No Need to Worry About What You “Just Can’t Do”

I am amazed at how many more healthy changes are possible for people if they stop worrying about what they can’t do.  I usually respond to these comments something like this:  “That’s fine.  I’m not going to try to get you to do that.  What would you feel more comfortable changing?”

More often than not, they eventually change what they thought they couldn’t, but it is the result of progressive successes – all in good time!  There is a saying that is so appropriate:  “Nothing breeds success like success.”  I believe it is the feeling of success, not the rate of change, that is most important for changes to keep moving forward.

If you have many opportunities for improving your eating habits, the whole bundle will probably seem overwhelming.  I see people who drink nothing but soda and eat little else but processed foods, many of them high in salt, sugar, and fat.  The starting point is often choosing one place to start.  Maybe that means replacing half of the soda with water; maybe that is all that seems doable at first.  That’s OK.  I know it is just the beginning, even if they tell me, “I’ll NEVER change THAT!”

Worrying about what we think we should change is unproductive at best.  At worst, it can actually inhibit change.  As I said, without the worry, a little success just keeps the momentum going.  Who knows where you will end up?  That’s not the important part.  I know it will be in a healthier place!

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4 responses to “No Need to Worry About What You “Just Can’t Do”

  1. Hi Kim,
    Do you think this idea would work for someone newly diagnosised with diabetes? I know there’s needs to be a quick course of action in some cases but do you think by counceling this way they will feel they have more control over their diagnosis? Do we need to create a little fear so the seriousness of the diagnosis is understood?

    • kimthedietitian

      I think that when someone has more motivation as a result of a diagnosis like diabetes, they suddenly feel more able to do more. That’s great, and then they should do whatever they feel is realistic for them. Still, I have seen people who are not any more motivated when physical issues arise. They either feel overwhelmed or they just don’t care. I don’t think anyone can do much for the ones that don’t care, but the reality is that I can only get someone to do something that they feel able to do. Yes, stressing the importance of changes, and explaining why they will help, can be helpful, but pushing too hard can cause a person to feel overwhelmed. So, long answer to your question, but the real key is that changes should be realistic FOR NOW, and FOR THE PERSON INVOLVED. The point is that motivation can improve with time if success is part of the ongoing formula. I try to avoid the situations where someone tells me they can do something because they think that will please me. Then they go home and don’t follow the guidelines. Baby steps are better than standing still.

  2. That’s so true. Unless you want help, no one can help you. When I did a shadowing project, I did struggle inside about how I’d handle a situation with a difficult patient. As a matter of fact our first patient was. It was an older gentleman that was clearly afraid. Of course he acted like a big tough guy, but I saw right through it. The words I kept hearing him being told over and over during his consultation were “you have to”, “you have to.” But I kept thinking that if, like you said, he was asked “what can you do?” He might have been more responsive instead of rebelious. He acted like he was backed into a corner and I could see that his wife was very dissappointed in him. Not a good start.

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