How to Make a Change

Kevin and I saw an interesting documentary this weekend called Hunger for Change. (I’ll write a review in a few days!) It was pretty good, and got me thinking about the process of changing our habits. The more and more I read about weight loss and dieting, I’m realizing that for most of us, the struggle is not getting enough information about how to live, but instead finding the motivation to change our behaviors. There really are quite a few diet books out there that suggest healthy, well balanced diets and recommend regular exercise, and yet so many Americans are still overweight. Why? Because drastically changing your life is so hard! It’s one thing to read about it, and quite another to put it into practice.

When I look and Kevin and my journey to becoming healthier over the last few years, I have noticed a few things. I hope that these suggestions can help you a bit on the road to becoming a healthier, happier version of you!

One thing at a time. I am terrible at this! Whenever I watch a health food documentary, read about vegan diets or see photos of someone who is super-ripped, I think about how I want to completely over-haul my life. I make plans to eat only fruits and vegetables, wake up and the crack of dawn for a 2 hour workout and plan a 30 minute yoga session every night. And, of course, none of that happens. I hit the snooze button, put off the workout, and definitely eat more than just fruits and vegetables (namely Oreos, which are my nemesis).  Trying to make so many drastic changes makes me feel overwhelmed. The challenge seems impossible and so instead of being successful, I flop down in failure. The times I’ve actually managed to maintain better habits are the things that naturally developed over time. I started bringing one piece of fruit to lunch with me, and then two. I began by having a fruit smoothie for breakfast, which has now evolved into mainly just spinach and kefir, and I’ve found that fried foods aren’t really something I crave at all anymore. All of these changes were done on thing at a time, and over the course of several months or years. When we decide that we want to be a better person, we usually try to tackle all our problems at once, but I think that’s just a recipe for disaster. Instead, focus on just one good change you’ll make; something that doesn’t seem to bad or too hard. Once you’ve successfully mastered that, move on to the next thing. By next year, you’ll be shocked at how far you’ve come.

Visualization. I first started using visualization when I was coaching cross country during my PhD. I had my runners visualize their race, watching themselves do everything right and picturing how strong they would feel at the end. When they pictured themselves succeeding, they were much more likely to have a successful race. Visualization has been used in athletics for decades, but I think it absolutely applies in our everyday lives as well. If we want to make a change, the first step is believing that it’s actually possible. I use this in order to motivate myself to get up early and exercise. I hate waking up early and I usually use any excuse I can to sleep in, but lately I haven’t been able to get my workouts in at night. I know the only way to make myself exercise is to get it done in the morning, but I haaaaate waking up so early. This past week, every night before I go to bed, I visualize myself waking up at 5:45 (ughh) and running. Much to my husband’s surprise, I’ve actually done it!

Add, don’t subtract. This is one idea I stole from the Hungry for Change documentary; instead of trying to deny yourself, think about adding healthy habits to your life. Don’t focus on eating fewer fatty foods, but instead think about adding healthier ones. The entire process of dieting and restricting ourselves leaves us feeling deprived. A diet feels like something we have to survive and I know as soon as I start restricting foods (telling myself no sugar this week, or no junk food), that’s the only thing I can think about! Instead, I’ve been focusing on my goal to eat more fruits and vegetables. I pack at least one fruit, if not two in my lunch, and Kevin and I bought a juicer (which will be another blog!) to try to increase our consumption of vegetables.  The healthier my diet gets, the less I am interested in eating cookies and brownies (although, if you offered me one right now, I can’t say I’d turn it down!).  I don’t think about restricting anything; instead just focusing on the positive things I can add to my life helps me focus on the good stuff, and the bad stuff tends to just fall away on its own.

Have you tried any of these strategies? What are some successful changes you’ve made in your life?



2 responses to this post.

  1. I’ve only recently discovered the ‘add don’t subtract’ for myself. I started adding raw, organic foods into every meal for my Year of the Detox and now I CRAVE them. I haven’t craved fried foods for weeks, it feels fantastic! Nice post!


  2. One of my favorite lines is to share with people is “focus on adding health, not losing weight”. Nice post.


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