It’s almost June. That means it has been nearly six months since you ushered in the new year with plans to improve your health and fitness in 2015. Now is the perfect time to do a midyear inventory to be sure that your intentions are being followed and to address tweaks that may need to be made to your lifestyle change plan. If your intentions have fallen by the wayside, it’s time to look at what psychological barriers have gotten in the way.
I have guided you through a number of topics with this goal in mind: long-lasting weight-management results. They have included investing in yourself, your thinking, managing stress, health versus appearance, accepting things you can’t change, dealing with photos and mirrors, dealing with anger, and society’s beauty standards.
Let’s get down, then, to that midyear inventory. Here are five steps:
1. You should have already zeroed in on your problem areas and followed the suggestions from past columns with a positive, flexible and encouraging attitude. What progress have you made in changing the things that have gotten in the way of your health and fitness success? Any amount of positive change deserves credit. What you should be looking for are steps in the right direction, even if you wanted to have made more progress by now. For example, you may still be eating more nighttime snacks than you want, but maybe on some nights you don’t have any and, when you do, perhaps you’re eating significantly fewer snacks. That’s great! Keep going. Rather than finding fault and wanting to quit, acknowledge that habits are hard to change and reinforce this to yourself so you’ll be motivated to continue.
2. Objectively look at the areas that need the most attention either because they’re areas in which you’ve made the least progress or areas that have given you the greatest difficulty. This is not the time to tell yourself it’s just too hard, or that you must not have what it takes. It’s time to be intelligent, creative and nonjudgmental. Perhaps you’ve done quite well with eating more nutritiously but you’re still not moving enough for good health and weight management. It’s important to clearly define what specific behaviors are getting in the way of your progress rather than just focusing on weight or size.
3. Now that you know what behaviors to focus on, it’s time to put on your psychological thinking cap. Take a deep breath, relax and ask yourself, “Why am I having a hard time making changes in this area?” Don’t expect to have the answer immediately, and don’t get frustrated. Instead, let your mind explore the question until it starts to come up with possible reasons. Each time you come up with a possible reason, ask yourself, “Does this explain it all or is there something missing?” If there’s something missing, keep probing. Some of the reasons you come up with might include poor priority setting (you’re not giving the behavior you want to change enough priority), unrealistic expectations (you expect things to change with little effort on your part), lack of information (you honestly don’t know how to go about changing things or have exhausted your fund of knowledge) and poor time or stress management (you’re overfilling your schedule, leaving no time to work on your problem behavior). Whatever the reason, you need to brainstorm to find it.
4. Now that you have figured out which behavior change plans need adjusting and have come up with the most likely reasons you haven’t made more progress, redesign your plan. Write down specific goals. (Don’t write something general — “I’m going to do better” — or something that only addresses weight — “I’m going to lose 10 pounds.”) The goals should read something like this: “I am going to strive to walk an hour at least five times per week. I will schedule it into my calendar each weekend and treat it like I would a doctor appointment so that I don’t allow other things to interfere.”
5. Finally, think of some effective rewards to motivate you to follow your new plan. For example, I like gardening so much that if I make letting myself garden contingent on accomplishing a goal, chances are good that I will achieve that goal. Right now, in fact, I’m writing this article so that I can get outside to garden. Find your “personal motivator” and use it to nudge you to change.
Take these five steps to make the remainder of 2015 about even more positive change, better health and fitness, and a feeling of accomplishment.
Previously published in The Tampa Bay Times