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Making the Change

Nancy Neithercut

Small Steps vs. a big leap

Research on change shows that people who take baby steps towards major life changes, and who have success and sometimes don’t, yet learn from each experience, are far more successful in the long run at making significant changes in their lives than people who have a smooth sail to their goals. Those who accomplish their goals too easily are often unprepared for the inevitable challenges life brings.

Sometimes you have to act as if you are motivated, even when you are not, as motivation often follows action. It is also very helpful if you have a trusted friend to hold you accountable, not to judge you, but someone with whom you can go over strategies, and congratulate you on your wins. It is many small steps, many small successes that will lead you to your goal.

Statement of determination

Firstly, you must make a statement of determination and write it down. It must be personal and specific. Not, ‘I will get healthier’, but ‘I will lose ten pounds and be a regular exerciser, I will fit into those clothes at the back of the closet’, and PICTURE yourself doing that. Make copies of this statement and have it everywhere and read it often. You are re-wiring your brain. Some people use their statement as a screen saver on their phone. This will gradually replace all the old and untrue ideas you have about yourself.

Plan!

For dietary changes, it is crucial to ‘clean your environment’ if you can. Toss out the unhealthy foods and fill your pantry and refrigerator with foods that promote health. If your family or housemates want to eat their foods, don’t try to convince them otherwise, for if they see you gaining health they will join you,… or not. You can set aside a place for your healthy foods: a place on the shelves and in the fridge.

Also you must prepare what you will say and do when faced with temptation, ‘oh, I am trying something new, so I am not eating that right now’, etc. You can also make some of your friends into allies, telling them what you are trying to do and ask for their support. Make sure NOT to suggest that what they are eating is detrimental to their health! With every friend it might be different. If some continue to sabotage your efforts, you might want to give them a bit of space until you feel stronger.

Many small successes lead to big successes

Once you have a small success, congratulate yourself!, your brain is changing! Even delaying the eating of cake for 30 seconds more than you would have before starts to re-wire your brain. Every time you think differently about something your brain is re-wiring, and like forging a new path in the woods, trees and bushes and brambles must be cleared until it is the default path.

Recognize the more challenging situations and prepare for the next ones, and consider trying new things. For example, when eating out, call first and ask if the restaurant can prepare something for you. Often everyone at the table looks at our food and remarks at how delicious and fresh it looks. Or you can look at the menu before on line, and see if there is anything you can eat. Usually you can find baked potatoes, salsa, or a salad bar without the oil containing prepared salads. You can always suggest a restaurant that you know has something you can eat. For birthdays, cook a fat free, plant based cake and take it with you to the party. (https://www.thespruceeats.com/vegan-low-fat-chocolate-applesauce-cake-3376680 but use a non stick pan ) and don’t take any home.

It is crucial to always have foods you want to eat with you, and always have easily available healthy foods. Baked potatoes, fruit, cans of beans, etc. Never be tempted because you were not prepared.

Think of picking an apple tree, you don’t get a tall ladder out and start at the top, you pick the ones that are easy to reach.

However, if at the end of the year you have only picked ten apples, you might want to up your game a bit!

That is why I suggest, for those just starting to exercise, ‘walk out your door and walk for ten minutes and turn around’. People who start an exercise program with unrealistic goals do not seem to be able to meet even small goals. By starting small, you learn how to fit exercise into your day. Give yourself interim reachable goals. Be specific. ‘I will walk twenty minutes five days this week’ and write it on your calendar. Reward yourself. ‘Yay! I did it!’ You can feel like a winner, because you are! Those who believe that they will look like wonder woman in a short time will be disappointed and quit.

Specific short term reasonable goals

Short term goals need to be established. It can be ‘I will walk tomorrow or eat healthy tomorrow, this is when I will walk, or this is what I will eat’ and put it on your calendar in pen. Then when you do it, why, ‘I have done it!’ And you have!

Next, ‘I will walk five times this week’, then, ‘I will walk five days every week for a month’. Plan on a reward when you do it. Some people plan to buy new exercise clothes at the end of a month. Some people work with the opposite, and plan to give money to the opposite political party if they don’t meet their goals! You know better than anyone what makes you tick, you just have to pay attention.

Often future rewards seem hazy when faced with temptation, and you cannot always avoid temptation. However how does it really make you feel when you skip your exercise? How does watching tv and mindlessly eating unhealthy food really make you feel? Instead eat some fruit and use a treadmill or cheap plastic stepper (my favorite) and watch tv!

Remember, this is a lifestyle change, not a diet and exercise program, and it is part of your life. YOU must make it a priority.

Eventually this all becomes habit, and you need not even think about it, I promise!

Perfection is your enemy.

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