A few years ago I was an avid climber…Well, I was a climbing gym climber. I faithfully went to the climbing gym two or three times a week and loved it. I loved the challenge, the workout, and feeling strong. Without fail, every January, my favorite gym would be packed. We’d be packed in like sardines, and I had to wait in line for my favorite routes. And then, without fail, the gym would be back to just the regulars by February. It happened every year, like clockwork. I know everyone that came to the gym in January was keen and ready to make a real health change. They wanted to feel fit and strong, and a climbing gym is a very fun way to accomplish just that (you should have seen my biceps!). So, why didn’t this change stick? January is an interesting month. We just had a very busy December, but we generally get a bit of time off to relax and recover. Time to think of all the things we’d like to do differently next year.
In January, we’re filled with lots of willpower, excitement, and ready to tackle everything we want to change.And then we go back to work or back to our normal schedule. Life gets busy and weeks go by. All of those best intentions fall to the wayside, and in its place come feelings of guilt and a bunch of “shoulds”. I “should” have been able to do this, I “should” have followed through with that, etc.
Let’s start 2018 a little differently. Let’s add kindness and understanding to our resolution list.Kindness toward ourselves doesn’t mean staying put and not achieving your health goals. It means giving yourself a bit more time, patience, and a simple technique to make your resolutions stick. It’s not a change in you as much as just a change in perspective.
The technique: Find a change that you feel 95% confident that you can accomplish.That’s it. Just make it a smaller or easier change and do it. Once that change becomes a habit try another one. Keep that up and in a year you could be right where you’ve always dreamed of being – eating more healthy foods and exercising regularly. The reason why the climbing gym worked for me but not for other new climbers was that I found it easy and fun. The gym was easy to get to after work and I had fun when I was there. It was so easy that I couldn’t talk myself out of it. I only stopped when I moved across the country, and that made the commute a little bit too long. It was my easy change, but it wasn’t necessarily the easy change for everyone.
What this looks like in real lifeAdmittedly, I’m a very slow changer. So you may think that my change ideas are “too easy”. But easy is good! I’ve changed my diet from a totally sugar-filled processed food diet to one that’s filled with healthy whole foods and lots of veggies (the kind of diet you’d expect of a nutritionist). Slow and easy definitely works, I’m proof of that. If you have a similar goal of eating more veggies or whole foods, a common change is to go on a 7 – 30 day “cleanse.” All of your favorite foods are forbidden so you can learn how to eat more veggies. This works, but rarely permanently. What usually happens is you feel great for a few days or weeks. But eventually, the cravings set in. Then comes the guilt of “I shouldn’t give in to these cravings”. And then your willpower gets weak—it’s like a muscle—it will get weaker over time. Finally, you give in. The longer you wait, the more you want that craving. And now you’re back to your old eating pattern. Sound familiar?
Try this instead!
Look at your overall diet with honest eyes. How many veggies are you eating in a day?
Add one more serving of veggies to your diet. That’s it. Just one.
When that’s easy, add another one (veggie or fruit).
Cut it down to a step that’s so easy you can’t say no. Then do it. That’s real change.This technique is something you can use for most changes, it works for everything, not just diet or exercise. And you will set yourself up for success. The only willpower you’ll need is to keep adding a new change once in awhile. No guilt and no binging on forbidden foods, because nothing is forbidden! It’s a new year for a new perspective. Happy 2018!
Lisa Kilgour is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN), founder of LisaKilgour.com, and a faculty member at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition.