I almost feel bad this time of year, why? Not because I am sad the holidays are almost over, but because it is the time of year I often get an influx of people who really want to make positive changes in their lives but are aiming to approach those goals in rather ineffective ways. New Year’s resolutions aren’t good or bad to me as long as they don’t fall into these traps and we use these strategies to make them actually work for us!
Too Big Of Changes
Most people come to me with grand goals that also are accompanied by HUGE changes to their lifestyle. They are planning dramatic changes in order to both achieve their goals and to do so in almost record time. However, even the American Psychological Association recommends, “starting small, focusing on one behavior at a time and support from others can help you achieve your exercise or other health-related goals.”
I know this isn’t meme worthy or going to hit your favorite motivational playlist, but if you can look at one smaller goal and be consistent with that, then this will start to be the building blocks for real success. Maybe instead of just having oatmeal in the morning, you add protein powder to your oatmeal. That doesn’t sound dramatic enough for many but it can be the start to developing more and more positive habits.
Instead of waking up and spending the first 10-15 minutes of your day scrolling through emails and social media, could you use some mindfulness practice? As this 2018 study explains, “The practice of mindful eating has been applied to the reduction of food cravings, portion control, body mass index, and body weight. Past reviews evaluating the relationship between mindfulness and weight management did not focus on change in mindful eating as the primary outcome or mindful eating as a measured variable. This review demonstrates strong support for inclusion of mindful eating as a component of weight management programs and may provide substantial benefit to the treatment of overweight and obesity.”
Start small, maybe 2-3 habits you think you can easily work into your lifestyle and watch how things start to build!
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Don’t Chase The “Perfect” Diet
This great New York Times article sums up well the issue with chasing the “perfect” diet, “If I try one quick fix and it doesn’t work, I may be more likely to try the next quick fix,” says Lisa Lahey, the co-founder of Minds at Work, a consulting firm in Cambridge, Mass., which coaches executives and educators in sustained behavior change.
Supposed easy remedies like celebrity diets hold a powerful allure, but they rarely work in the long term, she says. After all, it’s hard for people to shake the underlying conditions — like stress or anxiety — that cause unwanted habits.”
Trying to chase the diet that everyone claims to be “the one” that actually works is usually fool’s gold. This ties into the first lesson, start small, be consistent, over a 4-6 week period, once you feel like you have successfully made your new smaller changes easier habits, then add 1-2 more. There is no perfect diet, but there is being consistent with good habits.
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Stop Being So Hard On Yourself
Society doesn’t make this one easy, you can turn on the tv, your social media feed, and see endless examples of supposed “perfect” bodies tell you to do this or that. You can even find people now suggesting you aren’t a good enough person unless you can get to those super lean fitness goals. However, this is some of the worst advice out there and becomes so detrimental to ourselves and our ability to reach our goals.
This 2019 paper in the Canadian Medical Association Journal states, “Fat shaming is harmful to health and may drive weight gain…studies show that exposure to weight bias triggers physiological and behavioral changes linked to poor metabolic health and increased weight gain. “You actually experience a form of stress,” Alberga explained. Cortisol spikes, self-control drops and the risk of binge eating increases, she said.
The more people are exposed to weight bias and discrimination, the more likely they are to gain weight and become obese, even if they were thin to begin with. They’re also more likely to die from any cause, regardless of their body mass index (BMI).”
While we could have MANY discussions about the horrible fat shaming in society, we can’t control what others may or may not do. What we CAN do, this is also where mindfulness practice can help, is changing if we do this to ourselves! So many times when clients fall off track a bit, they get hard on themselves, I mean, they say REALLY nasty things to themselves. This only makes things far worse than just having compassion for themselves, realizing this is a long-term game and we won’t be perfect, and we are trying our best and will get back on track.
One thing that is helpful is to have people keep a journal. Not just a food journal, but a thoughts journal as well. They can write short bits about how you felt before you at, while you ate, and after you ate. Were you actually hungry when you ate, or were you feeling anxious/bored? Did the meal leave you feeling satisfied and good, or are you starving after? Do you feel content and energized afterwards or do you feel nauseated, bloated, and lethargic? When you ate did you notice any judgements about yourself coming about? These are all important strategies to be aware of first because many people do not know they are even doing such things to themselves and not realizing it isn’t helping, but hurting their goals.
There are so many directions we can go and I hopefully will do a part 2, but I wanted to start with things that impact so many people and most don’t realize how much it can relate to their success. Most of all, have a good holiday, be safe, and start thinking about how you can start making small, consistent, and manageable goals in your life that feel that they enhance you, not punish you.
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