Episode 320 – Figuring Out Where to Aim Your Health ChangesPosted on February 12, 2018
A couple of weeks ago I got a phone call from a potential client. Like many of these phone calls it went something like this,
Hi, I’m out of shape and I need to lose weight, I’m really interested in the services you offer I have kids and I don’t have time to get to the gym, but if someone could come to my house a couple times a week that would help me stay focused and accountable. I mean I realize that losing weight is mostly nutrition, but I know if I exercise then I will eat less because I won’t want to ‘waste’ my exercise. Plus, I already know what I should be eating and how much I should be eating, I’m just not doing it.
I want to focus on that last statement for a minute, I already know what I should be eating and how much I should be eating I’m just not doing it.
We get this statement a lot, we hear it from many of our private clients, we hear it from businesses we work with and present to and I hear it a lot on the phone when speaking with potential new clients – I know what to do, I’m just not doing it
A lot of you listening right now have probably said something like that or maybe you’re even saying it right now. Which leads me to this question for you – If you know what to do, but you’re just not doing it, is it what you should be doing? I know it’s a bit philosophical and possibly confusing so I’ll try it again, If you know what you should be doing, but you’re just not doing it, is it what you should be doing? In other words if you’re having so much trouble doing something or consistently doing something is that the right thing for you to be changing?
For example, let’s say at some point in the past you decided you wanted or needed to lose weight and that cutting out refined carbohydrates was the best way for you to do that. At first you were gungho and lost a few pounds and that motivated you to continue, so you did and you lost more and more weight so much weight that you said to yourself ‘I did it, I lost all the weight that I wanted to lose.’ Fast forward a couple weeks or months and you’re at a birthday party for a friend and the cake comes out, last month you would have been a ‘hard no’ and not eaten the cake, but it’s a month later and you say to yourself, you know what I’ve lost all me weight, I’ve been good for a few months I’ll just have one piece. And you know what that is absolutely fine, I always have a piece of cake at a friends birthday and would be a hypocrite if I said otherwise. Anyways, you enjoy the cake on the weekend which is fine, then Monday rolls around and a co-worker has brought in a box of doughnuts and left them in the lunchroom for everyone, because hey it’s Monday and it’s going to be a long week. You see this box of doughnuts and you say to yourself, hmm I would like one of those doughnuts, but I’m not going to eat them because I don’t eat refined carbohydrates anymore and you walk right on by them, then you’re in the lunchroom a second time and they’re just sitting there out in the open, with no one guarding them and you think, I’m not eating that, but I am kind of hungry and might like a treat later, then you walk by a 3rd time and they’re still there and you think I’m not going to eat that, but if they’re still there by the end of the day, maybe I’ll have one, I don’t want them to go to waste, then the end of the day rolls around and you walk by them a 4th time and see there are still a couple in the box and you’re starting to get a little antsy and you say this to yourself – You know what I’ve been good for so long and I had a piece of cake on the weekend and nothing terrible happened to me, I didn’t gain any weight, what’s wrong with eating a doughnut? So you eat the doughnut and again there nothing is wrong with that doughnut, in fact I played this exact game at a Christmas party early in December and I ate the last doughnut, which if you’ve been listening to the last couple of episodes you’ll know that I had a bit of a slide after that until the end of the first week in January.
Which is what happens in many cases and for most people that decide they’re going to cut out all refined carbohydrates entirely, it works well for a while, but ultimately in your real life you’re going to get put into situations where you’re going to want to eat refined carbohydrates and no amount of willpower is going to save you from it and when it happens it often signals to you the beginning of a pattern that eating these refined carbohydrates again is okay, even though in this example it was our chosen way to lose weight and we successfully lost the weight.
I used cake and doughnuts because they are relatively obvious foods most people should at least try to minimize, but if it was someone trying to eat less fat and was successfully losing weight doing that, the example could have just as easily been bacon for breakfast on the weekend and honey roasted peanuts at work or it could be more subtle, I was too busy to make a salad to take to work for lunch so I bought a sub sandwich instead. It’s not an unreasonable leap for someone to go from eating salad everyday for lunch to a sub, simply because it feels more convenient and disguises itself as a healthy alternative even though it’s probably not.
We all play these games or run these stories in our mind about food, some of it‘s right, some of it’s wrong and some of it is just downright confusing, regardless of that, our narrative gives us a story about why a food is good, why a food is bad, why we should or shouldn’t eat certain types of food. We put food in these buckets and depending on our mood, our goals, our social interactions and habits we decide what types of foods we should eat for a specific outcome, some examples of this might be, if I’m with friends then I have to have a beer, if I’m trying to lose weight I have to eat salads and not refined carbohydrates or if I’m at a birthday party I have to eat cake. All kinds of factors will play into the types of food we eat or the food choices we make and the circumstances under which we make them.
If we go back to this original statement, ‘You know what to do, but you’re just not doing it,’ it might be time to re-categorize your buckets or create new strategies so that the foods and activities in your ‘I’m just not doing it bucket,’ get transferred into your, ‘I’m doing it bucket.’
Let’s say you’re running this current story through your mind, ‘I want to lose weight, therefore I cannot eat refined carbohydrates.’ But for whatever reason you find it challenging or have a tendency to follow the same pattern of it working for a while, but you can’t consistently stay with it and fall back into the habit of eating refined carbohydrates again and again.
If that’s the case we need to look at why you’re unable to avoid them:
Is it because you’re constantly in social situations where these foods are omnipresent?
Is it because you like to reward yourself with sweet treats every once in a while?
Is it because you crave sweet food at night and just need that little something?
If it’s one of those reasons, then keeping the ‘I shouldn’t eat refined carbohydrates’ in your I shouldn’t eat this food to lose weight bucket is a good choice, you just need to find strategies that make it as inconvenient as possible or some good management strategies for when these foods or thrust into your face.
If you’re in a position that requires you to go to a lot of meetings or social events where there’s always muffins and danishes then you may have to deploy some strategies like always keeping a coffee or water in one hand and a napkin in the other.
If you like to reward yourself with a sweet treat, it might be a better idea to reward yourself with some clothes, some new makeup or maybe a new cooking appliance that supports your new lifestyle instead of hindering it.
If it’s because you crave something sweet at night maybe you need to just not buy anything sweet, but always have fruit on hand and have the rule that at night you can eat as much sweet food as you want, as long as it’s fruit – it’s not perfect, but it’s way better than eating a bag of chocolate covered almonds, even the small bag.
But what if you’re over eating refined carbohydrates for one of these following reasons:
You’re tired at the end of the day and the only thing you have the energy to prepare is to boil some pasta and throw a can of tomato sauce on it. Or
You have a partner or children who refuse to change how they’re eating so refined carbohydrates are always available and you just can’t kick the habit of eating them.
If either of these situations sound familiar, even though you recognize refined carbs are a food you shouldn’t be eating, maybe you’re not ready to move them into the I shouldn’t eat that food bucket, because you’re circumstances don’t allow for it yet, and it may make more sense to focus on good sleep hygiene or having a good bedtime routine so you’re well rested instead of targeting the refined carbohydrates first.
Or you may have to have a candid conversation with your partner about the kind of food you both keep around the house and try to get them onboard first and then once you get them onboard you can strategize with them about how to reduce your refined carb intake together, so you’re working as a team instead of against one another.
Now, practically speaking what does this mean for you or maybe a better way to put this is how can you identify your current buckets and how do you re-organize them in a way that helps you make the changes you want?
Here’s what I want you to do, I want you to write out all the activities and foods you would do and eat for your perfect day from the time you wake-up, until the time you go to sleep. What are all the things you would do in a given day to give you the most amount of energy, to help you feel the strongest that you want to feel, to help you be the fittest, slimmest or most muscular version of yourself. What is the first thing you do when you wake up, do you check your email, do some push-ups, brush your teeth, what do you do? What do you eat for breakfast or do you skip breakfast because intermittent fasting seems like it will work for you? When you get to work do you just sit at your desk all day or do you set an alarm to have breaks, do you create a walking meetings only policy, where if someone wants to have a meeting with you, you have to go for a walk to do it, what do you eat for lunch, what kind of snacks do you have, what are you drinking all day, do you have a formal workout at some point or just build activity in throughout your day, when you get home what do you have for dinner, what do you do after dinner, watch t.v, read a book, go for a family walk, what time would you go to bed at, do you have a bedtime routine or just simply lay down and fall asleep.
Creating this list does a couple of things:
It creates your – What I have to do to be the healthiest version of myself bucket and
It creates a physical target that you can aim at and move towards.
Now I know what a lot of you are thinking or will be thinking, I get it Jonathan, but this is a really big list of things I should be doing and you’re right it probably is and what most people do is they would try to tackle this list and make all these changes in one fell swoop, but as an astute and experienced person you’ll understand that approach almost always leads to failure which is why you tackle one at a time, using your be better mind-set like we’ve talked about in Episodes – 2, 128, 241 and 309.
Yes, progress will be slower on the front end and it may feel a bit frustrating at first, but being able to stick with one change at a time will give you focus, which will exponentially increase your chances of successfully making that change stick and when that change has become permanent, you get a bump in motivation, the chance to briefly celebrate that small win and the opportunity to pursue your next target with confidence.