Less is More When Trying to Lose
How many times have you been part of this vicious cycle?
“Ok, starting today, I’m going to get 8 hours of sleep each night, work out at least 5 days a week and walk the other days and I’m really going to buckle down on eating healthy. I also will try an online yoga class this week.”
After the first week, when you’ve failed to do 4 of the 5 things you wanted to do, you’ll recommit yourself and try again.
After the second week, you’ve again failed to do 4 out of 5 things you wanted to accomplish and the one you did succeed on is a different task than you completed the previous week.
This lack of (perceived) dedication is met with an attitude, of “well none of this is working, I’ll just try again in a few months” or it’s “I’m a failure.”
I assume this sounds at least somewhat familiar.
Unfortunately, you made a critical error to get yourself to change. You focused on too many ideas and tried to implement them all at once. This will never work the way you want it to. Your brain will become overworked and won’t be sure where you need to focus your attention. On top of that, you may be setting the bar for some of your “rules” or “tasks” much too high.
For example, let’s say you’re currently sedentary with an occasional walk 1-3 times per week. However, you decide you’re going to commit yourself and start working out 5 days a week at the local gym. You are setting yourself up for failure, not to mention a lot of soreness. You’re trying to jump over a mountain before you’ve even scaled a hill.
Additionally, when you give yourself loose terms like “buckle down” on healthy eating, there’s no definition of what that means. You’ll either find yourself eating junk and justifying how it doesn’t break your “rule”, or you’ll convince yourself to just give up because you ate a cookie. (We call this last one the all or nothing attitude.)
There is a much easier way to build healthy habits. I teach this method to all my clients in my 1-1 nutrition program. Let’s say Sally is currently starting from ground zero: she doesn’t work out or eat healthy, she doesn’t prioritize sleep and she really is clueless on where to start. However, Sally has some big goals. She wants to lose weight, work out regularly, eat better, lower her blood pressure, get more sleep, stop beating herself up all of the time, and ultimately, look better naked.
I’ll take those goals and simplify them in a list like this:
- Workout 2x this week with weights
- Go for a 20 minute walk at least 4 days each week
- Incorporate veggies in at least 2 meals every day
- Eat at least 10g of protein at each meal and/or snack
- Have no more than one dessert each week
- Get at least 6.5 hours of sleep on average for the week
- Turn off all electronics at least an hour before bed every night this week
- Spend 5 minutes each day either journaling or meditating
Now I don’t know that all of these things will work for Sally, but I know some of them will be more appealing and more doable for her.
To narrow them down, I have Sally rate each item with her confidence level of getting it done, between 1-10 (1 = no way in hell, 10 = it’s nearly done now). If any of these options come back with a rating of 8 or higher, that’s what her starting point becomes. If she rates each item lower than an 8, I would ask her to come up with something that she feels confident she could get done.
Above all, I would not have her focus on more than TWO items each week. In fact, she’d work on the same items until her confidence for each was a 10, and then we would come up with some more options to have her rate and add to her newly established habits.
I would continue this activity until Sally started noticing her progress and continuing to make forward strides on her own. I don’t do this with every client, but it certainly is helpful for those people feeling overwhelmed, or who see things as “all or nothing.”
The next time you get stuck sticking to a “rule” you made for yourself, like going to the gym every day, do the technique above and remember, simpler is better. If you feel like you need help figuring out where to even begin, that’s where I come in. Apply now to see if 1-1 nutrition counseling is right for you.