercise. For most people, that word conjures up unpleasant thoughts and feelings because of past experiences when they struggled with exercise or got hurt, or what they believe it takes to meet the minimum requirement of exercise to lose weight that doesn’t seem realistic for their current lifestyle. For others, it reminds them of a time when they loved being active and having the benefits associated with being fit and healthy. What does the word exercise bring up for you?
It is easy to assume that when you don’t exercise regularly, you are somehow lazy, bad, undisciplined or a couch potato. These are judgments that don’t reflect the real reasons for not exercising. The real reasons are likely tied to one of eight different obstacles, that once understood can be addressed with strategies.
A common obstacle to exercising is not feeling motivated enough to do it. You won’t be motivated day-in and day-out to exercise if you haven’t identified what it is you want to be able to do or feel as a result of regular aerobic and strengthening activities. It often isn’t enough to want to lose weight or avoid a disease. It takes wanting something that really matters to you enough to exercise, even if you aren’t in the mood, such as being able to keep up with your kids, having the stamina to follow your dreams, participating in a team charity walk, wanting to feel self-confident in your relationship or wanting to feel good about yourself. Sometimes it is simply wanting to avoid the regret of not doing it. It also helps to choose activities you find so energizing and fun that you can’t wait to go.
Low Priority Planning
Not having enough time is really a result of not putting exercise higher in your priorities. Anyone can find time to exercise if it matters enough to them, and if they can find the motivation to stick with it. A way to make this easier, is to find an exercise or a group class you love so much, you will find ways to fit it into your schedule. Another is to look at your calendar for the week and see where you can fit in time for exercise and schedule it. This will also help you set goals based on what is realistic, and if you can find someone to be accountable to, you will be more motivated to reach those goals.
Too Much, Too Soon
In the excitement of starting a program, when you feel highly motivated to get started, it is easy to overdo it and find yourself giving up because you can’t sustain the pace or because you’ve gotten injured. Try starting off with smaller goals and less intensity, so that you don’t feel so overwhelmed and can experience your ability to succeed in reaching your goals. With each weekly success, you can stretch your time, distance and effort a bit more and continue to have successes. In time, you will be doing more than you once thought possible, and you may surprise yourself by discovering you have a passion for being fit and participating in fitness events. It happens to many people, including me.
Feeling you have to measure up to someone else’s expectations or attain perfection in reaching your goals is the fastest way to failing and giving up. No one is perfect, and no one knows better than you as to what you can do each week, what is motivating or how your body is feeling. Instead of trying to comply to unrealistic expectations or someone else’s rules and goals, focus on what you want for yourself, what your body is telling you, and what works to keep you moving and on track.
Another way people sabotage exercise is with the belief that doing anything less than x days a week or x number of minutes isn’t worth doing. For example, you may believe that if you can’t do 4 days of exercise a week there isn’t much point, or if you can’t work out for at least 30 or 45 minutes, that you won’t get enough benefit to make it worth your while. Any exercise counts, even if it’s for 15 minutes, and the more active you are, no matter what it is, it all adds up. You may have other beliefs about what you need to be wearing, what your significant other will or won’t do to support you, what constitutes as exercise, or countless other requirements that are keeping you from being active and fit. Stop and identify what your “excuses” are and see if you can change your beliefs so you can achieve success.
Most people think emotions are just tied to food, but they also impact exercising. Think about it; you do have feelings about exercising, and if you’ve had bad experiences or anxiety about exercise than this can impact your behavior. If are resistant or ambivalent towards exercise, become curious (without any judgment) about how you feel about exercise and why that is. Most likely, you will find there are good reasons for your feelings, and once you acknowledge and validate them, you can start to look into ways of exercising that can address these feelings. For example, maybe you were called a klutz in grade school and have an aversion to gym-based exercise. Maybe you were forced to exercise and hated it. Maybe you had a bad experience with a trainer or fitness program. Are there other ways of being active that you feel confident about, or can you find a class that interests you that offers a safe environment for becoming proficient?
There is nothing worse than finding yourself derailed from your fitness routine and struggling to get restarted after an illness, injury, vacation or period of just not wanting to do it. Once you get derailed, it can seem too hard to get re-motivated again to exercise, and often this short period of non-exercise can turn into months or years of inactivity. An easy way to get restarted is by taking it slow and setting very low goals the first week or so. Let yourself gently re-engage into exercising by doing what feels easier and doing it at a slower pace. Then you’ll find your motivation as you get back into a groove, and you can increase your goals and effort within a couple of weeks. You’ll probably be surprised how quickly you bounce right back to where you left off.
If you’ve participated in extreme fitness programs and boot camps that you didn’t enjoy or that left you with an injury or bad taste in your mouth, you may be dealing with conflicting beliefs and emotions around exercise. On the one hand, you may believe that anything less than extreme fitness isn’t worth doing because of the quick results, and on the other hand you may cringe at the thought of signing up for another program. While these programs energize some people, most don’t do well with them. It is better to choose exercise options that you find motivating, enjoyable enough to sustain, and fit your personality. The majority do best starting off with baby steps and doing just one small thing at first, which easily leads to doing more because it feels good, it boosts your confidence, and it motivates you to stretch yourself further.
To create a regular exercise routine in your life, pay attention to what feels best to you, what motivates you, and what is really getting in the way of being consistent. We are all different, and our reasons for not exercising are all valid. Respect that you have a good reason and try to understand what you really need to do to get moving and to develop a consistent exercise lifestyle.
It seems like common sense to set goals for your weekly fitness intentions, so you can schedule your time accordingly, and have a way to be accountable and stay motivated. And for the vast majority (and about 98% of my clients), this is what works best to get started exercising and stay on track week after week. But it doesn’t work for everyone, and for those people where it doesn’t they need to experiment with what does work to retain their commitment and continue to make progress.
The main reasons goals don’t work for these people has more to do with their subconscious rebellion of rigid rules (or paperwork), past experiences where they failed to meet goals, a fear of imperfection, or a need to have greater freedom to do what feels best. It may also be something else. It isn’t often obvious what the issue is and there may be more than one reason, yet it is worth trying to figure out what is driving the resistance to goals, since it is likely also affecting the ability to successfully stick with a fitness routine.
For example, if the issue is a fear of imperfection, which is virtually impossible to attain, than anything can and will derail the pursuit of regular exercise and activity. This becomes an opportunity to change the belief that perfection is required and instead create a new belief that good is good enough. When you’ve got a history of past failures, remember that the past is not a reflection of the future. In these cases, setting very small and highly achievable goals can be helpful to break that belief and create a history of successes. Those dealing with rebellion of rules need a way to have greater freedom to define their own success, supported by a sense of structure, such as having a way to see or report on what they did without being required to decide what that is ahead of time.
Here’s a way to succeed when goals get in the way:
1) Decide you will do some type of aerobic activity in the upcoming week and consider what that
might be and when you might do it, so you can picture it and see yourself succeeding.
2) Plan on telling someone at the end of the week about what it is you accomplished, so you have
3) Be active without overdoing it, and do something you find enjoyable.
4) Notice how it felt physically to be active. Did the exercise, no matter how little it was, leave you
5) Notice how it feels emotionally to share your success. Did sharing your success feel good?
6) Notice if you also want to track what you did on a calendar or in a journal, so you can see your
accomplishment. One of my clients likes to use stars to see her successes.
7) Now ask yourself if you are motivated to be active in the upcoming week without setting goals.
If so, see if you don’t want to do a bit (up to 5-10%) more since it felt so good last week.
8) Continue each week setting loose goals until you get to the point you find you want to set more
specific goals or you are finding you are easily exercising more and more regularly without them.
If you either aren’t motivated to be active each week or are not successful in past weeks in doing as you hoped, than this approach without goals probably doesn’t work for you. At this point, it is worth going back to setting goals and seeing what type of reaction you are having either to the goal process or the exercising so you can address what is driving that response.
There is no rule that you have to set goals or that the goals you set have to always be the same or increase each week. There are times when decreasing them because of a change in circumstances is appropriate. What is more important is finding a structure that motivates you to be and stay active week-to-week and month-to-month, so you can achieve consistent exercise in your life and push yourself to increase your fitness levels and feel your very best.
I learned something that really surprised me when I discovered what it really took to successfully stick with healthier eating and regular exercise. It is doing what feels good, rather than striving to be good. It has become one of my tried and true secrets to long-term success that I have seen work over and over again with my clients.
The Struggle to Be Good Enough
When you focus on being good on a diet or in doing your prescribed exercise, you are rarely able to be good enough often enough to feel successful. Instead you end up feeling badly about yourself when you fail to eat the right thing or fit in all your exercise, and then you probably question your ability to be successful. This mindset leads to the inevitable conclusion that you can’t do it right and can’t stick with your program. At that point you give up, and it may be months or years before you try a healthier diet, an exercise program or whatever it was you were trying to improve about yourself. How many times has this happened to you?
One of my clients, Clare, used to check in each week by saying, “I wasn’t good this week, I only exercised three times”, “I was really bad last week, I overate at least twice”, “I tried to be good, but I ended up being bad”, “I’m so bad, I don’t know if I can be good”, and “I failed at doing what I know I should, and I don’t think I can do this”.
Seeing Success Differently
And yet, when we talked further, in nearly every case there was a lot she had done that was successful. She had exercised those three times, she had stopped eating before getting full more than ten times, and she was making great progress. She was surprised to hear that she wasn’t doing as badly as she assumed. She discovered that each time she had been “bad”; they were the result of situations she couldn’t easily control without a better game plan. Instead of being bad, she had done well in light of what she was dealing with, and she could create strategies for the future by having the hindsight.
We as a society are conditioned to see what didn’t go well, instead of what did. We see our failings and ignore our successes, as if having a perfect score or grade is all that matters. But when it comes to eating, exercise and self-care, you don’t need a perfect score. Good is good enough. Since you don’t have to be perfect, you can instead focus on all your successes, and that is a great feeling and a powerful motivator to continue making progress.
What Clare and all my clients have learned is that being successful is actually about honoring yourself. It has nothing to do with the judgment of being good or bad. When you can’t exercise as you planned, you end up feeling less energized. When you overeat, you don’t feel as well afterwards. When you drink too much, you lose control of your choices and don’t feel well the next day. When you are out of control around food, you don’t feel good about yourself. The repercussions of not doing something healthy affects how you feel and your chance to take good care of yourself, and that is it. The only one to beat you up is you. You weren’t bad; you missed an opportunity to feel and look better.
Focusing on Feeling Good Rather Than Being Good
When you see it that way, you start to focus on ways to feel good. For example, it feels reallygood to eat healthy food that is satisfying and to move enough that you have more energy and want to do even more activity. It feels great to have more confidence in yourself, to be in control around food, and to see your body get stronger and leaner. And it feels absolutely wonderful to become healthy and fit.
To make this shift, you need to know how you actually feel. Most of my clients have no idea how they feel when they get full, eat unhealthy food or push their bodies too hard, because they have never paid attention. Many of my diabetic clients don’t really know how it feels when their blood sugars get low or high, and even fewer clients really know how they feel emotionally. Once they learn how to check in with how they feel, they have an easier time making healthier choices because it feels so much better than being unhealthy and inactive. And the better they feel, the more of that great feeling they want.
So the secret to long-term success is doing what feels good to you physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually instead of striving to be good.
How many times have you given up on your diet or fitness routine because you weren’t good enough, didn’t do it all right or couldn’t exactly follow or complete what you had to do? My guess is more than once. The average person has given up close to a dozen times on their eating and exercise goals, and those experiences affect their self-confidence and an ability to succeed in the future.
The Truth about Perfection
Few people can perfectly follow a diet or a fitness program for weeks on end, unless they are professionalathletes or those who have the rare ability to be extremely self-disciplined. That leaves nearly everyone else who is trying to fit healthier habits into their busy and often unpredictable lifestyles.
What the contestants have been learning is that the goal isn’t to reach perfection or to be good; it is to gradually make healthier choices that leave them feeling good and setting their own new and realistic goals they honestly think they can reach each week. There is no diet or fitness agenda they must follow. Instead, they are learning to incorporate more and more healthier foods and activities into their day-to-day life as each week goes by. And despite all they are doing well, sometimes they overeat, choose unhealthy foods, over drink or can’t meet the fitness goal they had for themselves. Yet even when that happens, they can still say they had successes during the week. In fact, I make it a point to have them share their successes each week, and they all have them regardless of whether they fully met their goals or not.
Focus on What Went Well and Learn from the Challenges
When you acknowledge what went well, you get to see that the journey to a fit, healthy and great body is not about what you didn’t do well. Yet that is what most people focus on, which leads to feeling like a failure and feeling it is impossible to succeed. Instead, the journey is about celebrating all the little successes along the way as well as getting to see what didn’t go so well – and looking at those things without any judgment. Judgment is the quickest way to kill your motivation.
When things don’t go so well, that gives you an opportunity to look at the obstacles, challenges and inner issues with curiosity. There are always good reasons (vs bad reasons) for not following through or quite doing as you hoped. Looking at this way, you can see that in each case you can learn something and create a strategy or change in mindset to address it.
In the past couple of weeks, what didn’t go so well for a number of the group members were: limited exercising because of the heat and humidity, eating less well at summer parties, doing a bit more drinking, losing focus because of family distractions, and either being derailed by an injury or an illness.
Creating a Change in Mindset
To address these challenges, we talked about strategies and changes in mindset.
- For heat and humidity, the opportunity is to figure out ways to be active indoors, in the water or at cooler times of the day. You don’t have to use the heat and humidity as an excuse.
- For summer parties, bring healthy foods like a salad or vegetable side dish so you know you will have healthier foods to choose from. You don’t have to overeat because others are. You can throw out food if it isn’t that healthy and will be a temptation for days afterwards.
- For drinking, consider ways to drink less alcohol and still enjoy yourself. Maybe have seltzer water or make spritzers. You don’t have to get drunk to have fun or drink because others want you to.
- For an injury, consider getting physical therapy if it isn’t healing quickly or is an older injury. Most of the contestants have been seeing Bryan Labell PT & Associates in Rowley to address or prevent an injury. I will be writing more about PT in a future post. You may also be able to do activities that don’t impact the injured area, or you may just need a few days to recover from an overuse injury. You rarely have to stop being completely active when you get hurt for weeks at a time.
- For an illness, focus on getting well and being gentle with yourself. If you feel you can do light activity that is great, but the main thing to focus on is taking care of yourself and giving yourself time to recover. You are not guilty for giving yourself a break or resting when that is best for your body.
It is so easy to beat yourself up when things get in the way of keeping you from doing as you planned, but real life ebbs and flows and throws you curve balls. Things always get in the way or interfere with our best laid plans. Get over the judgment and look at what you can learn from the situation so the next time you have a game plan that makes it easier to adjust, accept or address the situation.
For more information about the contest, visit www.aHealthyLifestyleWorks.com/contest.
Have a fit and healthy week,
It can be so easy to get into a routine where you start to eat a bit better and get in some aerobic activity, but that is as far as it goes. You are doing enough to get a bit healthier, but not enough to really change your body or your attitude. And while a small change for the better is a success; it will likely lead to disappointment. When that happens, it won’t be long before you go back to old unhealthy habits.
To help the group participants avoid settling into a lifestyle that is less than what they had hoped for, I asked them to consider what it is they want to improve and how they want to stretch themselves further. Because they set their own goals and I don’t force them to do any particular activity, what they decide to do is up to them.
This contest and program was set up deliberately to emulate what it is like to create and maintain a healthy lifestyle. In real life, there is no one to tell you what you should do or force you to stick with it. The drive to do more has to come from within, and what I have learned – and now they are learning – is the more you do, the more you can do and the more you want to do. Those who are doing the most activity are the ones pushing themselves and trying new things. And they are the ones who are the most enthused and seeing huge changes in their attitude and bodies. They are almost giddy with how great they feel and how much fun they are having being more active.
I remember having a similar experience during the two years I went from sedentary to fit, and I found myself wanting to do strengthening exercises, try Pilates, go to new classes and check out new types of equipment. I amazed myself by what I was discovering I could do and my new interests. At the end of two years I was even more shocked to realize I had a passion for fitness. Yet I am not alone. Read almost any fitness or weight loss success story, and you will see that this happens to most people who are active long enough that they want to do more and more and more. It is the reason for the record number of older adults now doing races and triathlons. They love how great it feels. But it takes doing enough fitness activities and then sticking with them long enough to get that great feeling.
For some people, even some in the groups, there can appear to be limitations in what they can do to be active. These can come from a physical ailment, a preference for doing certain types of activities, only wanting to be outdoors or indoors, a tight schedule, having kids at home, having a poor body image, or any number of things. Yet very often this is a perceived limitation and not an actual one.
- Ways to address an ailment with physical therapy, a visit to your doctor or seeing another type of healing practitioner.
- Finding new groups or programs you weren’t aware of, such as outdoor MeetUp groups at www.meetup.com.
- Easy-to-follow and fun DVD or OnDemand fitness programs.
- Local specialized classes and programs listed through Adult Education or the Chamber of Commerce.
- Who can watch your kids or which local fitness facilities have a good place for kids, like the YWCA.
- Any judgment about how you look or how capable you are trying a new activity is your own self-judgment and a perception of what others think. If you refuse to be judged, no one can judge you.
- How you can stretch yourself and try something totally new, like rock climbing at MetroRock.
In our group discussion, these were the things we talked about, and a number of people got ideas about what they could do to increase their level of activity, and they left feeling excited by the new prospects.
Read What the Participants Have to Say
Find out what else the group participants have to say about stretching themselves to feel even better, when they add their comments to this blog. And please share your own insights about what works for you. It may be just the spark that helps another person reading this blog.
For more information about the contest and contestants, visit www.aHealthyLifestyleWorks.com/contest.
Have a fit and healthy week,
The past couple of weeks have been particularly challenging for a number of people in the groups. When I asked them to share any success they had despite the difficulties, they each found one they could feel good about.
When you focus on successes, you stop focusing on what you didn’t do, should have done or your perceived failures. Instead you see what did go well, what worked best for you and that you can succeed. This is critical to being able to stay on track.
For many of them in the groups, the one thing they found that really helped them to have some success was their awareness. For example, they stayed aware of when they got full, so even if they were triggered to overeat, they were able to stop before they lost control. They listened when their body started to hurt and took time off without feeling guilty. And they were conscious of their desire to turn to comfort or junk food, and if they did have some, they were able to keep it to a minimum. They shared honestly without beating themselves up and could see that by staying conscious of what was going on and how they were feeling, they didn’t revert to old habits which would have been so easy to do.
There will always be days or weeks when they will struggle with issues in their lives, don’t meet their goals or feel like they’ve gotten off track. It happens to all of us. A month ago I had vertigo for several weeks. Life isn’t predictable or easy to manage. Plans get changed, emotions get stirred up, injuries happen and illnesses will catch you off guard. Or worse, as in the case of one of our contestants, who has been out for weeks from a bad auto accident, you can get derailed for long periods of time.
Instead of judging yourself or getting caught up in the disappointment, what everyone in the groups are discovering is they can learn from these experiences and get right back on track. In fact, these are golden opportunities to create strategies for similar future situations. You can look back and see what might have worked better for you, which would have left you feeling good physically as well as mentally and emotionally. The objective isn’t to look back to see how you could have been better at being good, because that isn’t the issue. It is not about being good or bad. It is about doing what leaves you feeling good and about respecting your body and yourself.
Here are some strategies that resulted from our discussions:
- If you have worked your way up to walking for 25 minutes – or whatever amount you can now do, avoid taking a much longer walk even if a friend invites you to walk the length of our new rail trail or any other great walk in the area. Know your limits and speak up, letting that person know you’d love to walk but that after x number of minutes you’ll have to turn around.
- Remind yourself that 10 minutes, one mile or one loop around the block is enough exercise, if that is all you think you feel up for. It is better than nothing, and who knows, you may find you want to do more once you get started.
- If you begin to notice some aches or pain in your feet or legs, don’t push through it or pretend it isn’t there and continue with your goals for the week. Instead to take it as a warning signal that you may need to back off the exercising, do some icing, add in more stretching, see a practitioner or do an activity that doesn’t put exertion on that area.
- If you are making dessert for company that is visiting, you don’t have to serve big pieces or an 1/8th of a pie. You can make the servings much smaller, so each person doesn’t feel compelled to eat more than they want or need.
- Notice if you are really enjoying the food you are eating and if it is really all that satisfying. If you aren’t satisfied or don’t really want any more of it, to throw it away – even if it is ice cream.
- Buy one meal and split it three-ways with the kids instead of a full meal and two kid meals.
- And last, but not least, sometimes you have to tell yourself to “Just Do It”. We all have times when we come up with excuses and resist doing something we know will feel good once we get started, and it helps to give yourself a strong nudge to just go do it anyway. When I first started exercising, that is exactly what worked for me. I would say to myself, “too bad, no discussion, just go it”, and that would be enough to get me in my sneakers and downstairs.
Read What the Participants Have to Say
Find out what else the group participants learned from talking through ways to create strategies from their challenges.
Have a fit and healthy week,
Congratulations to Our First Winners
It seems hard to believe we are already picking our first quarter winners for the year, yet everyone has made so many changes it almost seems like they’ve had a healthier and active lifestyle for months. There are three winning categories: greatest improvement in health, fitness and healthy lifestyle behaviors.
Last week, I asked them to rate themselves on a scale of 0-10 in these areas and to share how they had improved, so their own input could be factored into my final decision. Across the board, each of them felt they had made good improvements, and they talked about how much better they felt and how much more they could do. So it was a tough decision to pick just a few of them, yet I am pleased to announce that three of them achieved slightly more changes and are our first winners. They are Cheryl Morris, Tim Lamprey and Debbie Tateosian.
Greatest Improvement in Fitness
Cheryl is being award for the Greatest Improvement in Fitness, and she received a three month wellness and fitness membership at the YWCA and a $75 gift certificate to Gentry’s Consignment Boutique (affordable top fashions). Cheryl went from no physical activity to weekly exercising and continually progressing her time and endurance, and she did it by doing an at-home walking DVD and walks around her neighborhood. She has seen a lot of improvement in her stamina, strength and flexibility and is no longer as fatigued. And she is able to stand on her feet for longer periods, which is significant since she suffers from a disease that has made that challenging. Cheryl is happier and can do so much more than she’s been able to do in twenty years.
Greatest Improvement in Healthy Lifestyle Behaviors
Debbie won the Greatest Improvement in Healthy Lifestyle Behaviors award, and she got a $75 gift certificate from Spa Paradiso & Salon (wellbeing spa services) as well as Carry Out Cafe (healthy meals to go). Like Cheryl, Debbie has really amped up her exercising. She was doing a bit when she first started, including some Taekwondo. Now she is also doing a strengthening class a few times a week, playing a lot of racquetball and walking regularly and for longer periods of time. She has been willing to try new things, whether she feels she is good at it or not and having a lot of fun.
Beyond fitness, she has totally changed her relationship with food. She went from being out of control with food (particularly sugar) to getting a handle on portions, making healthy balanced choices, cooking healthier meals for her family and overcoming bingeing and other subconscious eating. She wouldn’t say it will never happen again, but she has the tools to stay in control when things are tough and she’s using them. Also, as a mother of young children, she also has discovered how to make her health and fitness a priority and to make healthier choices (like getting more sleep) so she feels better. You can see how good she feels about all these changes.
Greatest Improvement in Health
Tim saw the Greatest Improvements in Health, and he is being recognized with a $75 gift certificate from both Grateful Spirit Massage (wellness bodywork services) and in home cooking (personal chef services). Tim lost his father at an early age to heart disease and he too is at risk. From the beginning of the contest program, when Tim began walking regularly, he has continued to feel better and seen a big shift in energy and stamina. Each week he pushes himself a tiny bit more, and he can envision much longer walks. His blood pressure is lower and some of that is also attributed to the change he’s made in the foods he chooses to eat. He has gotten his portions under control and is enjoying cooking healthier and more balanced meals. When you see Tim later in the afternoon at his nursery, you may have a harder time keeping up with him.
Thanks to the Sponsors
While none of the contestants signed up just to win prizes, they are indeed a positive motivator. And just as important, the contest sponsors all provide services that support these winners in maintain their healthy and active lifestyle behaviors. They will also help others do the same, so consider which of these sponsors’ services can support you.
Getting Your Own Support – 3 Support Groups Starting in Two Weeks
I am expanding the NEW YOU 2010 contest with 3 more support groups, starting the week of April 19th. For those who wanted to apply for the contest or want what these contestants are getting, this is the time to join your own support group in the Greater Newburyport area, which will be coached in person by me just as the contestants are.
The groups are limited to 8 people, so apply soon. There is a group at noon, 5:30pm and 8:30pm.
Learn how to create a healthy and active lifestyle that really works for you and then maintain it with the support of your own group for two years.
You will be shown how to make healthy choices that are satisfying, address mindset challenges, overcome sabotaging obstacles and stay motivated to reach your goals for the long-term. Do as the contestants are doing and discover an easier way to achieve healthy eating, healthy fitness and healthy weight loss, so you too can become a success story.
Details and application are at New You Success Groups
Putting the Emphasis on What Went Well
Our sessions started with a weekly check-in with everyone, in which they shared a fitness and food success. Some people wanted to also talk about ways they weren’t so good or didn’t do so well, but I asked them to only share what went well and any positive insights they got. The reason for focusing just on what went well is to avoid putting the focus on self-criticism or not being good or perfect enough, which most people do to the exclusion of seeing what they did in fact accomplish. You can feel like a failure and want to give up, when in fact you had a really good week full of positive changes and successes. This was eye-opening for several people who couldn’t see their successes at first and then realized they had been far more successful than they had given themselves credit.
Naturally Making Healthier Food Choices
As we did our check-in, again and again the group members shared how great they felt about achieving their fitness goals and making changes in their eating behaviors. They were having successes and ah-ha observations about food that was helping them make positive changes in their approach to food. A big change was the drop in overeating. If overeating happened, it occurred only a few times during the entire week, which was a big shift. They were also beginning to make healthy food choices and smaller portion sizes that were more satisfying than what they’d been doing in the past, and finding they were enjoying their food more. What they loved is they were doing this without feeling forced or because they should, but instead as a natural extension of their awareness of hunger and fullness levels – called Intuitive Eating.
The real test was Super Bowl Sunday, and nearly everyone avoided overeating or being totally out of control that day for the first time ever. Some of them deliberately portioned out smaller amounts, others made healthier versions of their party foods, many simply stopped as they began to feel full, and a few discovered they didn’t really want any of the food after all.
Getting Motivated by How Good It Feels to Move
They were also getting excited about how much better they were feeling from being more active and discovering how to pick activities that were most enjoyable. A number of people got outside and walked, which they really enjoyed, rather than get on their indoor exercise equipment. Some parked much further way from their destinations and got in more walking and felt more energized. Several others got a Wii Fit this past week and loved it so much they overdid it. A number of people pushed themselves to do more than they had set as a goal, and several of them felt really sore as a result. Getting sore isn’t a bad thing, but it can be a warning sign that you are doing too much too soon. I’ve learned over the years in my practice, that doing too much can lead to overuse injuries, joint pain, lower immune systems that show up as repeated colds, or a feeling of frustration and giving up. There is time to build up to doing more and giving the body a chance to acclimate to the changes. The best way to progress is by incrementally adding no more than 5-10% more time (or intensity) each week and checking in to see if you (and your body) are ready to progress.
Setting Realistic Fitness Goals
The last thing we discussed was setting fitness goals for the upcoming week, and this week they got a fitness journal to track their goals and what they actually accomplished. You can get a copy of this from the contest website.
Read the rest of this post for tips to setting realistic goals.
Hear what the participants have to say about their individual experiences this past week by reading their comments to this post.
Have a healthy and active week,
Contestants and Groups Selected
This week, four groups began the two-year journey together that will change their lifestyles. I received nearly 100 applications for participation in the contest, and of those I narrowed the applicants down to 40 and then talked with each of them at length last week. Each of them was ready, motivated and committed to making healthy lifestyle changes to reclaim their health, fitness and wellbeing. They all recognized that rapid weight loss and dieting was no longer the answer, and they wanted to finally take good care of themselves.
Read more to learn who became contestants.
In our first sessions together, the group participants talked about what led them to apply for a spot in the contest. They shared the struggles they’ve had to exercise regularly, make healthy food choices and make themselves more of a priority. These struggles and the associated frustration, disappointment and pain they created are what motivated them to finally take action. Being inspired to change because of what is no longer tolerable, from a wake-up call or an opportunity to be in a life-changing contest, is often the motivating catalyst that puts people into action, yet that motivator has a short fuse and can disappear as quickly as it appears. The catalyst can get you to make a change, but it won’t keep you motivated to stick with that change or to make long-term changes. For that you need to create long-term motivators based on what it is you will be able to do, feel or experience as a result of the healthy lifestyle changes. These positive outcomes are what keep you motivated to stay on track.
I’ve asked the contestants to comment on their experience each week on a local community blog and the group participants to comment on this blog. In that way, you will get a birds-eye view of what they are discovering for themselves, which will help you in following the contest and participating on your own. You are also free to comment on your own experience.
Have a healthy and active week,
I’m pleased to announce the New You 2010 Healthy Lifestyle Contest for Greater Newburyport – a group of towns along the Northshore coast of Massachusetts. This contest is designed for people who want to finally become a health, fitness or weight loss success story like you read about in magazines. This isn’t a weight loss contest but a contest for greatest improvements in health, fitness and healthy lifestyle behaviors which is the key to sustainable weight loss and finally being free of worrying about weight gain.
I know, because that is how I became a success story. Nine years ago on January 1, 2001, I began exercising and eating better in a way that changed my whole attitude and mindset about fitness and taking care of myself. For the first time in my life I didn’t quit and give up. Instead I stuck with it, and two years later I had dropped from a size 16 to a size 4. It took longer than if I had done a quick weight loss diet or extreme fitness program, but I had succeeded to stick with my new healthy and active lifestyle. More importantly I was discovering a love for fitness and wanting to be even more fit. For a gal who hated exercise and had a long history of yo-yo exercise and dieting, this was miraculous. Yet I discovered a way to get and stay fit that was motivating, so I no longer had to worry I would get off track or gain all the weight back. Nine years later, after going through menopause, I am still fit and wearing size 4s or 6s.
My discovery led to a shift in careers and a passion for helping others create and maintain a healthy lifestyle that feels so good they too can succeed for the long-term. I’ve since become an expert in overcoming the sabotage that keeps us from meeting our goals, staying on track and feeling motivated to exercise, eat well and make ourselves the priority. While I’ve helped hundreds of people individually make changes for long-term success, I realized recently that I could do more by creating a contest here in the Newburyport area where I live.
There are eight contestants who are committed to successfully creating and maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle so they can be in control of their weight and be free of their issues with food and exercise. During the next two years, they will be sharing their experience of creating and then maintaining their new healthy lifestyles on a Newburyport community blog, http://www.newburyport-today.com/ .
At the same time, three other groups will start the same two-year program, and they will be sharing their experience here on this blog, by commenting on my weekly New You 2010 post about the program theme for the week.
Follow the contestants each week on this blog.
You can also participate in the program on your own or in a group with the guidelines I post each week on the contest site at www.aHealthyLifestyleWorks.com/contest.
Here’s to a healthy and active new you!