My belief is that you’re setting yourself up for failure if you try to overhaul your entire life at once. It’s okay to go “cold turkey” on certain things, like giving up chocolate or alcohol, but completely changing everything about your eating habits, exercise routine and lifestyle is a huge task. I like using real-life examples, so let me introduce you to Becky.
Before Becky was my client, she was an all-or-nothing type of person when it came to diet and exercise. She would make a decision to become healthier and lose weight, and would attempt to go from her usual diet to a perfect diet overnight. You might be able to relate to Becky’s attitude: she said that if she got $1 for every time she said “my diet starts tomorrow” she’d be a millionaire! Becky was generally able to sustain her diet and lifestyle changes for a week, sometimes even more. The issue came when she slipped up in one aspect of her “perfect” lifestyle plan, she would feel like a failure and give up on everything! Just before Becky came to work with me, she had managed to keep up with her diet and exercise routine perfectly for 10 days, and on the 11th day she slept in and didn’t make it to the gym before work. So what did she do? Gave up on eating healthily altogether. She felt as though there was no point in continuing because she’d already “stuffed up”. She binged on junk foods all day on that 11th day, and told herself she’d start her diet again next week.
Sound familiar? Here’s what happened when Becky started working with me.
Becky came to me wanting to create a perfect plan to keep her perfectly motivated and help her achieve her perfect body in the perfect amount of time. She was putting so much pressure on herself to achieve everything all at once, and had gotten stuck in a cycle of attempting diets and giving up as soon as one small thing went wrong. I helped Becky understand that no one achieves anything overnight – change and progress takes time and practice. So together, we decided on just one thing that Becky was going to change – and not tomorrow, not on Monday, but straight away! She was going to avoid refined sugars. No plan for exercise, or eating more protein, or limiting other types of carbohydrates. For two weeks, Becky avoided all refined sugars and she came back to my clinic feeling absolutely amazing. Two weeks was the longest period of time she had ever managed to stick to a dietary change! So we ticked that one off, and set to work deciding what her next change could be. She had started to lose weight, felt less bloated, had much more energy, and couldn’t wait to keep going on her health and weight loss journey.
Becky’s small success and results from just one change gave her the momentum to continue making changes, one at a time, being gentle and compassionate towards herself the whole way through. Becky continued on to change her exercise routine, increase her intake of vegetables and fresh fruit, and ultimately achieved her goal weight and created an easy, sustainable and healthy lifestyle that she loved.
So how do you achieve the same? Start by changing just one thing.
What is one thing you can change to improve your health and happiness?
Is it giving up soft drink or chocolate?
Is it drinking more water each day?
It is walking your dog once per week?
It is watching less tv?
This first “one thing” is different for everyone. You might already have an idea of what it is that you want to change first, or you might need to think about it for a little while.
It’s really important that you’re taking baby steps towards your goal at this stage, not leaps and bounds. Your goal for change also needs to be specific and achievable, in order to monitor your progress and ensure you are able to succeed. Remember, your success from this one change is the momentum that will keep you going towards your ultimate goal: weight loss and better health.
Can you break your “one thing” done even smaller again? Is it specific enough? Does it feel achievable?
Here’s some general guidelines to help make sure you are on track with.
❎ Give up soft drink, juice, alcohol, flavoured milks and drink nothing except water
✅ Swap my morning iced coffee for a glass of water
❎ Go to the gym five times next week
✅ Commit to Tuesday morning pilates class at 9.15am
❎ Give up junk food
✅ Give up deep-fried foods
❎ Drink more water
✅ Drink my entire 1L water bottle every day
❎ Give up all sugars, sweeteners and fruit
✅ Avoid refined (white, processed) sugar
Your goals need to be specific to where you are at the moment, so if you’re currently suffering from severe sugar cravings and eating refined sugar daily, then perhaps you’re not ready to avoid it altogether and you need to start with just giving up your morning sweet biscuit. Or if you’re already drinking 1L water every day, aim for 1.5L or 2L. If you’re not exercising at all, don’t jump into exercising 5 days a week, but just start out slowly with one exercise commitment, and as you start to feel better, your energy increases and your motivation peaks, then you can begin to increase your exercise load.
And remember: you’re not looking for short-term solutions. Short term solutions = short term results.
You want to focus on creating a healthy lifestyle that is easy, sustainable and enjoyable. A lifestyle that you can maintain for good, so you never have to go back to feeling the way you feel right now (or have felt in the past). When I was struggling with my own weight loss journey, I remember having moments where I wished I could somehow imprint the way I felt in my lowest moments, so that they could spur me on to continue creating change. The disgust, guilt and self-hate I felt after a binge would soon become a distant memory and I would fall victim to another binge session. And if you focus on short-term change and return to your previous eating and lifestyle habits after this book, you’ll eventually find yourself right back where you started.
Athletes don’t work hard to attain a certain fitness level and then just stop training once they achieve it – they keep going, and maintaining their fitness. And they don’t go from ground zero straight into running ultra-marathons, or competing at Olympic level.
It’s not as much effort and hard work to maintain something as it is to achieve it, but it does require effort and mindfulness. Being mindful that if you give up or let go of your goals, they’ll slip away. And that maintaining your progress is a lot easier than giving up completely and having to start all over again.