Making lasting lifestyle changes means examining and tearing down the obstacles to making healthy changes. The brain can be reprogrammed. We just have to be deliberate about it and be willing to make changes. To increase awareness of your obstacles, track for a couple of days how much time is spent:
- being physically active
- shopping, preparing, eating, and going to restaurants
- doing household tasks like laundry, cleaning, house chores, and paying bills
- doing personal grooming like showering, dressing, hair
- relaxing with friends and family, doing a hobby
- doing community work like volunteering, going to church
- sitting watching TV, computer, reading, games
Are there any adjustments that can be made to give you more time to take care of your health? Can you delegate? Can you combine chores like folding laundry while you are on the phone? Can you cook extra rice or chicken to have for other meals during the week? Can you keep a running shopping list so you don’t have to run out and get something you forgot? Can you wear some of your clothes a few times before washing? (maybe not if it’s 90 degrees outside!) Can you decrease your sedentary time, give up some TV and use your time more constructively?
Examine Your Obstacles More Closely
We know that being healthier takes planning, choosing healthier foods, eating fewer unhealthy foods and being more physically active. If you are struggling with any of these areas, then pinpoint exactly what makes it difficult.
|Planning||Choosing Healthier Foods||Eating Fewer Unhealthy Foods||Being More Physically Active|
being spontaneous – think about why you like being spontaneous
|Don’t know how to include healthier foods in your diet||Eating large portions of unhealthy foods makes you feel better||Pain|
|Have never had experience with planning||Too complicated/do not know how to prepare and cook them||Satisfies cravings||Don’t like it|
|Believes it adds stress||Do not like healthy foods||Less expensive||Never had experience with exercising|
|Don’t like the idea||Too expensive||Less complicated||Don’t like doing it alone|
|Takes the fun out of life||Uncomfortable with making changes in diet||Exposed to it often so it increases temptation||Afraid of getting hurt or aggravating a condition|
If you have answered “yes” to any of the comments under the categories, then ask yourself if this is truly accurate or an overgeneralization. If you list that you don’t like healthy foods, then ask yourself if it is really accurate that you don’t like any veggies, fish, fruits, nuts, whole grains – who doesn’t like popcorn! I’m sure there are some items in these categories that you do like. If the idea of exercise totally turns you off, then think in the past, perhaps even when you were a child, how you were active. Was it having fun while playing hide and seek, riding your bike, going skiing, or playing Marco Polo in the pool? Would you be more committed if you had a partner or looked for group activities in your town? Can you start doing a small amount for a few weeks and become aware of what you notice – a sense of control, a sense you are taking care of yourself, an improved outlook? Can you wear a pedometer and gradually increase your steps even if it means walking around your house a few times in the evening?
If you have had no experience with planning what you will eat for the week then break it down for a couple of days at a time. Start with coming up with several recipes and write them down on index cards with the ingredients on the back. Take these when you go shopping and make a goal to add a couple each week. Before you know it you will have 30 recipes that you like and you’ll be able to shop once a week using these cards as a guide. If you have a hard time keeping tempting foods out of the house then keep them out of sight. If your spouse likes ice cream at night and you know you don’t like mocha flavored and he does, then ask him to buy that instead of the tempting mint chocolate chip. If you know you love potato chips but are not tempted by Fritos and other family members love both, then just get the Fritos. If you have a potato chip craving then just buy a small bag at the check out instead of the 7 ounce bag in the aisle.
Eliminate Your Obstacles One At A Time
With a shift in attitude, stopping overgeneralizing, and taking small steps, no obstacle is insurmountable. Tackling one area at a time and developing a clear strategy, leads to a gradually healthier you. Reaching out to a health coach can help you identify your obstacles, develop strategies, and stay successful!