We've all been there. We wake up on January 1, infused with the fire of healthy desires. This will be the year I drop those unwanted pounds. This will be the year I make it to the gym every single day. This will be the year I overhaul my diet and get on the right food track.
But then ... nothing happens. We don't follow through, and so we continue to set the same goals year after year. Even if we're temporarily successful, most of us will end up falling off the wagon at one point or another.
I'm coming to this from a place of experience: A little over four years ago, I weighed 440 pounds. I was sick, miserable, morbidly obese and didn't think I could ever change it. I'd set the same goal year after year and I'd given up within a month. But then I hit rock bottom and knew that if something didn't change, I would die. So I made a decision to change, one that has lasted and been successful, one that saved my life.
Having failed so many times, I now know (from the other side of success) what it was that set me up to fail. Here are the three major reasons and ways of thinking that automatically sabotage any health goals you set for yourself, along with new ways of thinking that will set you up for success.
1. You're not setting goals for the right reasons.
Sticking to your goals shouldn't be about rewards or punishments. In his book about motivation, author Daniel Pink picks apart what we think motivates us versus what actually works and moves us toward a goal. According to him, there are three major inspirations and motivations:
- Autonomy: the desire to rule over our own lives
- Mastery: the urge to get better at something that matters
- Purpose: yearning to do something in the service of something larger than ourselves
You'll notice a common thread between these three motivations: they don't rely on an outside force determining whether to punish or reward us with something tangible. Instead, they're intrinsic rewards, things you want for yourself.
When my doctor told me I would die if I didn't start taking better care of myself, it was a jumpstart, but I ultimately failed when attempting to lose weight. I had made so many promises to myself that I'd get healthy for my daughter, my family, everyone around me. But it wasn't until I realized that I deserved to be healthy and happy, that I deserved to live, that my decision finally stuck.
2. You're making too many decisions.
Did you know that your ability to make decisions is like a bank account? Every single day, you wake up with a balance in your decision making checking account. The tougher the decision, the more decision money you spend. All day, you're spending "money" until you find yourself low or broke.
At that point, your instincts take over and instead of making decisions, life is making them for you. You shut down and do what's easy. Before you know it, you're at a bar enjoying happy hour and telling yourself you'll get back on the diet tomorrow.
Decision fatigue is so real that one study found parole boards were more likely to grant parole to a prisoner who appealed in the morning than one in the afternoon for the exact same crime. In the fight for health, the old adage about not shopping hungry is valid: you need to make your food decisions before you're hungry. So how do you decide to live a healthy lifestyle without having to think too much or make tiring decisions?
- Pack your lunch every single night. If your office is anything like mine, people start talking about what they are going to do for lunch as soon as they walk in the door. Pack your lunch and avoid the rat race.
- Some jobs require dining out. If you have a lunch or dinner meeting planned, look at the menu before you show up and figure out the best way to stay on your meal or nutritional plan. If you make the decision when you get there, you're liable to pick something fast (i.e. let your hunger make the decision for you and you and I both know that hunger rarely picks the spinach).
- Make Sunday your food prep day. Do all your shopping and plan out your entire week.
- If exercise is an important component to your health plan, schedule your workouts for the week and keep those dates with your gym.
3. You think pain and misery is the only way to succeed.
You know that old adage, "no pain, no gain"? It's erroneous. Exercise shouldn't leave you sore and miserable, and food shouldn't be impossible to swallow because you hate the taste. If something is making you feel wretched, you shouldn't do it.
When I first started my journey, I set a goal to run a marathon by the time I was 35. And while I completed my first triathlon 18 months later (and at my goal weight), I realized soon after that I hated running. It just wasn't for me, and that's OK. Now I choose to focus on being active in ways I love, like hiking, martial arts and weight training.
The same goes for food. Don't get caught up in chasing the latest superfood in the pursuit of health. Eat clean, real, whold foods, but also make sure to find something you enjoy!
I've kept my weight off now successfully for over three years and success is no accident. I did this for me, I plan my meals in advance as much as possible, I eat healthy food and participate in exercise I enjoy. If you've already given up on this year, there's no need to wait for 2016. You have all the tools you need for success within you, you just need to find and employ them.
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