Do you remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? You know, the one where the tortoise challenged the hare to a race and to the hare's surprise the tortoise crossed the finish line first? Yeah that one. Well, I recently read an article that boiled the hare’s demise down to three critical flaws. As I read I quickly realized that this story does a good job of warning us of the potential pitfalls in our journey to become healthy and whole.
We don't want to end up just like the hare – deflated and disappointed - so let’s take a look at Part 1 of a 2 part series that explains how these fatal flaws end up stalling our progress.
Have you ever noticed that once you get on a good streak that is when you let your guard down and slowly but surely things start to fall part? That's overconfidence at work. Unfortunately, one good week, month, or even one year isn't enough. This is a life long journey so you can never allow yourself to think you are “safe." Why? Because then you start thinking that you can take your eye off of the ball, it hits you square in the head, and the next thing you know, you are lying on the floor!
There is a reason that alcoholics call themselves “recovering alcoholics.” It is because they realize that change is a process, a journey, and just one sip can spiral them back into the person they once were. They don't think of themselves as “former alcoholics” because that minimizes their addiction and would only set them up for failure. It is the same with us.
Food for thought: According to a recent study, we think about food an average of 15-18 times a day. You read that right 15-18 times a day! So best case scenario, if you are on a 5-6 small meal a day plan, you’ll think about food 10-12 times more than you are actually supposed to eat. And I’ve never seen a study recounting how often we think about physical activity. With the exception of fitness fanatics, I’d bet those thought counts are very low or non-existent :). With those types of odds can you really afford to take your eye off the ball for either? I think you know the answer.
Change what you tell yourself. Instead of telling yourself you want to lose 20, 30, 50 or even 100 pounds, say you want to maintain weight loss of that amount. This sends the signal to your brain that the finish line is at the gate of eternity. Period. End of story. Having that type of mindset is critical because tons of people lose weight and later regain it. Losing weight is not the ultimate victory, being able to keep it off and keep all of the associated benefits – more energy, better mental clarity, laser focus, better sleep, etc.- is. You need an “ING” goal that can be accomplished (maintaining a healthy weight, staying off medication, etc.), but NEVER achieved. It may sound like semantics, but there is a huge difference in how your brain processes a reaching goal and a maintaining goal.
Inconsistency is a behavior issue brought about by a mental attitude. Yup, pause and think about that. Inconsistency starts in your head.
At the beginning of a transformation journey it takes the form of a very optimistic voice like “If I can just get off to a good start, I’ll be good” or when given some friendly advice the thought process is “It (weight loss) can’t be that difficult" or “I’ll figure that (detail) out later.” Due to this faulty thinking pattern we don’t really give any serious thought to the transformation process. The result? You don’t set up systems like planning and preparing your meals on Sundays. You don’t create your exercise schedule (complete with days AND times) in advance because “I’ll figure that out as I go.” And when life hits, ‘cause it always does, you end up going back to your default behavior – the very behavior you are trying to avoid. Shoot!
Can I let you in on a little secret? Winging it may work for a select few things, but it will NEVER work with food and fitness. In general, what doesn't get planned simply doesn't get done. Think I'm over-exaggerating? Look around the house, how many uncompleted projects are there? Ones you've said you’ll get around to but never have? Now ask yourself. Why aren't they complete? Here’s why: there’s no appointment. There’s no day and time by which it has to get done and so it sits waiting for you to “get around to it.” Is it important, sure, but it’s not urgent. It’s not screaming for your attention like your email, Facebook, Twitter, hanging out with your friends, work/school assignments, or community commitments. So it’s not getting done. It's time to stop the madness.
Get a grip and make planning and preparing a part of your weekly ritual. Your ability to achieve the life you want lies in your ability to change your daily routine. And let’s face it, life is busy, hectic, and many times unpredictable! Having to make decisions in the moment is very, very risky. Here’s another secret: Motivation is strongest in the morning and fades as the day progresses. What does that mean for you? Any decision that has to be made after 12 noon is infinitely harder. This is why you succeed at having a healthy breakfast, start to backslide at lunch and end up completely off track by dinner! You need to make it easy to succeed and hard to fail by making decisions in advance. I recommend planning your meals at least 2-3 days in advance. That means on Sunday you're planning your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for Monday and Tuesday, throw in Wednesday too if you're an overachiever :).
If you are further along in your journey, the stinking thinking sounds a little different, but we’ll get to that in Part 2.
In the meantime, I challenge you to hold a meeting with yourself:
Until next time,
coach tam's Blog
40-something who loves food, fitness, and fun!