Why is losing weight or changing our habits so difficult? So often when I am working with people to lose weight or control their blood sugars they tell me that they know what they need to do, but they just don’t do it. So why isn’t wanting to make the change enough for us to actually do it?
Here are some of the things I have learned about making changes in our lifestyle:
-Should vs. Want. We all have a long list of things that we “should” do and things we “want” to do. Of course it is easier for all of us to do the things we want to do before the things we should do. So when you are looking at changing a behavior, like being more active, consider what you would want to do. Don’t make a goal to run if you don’t like running. You may think it will get you into shape faster than walking or hiking, but if you don’t enjoy it you are less likely to do it. As a result, you feel like you have failed or that you don’t have any “willpower” if you don’t start running. This only makes you hesitant to try again in the future.
-Don’t let what you can’t do keep you from doing the things you can do. Ten years ago you walked six miles a day and felt great. Since then you have had some foot problems and a job change that limited your activity and now it is hard to even walk two miles. Instead of feeling out of shape because you can’t do what you used to, accept what you can do and set the goal to be the best you can be today.
-Don’t set a goal to lose weight (yes, you read that right). I wish I could take credit for this, but another dietitian that I work with said this and it is so true. So often I see people making great changes in their lifestyle. They are exercising and eating healthy, but then if their weight doesn’t go down as fast or as far as they think it should they get frustrated and quit. Instead, focus on what you want to do every day to take care of yourself and let the weight loss be a bonus.
-Don’t bully yourself to change. Feeling down on yourself and angry at your state of health is not necessarily going to motivate you to do something about it. Instead, think about how your overall quality of life is affected by your current habits. Then, consider where you’d rather be instead. Another unfair motivation tactic is to tell ourselves we want to lose weight or improve our health so we will be around for our family - because of course we love our family and we would change for them. Then if we don’t reach our goal we feel even worse about ourselves. No matter how much we love and value our family, change will still be difficult. Look at what you want to change, make a plan, and set small goals that are realistic for you. Then if you don’t reach your goal, it isn’t because you failed or you don’t value your family enough, you just need to keep trying different things until you find what works for you.
Be your biggest fan. When studies have been done on people that have lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off, researchers could not really find anything the same in what they ate or how much they exercised. The common thread that researchers found in these people was the belief in themselves that they could change. If you are teaching a young person to tie their shoes do you encourage them along the way or tell them it is hard and it will take forever to learn? Certainly we encourage and praise them as they get better at it. And even as adults, we are no different. We need encouragement, praise, and understanding as we are trying to figure it out – especially from ourselves. As Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
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