Everybody has a story in them, a string of events that together forms a narrative and influences their choices and behavior. Think about it, when you tell people that you are a good cook what does this mean? You may reference several meals that you have prepared over the years and the praise you received from friends and family for your creations. At a deeper level you might even remember the time you spent in the kitchen with your parents learning the nuances of putting together a meal.
You can wear a culinary badge of competence based on a history of success and you enjoy the confidence that goes along with it. The thing is, story telling works in both directions and if you are still mastering the art of boiling water you have a pretty different story. The stories we tell ourselves can both carry us forward or hinder our progress; you get to choose which one you want to listen to.
Creating a lifestyle where you achieve a healthy weight and confidence means learning a story that aligns with what you are trying to accomplish. The thing is, if you have had a difficult time with weight loss in the past your story may need revisions. In fact, you may need to do a bit more research and find co-author if you really need to make some significant changes.
Before you know where to go you need to write out where you have been. Take the rest of the week and think about your healthy living story. Who are the main characters, who are the villains, what plot twist caught you off guard and what successes did you experience. Once you have this down you can start to write the rest of the story.
Note, you don’t have to write this story alone so don’t be afraid to ask for help.
There are 99 days left in 2013 and this gives us the perfect opportunity to set goals. I do enjoy goal setting and I am even part of a group of Facebook where we post up a 30 day challenge at the beginning of every month. Through these challenges I have learned that it not just about reaching a goal but what you discover about yourself along the way. For instance, I wanted to cut down on eating out so I threw out the challenge of limiting restaurant visits to celebrations only. Before you ask, yes, Sunday night football counts as a celebration.
I came to realize that I wasn’t just going out for convenience but I was feeding my need to be around other people. I am extremely extraverted and am energized by places crowded with other individuals even if I’m not interacting with them. Because I work out of my apartment I was going out and grabbing a bite not because I didn’t feel like taking all that time to defrost that Trader Joe’s chicken burrito but to have some company.
My recommendation for an end of the year challenge, go big, put something out there that you really want to accomplish and set monthly goals that align with what you are trying to accomplish. So, if you want to lose 15 lbs. set your 30 day goal at getting in 10,000 steps each day or making sure you get your daily serving of vegetables. Focus on the small stuff and set up a daily check-list of healthy living task. Also, it would help if you came up with some system to keep you accountable. Things like purchasing some classes, signing up with a coach, or getting your friends to withhold your favorite pillow until you accomplish your goal kick in that little extra motivation when you start to flag.
I love what I do for a living, working with individuals to transform their lives is extremely rewarding and never dull. Having worked with hundreds of people up to this point I can tell you that while some basic parameters do exist (burn more calories then you eat) there is not one size fits all success formula. Today I am going to give you a list of the top-five tendency I see with in clients that are successful at losing weight and keeping it off.
Be honest: Sure, that bag of chocolate bites is around 150 calories but does it make sense that a fit individual would eat these on a daily basis? In order to lose weight you have to be completely honest about what you put in your mouth and emphasize quality over quantity. It is the difference between seeing food as a way to fuel your body and food as something you consume to pass the time.
Focus on the process: Don’t get caught up in what you will eventually look and feel like once you finally achieve that fitness goal. What does your daily/weekly/monthly plan look like? Get some basic behaviors down that you can check off at the end of the day and set small goals that you can evaluate each week. When you stay in the moment and attend to the choices you are making right now the success will work it’s way out.
Support: Who is on your team? A client of mine was working on better portion control at dinner and had discussed this with his wife not knowing his youngest daughter was listening. During the evening meal one night he reached across the table to get another dinner role and was smacked on the hand with a spoon. “No Daddy!” When faced with stern six-year-olds it is better to back down and appreciate the lesson you have just learned. Employ as many people as you can on this journey, the more support you have the better.
Journaling: All my successful clients utilize something to track thoughts, accomplishments and work through barriers. Find an app, start a blog, or just invest in a notebook but make sure you have something to get something brief down about your day. They track the foods they eat and the activities they participate in. You could come up with a scale that will allow you to rate yourself and give a quick reason behind the grade. Also, try voice recording, most computers and phones have some type of note recording software. Even if you don’t review it just hearing yourself out load helps.
General Activity: At my heaviest weight (260) I was spinning for an hour, five-days-a-week at 5:45 in the morning then, going to work. The thing is, once I was at work I really didn’t move for the rest of the day until I went home and surfed cable until I went to bed. You have to stay as active as possible and you are better off finding 5-10 minutes here and there to just walk around then only working out once and sitting on your butt for the rest of the day.
Please, there are other pieces to this puzzle and if there is something that you have found to be helpful please post up for the benefit of others.
I have discussed emotional eating a couple of times in this blog. Everyone does it in one form or another, even if you aren’t the curl up on the sofa, watching Beaches, while tears of grief fall into your pint of Chunky Monkey following yet another disastrous Match.com date type. Some of my clients go into mindless eating mode when they socialize out of happiness, while others reach for a quick unneeded snack out of boredom.
Have you ever stopped to ask, “why am I eating this?” For many, food can be an escape, a way of postponing something they are dreading but have to do or, a way of interrupting uncomfortable feelings that they have. Nobody likes to feel uncomfortable and food is a really easy way to occupy your brain and escape from your feelings if even for a couple of minutes.
The next time you reach for that sweet or salty treat try this strategy. Simply ask, “why am I going to eat this?” Then take a second and search for the feelings that you are having in the moment, are you anxious, afraid, bored? Once you identify that feeling write down what you think is causing you to feel this way and note that eating will not help you solve this issue.
The Thinking Man sculpture at Musée Rodin in Paris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I work with very intelligent people, I mean seriously, some of these people make me feel lazy and intellectually dull. Yet, they struggle with things like getting to the gym on a regular basis or staying within some basic limits for food and alcohol. The thing is, intelligence does little to inoculate you against a frame of mind that tends to hinder instead of help your self-care efforts.
In this second piece on sabotaging thoughts we will look at how you can identify those instances where your way of thinking gets in the way of performing. This isn’t just procrastination, this is the reason that procrastination even exist. Think about the last time you put off doing something that you new was somewhat important but there was a distraction, like YouTube videos of cats playing pianos, that got in the way. There was a thought process that started before you even left the office, grew as you passed the gym and peaked when you decided to hit the drive through instead of the weight-room. Consider, was your day stressful, was there an unfinished bit of work that was bouncing around in your head, did you lose an argument about the increasing talent of household cats?
Even if you are not aware of it thoughts precede actions. The first step in dealing with sabotaging thoughts is to get use to some of the triggers that cause that cascade of electrical impulses to short circuit your plans. Note how stress impacts your day and look at ways to get in the things that you want to do no matter once. A while back I had a client that would drop his bag off at the gym first thing in the morning with the house keys just so he had to go there to get them. What is setting off the sabotaging thoughts in your life?