Betty's Thoughts, Articles & Resources
Monday, 08 March 2021 11:11

What Do I Need to Make this Work?

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The conventional wisdom around weight management says that in order for the changes we make to be permanent we have to make a lifestyle change. My personal viewpoint is that the change has to take place in our minds and in our hearts first. After that, the physical changes will follow easily and joyfully. Either way, the thought of making a lifestyle change can feel intimidating. When I would hear that phrase in the past, I would think that I had to completely disrupt life as I know it and learn to live some way that’s foreign to me, uncomfortable, and difficult. It never occurred to me that the lifestyle change could be made to my specifications so that it aligns with my core values and feels good. What would it take to make a lifestyle change work for me? What would that lifestyle change look like?

In keeping with my view of starting with the mental and emotional changes, I want to think this through. In the last blog post, we talked about the thought process that goes on when we’re considering whether or not to make any kind of change at all. Let’s agree that I’ve decided I definitely am ready to make some changes. How can I set myself up for success? How do I get ready to make these changes in a way that feels good and comfortable? How much change am I ready for and how fast do I want the change to come at me? What have I done in the past has worked for me, and can I bring some of those skills into this? What have I done in the past that hasn’t worked for me, and what can I learn from those experiences?

It's worth noting that even though I’m actively planning for change, I still have a lot of questions. The more questions I have, the more options I’m likely to discover. And the more options I discover, the more likely it is that I’ll find a method and a plan that suits me and still gets me to my goal.

Before I jump into trying a new food plan or exercise program, I want to take a realistic look at how likely it is I’ll stick with it for the long-term. If this plan is going to work for me, I have to want to do it. Every day. All the time. Maybe that seems obvious, but it’s worth stating right up front. I want to feel full, not hungry. I want to enjoy my food, not feel deprived. I want exercise to feel good. I want to feel it in my body so I know I’m making progress, without feeling pain. I don’t want my muscles to be so fatigued that just the thought of doing the second or third day is repulsive to me.

The food and exercise plan has to be convenient for me. They have to fit into my schedule without making a huge adjustment. Sure, I’m willing to make some adjustments. Nothing changes unless something changes. I get that. But I don’t want to have to turn my entire life upside down, because then I’ll only end up resenting the need to live a life that doesn’t feel like mine. And the resentment will result in a return to the lifestyle that keeps me overweight, limits my mobility, and impacts my health.

All of this has to do with my mental and emotional attitude toward making changes. It takes more than just knowing that the changes would be good for me. Knowing I ‘should’ lose weight never got me to my goal. Wanting to feel better and looking forward to tailoring the changes to fit my tastes and my lifestyle makes the idea of change much more attractive. I feel eager to get going! How creative can I be in setting myself up for success? How can I make this work for me?

Let’s start with the food plan. And let’s not start searching the different diet programs out there! Before we get to those, let’s look at our current patterns, our current likes and dislikes, and our current nutritional needs or limitations. Am I currently preparing and cooking most or all of my own meals? Do I eat out, either take-out or in a restaurant, most of the time? Is it a combination of the two, and if so, which one is my more frequent source of meals? If I’m preparing food at home, do I cook from scratch or am I buying prepared and boxed foods? Do I have a limited food budget or can I buy high-end items? (Disclaimer: This blog is being written during the Covid-19 pandemic. I realize our patterns have changed, with restaurant closures and financial setbacks. I’m writing this as though we had those options freely available to us.)

If I’m someone who eats out most of the time, a diet plan that relies on home cooking is probably not my best choice. Maybe one that supplies my meals through home delivery would work better. If I like cooking and preparing my meals, maybe a plan that teaches healthy cooking and balanced diets is more to my liking. If I’m on a budget, the cost of membership in a plan is going to be a factor. I might also have to research healthy meal prep with low-cost ingredients. If money is no object, maybe I can take advantage of some of the chef-inspired home delivery plans out there. If I have diet restrictions, I want to research the ingredients used in the home delivery menu items. Do they have enough options that fit with my body’s needs?

Maybe I’m a do-it-yourself kind of person, so I hire a nutrition coach to teach me new ways of preparing my standard favorites. Or maybe this coach teaches me how to dine out on my weight plan so I can reach my goals. You get the idea here. We want to start from where we are and from who we are. When we take our current patterns, likes and dislikes, into account, we can plan our changes to fit within our familiar structure.

We can run the same analysis when looking at an exercise plan. Do I stay at home most of the time? Do I like to go out and be with other people? Have I ever been an athlete or have I studiously avoided exercise at all costs? If I purchased a gym membership, would I use it or am I buying the membership because I think that’s they way to get more exercise? What are my alternatives? Can I watch videos at home, or buy a small hand weights or tension bands? Would yoga or tai chi be more to my liking than workout machines and high impact aerobics? Does the gym offer group sessions in yoga, aerobics, tai chi, etc. What fits me best? How does it fit into my budget?

When we’re thinking about food and exercise, it’s a good idea to recall what we’ve tried in the past. What diet plans have we tried before? What types of exercise have we done in the past? What did we like about them? Are there aspects of the plan that felt good and that really worked for us? If so, how can we incorporate that into the plans we’re making now? What didn’t work for us? Why didn’t it work for us? Were there barriers to staying on the plan in effect back then that maybe aren’t in place now? Or do we have barriers now that we didn’t have back then? Our work, family make-up, and physical health all contribute to our ability to successfully incorporate change into our lives. It’s important to take a good look at all the factors in play when we’re planning changes.

Once we have a clear picture of what will work for us, we can begin to dig into the specifics. How much does it cost to join a weight loss program and which one do I want? How do I find a wellness or nutrition coach? How long do I plan to stay with the program or engage with my coach? What does a gym membership cost? Where is the closest gym to me that offers the programs I want? How often will I go to the gym? Where can I find videos and home workouts that I can do in my living space? Are they free or is there a membership involved? If I decide to implement changes on my own, what’s my schedule for doing that? How many meals a week will I change and how will I gradually increase those changes until it becomes my new normal? How many days a week will I exercise? How will I hold myself accountable? Will I do this with a friend or a partner? What could get in the way of sticking to my plans?

Getting ready to make a change, a lifestyle change at that, is a big deal! It takes planning and it takes honesty. As we take an honest, realistic look at ourselves, we make the idea of changing our own. And when we own the idea of change, we’re more likely to succeed. We aren’t doing this for anyone but ourselves. We are the only ones we have to satisfy with the plan. Most of all, we are the only ones who have to be happy with the plan. Because the plan is to be happy!!!

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Betty Brink

Betty Brink is an expert on the mental and emotional aspects of dieting and body image. She is the author of "The Main Meal: The New Perspective on Weight Loss." In seminars, speeches, and consultations, she demonstrates practical methods to quiet the diet chatter, and to empower yourself to make conscious choices in diet, in life, and in relationships.

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