I probably say “It’s a marathon…not a sprint,” at least once a week to the people I speak and work with who want to make a change and achieve a healthier lifestyle.
I don’t doubt that many of them, from the individuals that need to follow through on what their doctor has recommended to the parents that know they need better balanced meals for their family, really want to make positive change. The problem is that they can’t endure the long and gradual process. They want it to come fast, be permanent and of course be easy. I remind them that anything truly worth achieving doesn’t happen that way and that healthful eating is undoubtedly one of those things.
I of course want to inspire lasting change and ensure success. I start by encouraging them to look backward to define where they are and how they got there. In speaking to a mom, I might find that she feels that at this point she needs a “family diet makeover.” I ask her if it was always that way or if things got off track when she returned to work and took on a difficult schedule? To the patient that can’t seem to follow through on their doctor’s advice, is it because they don’t know how? I try to help people reflect and understand our very personal barriers to change. We cannot be successful and alter our lifestyle in a positive way until we can understand and articulate what might stand in the way.
Once you have established what your barriers are to change, write down the goal, no matter how big it is. Then make yourself create ten or more initial steps that are necessary to achieving the ultimate goal. These personal steps may be small and should be very specific. They are your map to reaching the place you are trying to get to: a step-by-step navigation tool to ensure you stay on course.
Let’s take a look at what the process may look like for an individual who has been told that their health is on the line and that a better diet and weight loss are essential. Personal reflection may reveal that this individual actually already knows what they have to do but just can’t seem to follow through. Why? Maybe they feel isolated when they are “on a diet” or maybe they lack the necessary support at home. Possibly they haven’t accepted the total life change that is necessary or maybe they can’t seem to push eating well and exercising to the top of their daily priorities. Their initial list would probably start off looking something like this:
- Explain to family, closest friends and colleagues that better health must be new priority.
- Join a gym.
- Rearrange weekly schedule to create a set time to get to gym at least five times per week.
- Adjust work day to ensure leaving on time to make it to gym.
- Begin keeping a daily food log- writing down everything as it is eaten.
- Determine what day can be grocery shopping day.
- Pack lunch.
- Find at least three healthful recipes that can be made in 20-30 minutes.
- Cook dinner at home.
- Reflect on progress and prepare to make a new list.
Lastly, I suggest keeping this very important list near you at all times. Let it remind you why you are pushing yourself to go to the gym and engaging in other “not so easy” tasks. Remember that these everyday moves are part of your endurance event. And when you start feeling like change is coming slower than you wish, use your list as a reflection of how far you have come.
With my clients, I liken this process to building a house. Without a strong foundation, we are going to have a very weak structure that would not support the floors above. To me, the foundation is the process of reflection and proper goal setting. The floors of the house represent the progression of goals that are met as we reach the main goal of permanent change. Together they create a house of wellness that has us on our way to a healthier and longer life.