Tag Archives: attitude

Hopeful Thinking: What a Great Strategy for Healthier Eating!

A recent e-mail from a client sounded like a series of apologies:  She has been struggling to get back on track with her eating.

“I didn’t . . . , I wasn’t able to keep my commitment to . . . , I have really struggled . . . “

Then I got to the last sentence, and thought, “YES!  That’s great!”  A simple word makes such a difference.  That word is “yet.”

“I keep saying I will eat right tomorrow, but that tomorrow has not come . . . yet.”

Brilliant word!  “Yet” is filled with hope and promise.  It leaves the door open to improvement.  That makes a world of difference.

Build Strong Mental Skills to Enhance Weight Loss Efforts

I picked up a recent issue of Runner’s World magazine, intrigued by the teaser on the cover:  “Beyond the Mantra – Transform Your Running with Your Mind”.  Hmm, sounds like something I talk about often, but in reference to eating habits and weight loss.  “Transform Your Eating with Your Mind” would be the title I could use to describe what I think is so important about changing habits.

The article is great.  I would link to it, but it requires a subscription to access the online version, so I will summarize the points I think are most helpful.

Coach Dean Hebert gives these tips (Comments in parentheses are mine.):

Select a performance goal.  Decide what you want to achieve by the end of your training . . .  (Yes, set a weight loss goal.  Make it realistic.)

ID your weaknesses.  (Do you habitually eat at night after dinner, even when you are physically satisfied?  Do you eat most meals out?  Maybe you are allowing yourself to get over-hungry too often?)

Set process goals.  These are the specific, measurable actions you do every week to help you reach your performance goal.  (I have my weight loss group members set a weekly goal that is not an end point goal, but a behavior-based goal instead.  It might be not eating after a certain time at night or eating a vegetable and salad with dinner every night.)

Develop focus tools.  (Anything that helps to calm anxiety and keep you in the moment is effective.  Breathing deeply or positive self-talk are a couple of examples.  These tools will not prevent all overeating, but with practice you will improve.  That is the key.)

Sync it up.  Train your brain as you train your body.  (Keep a journal of your successes with weekly goals and which tools were helpful.  Noticing your self-talk will keep you progressing away from negativity.)

Practice, practice, practice.  (This is basic.  You must practice new habits to make them stick.  This includes habitual thought processes.  If you want to be more positive, you have to practice that way of thinking.  As you go, make changes to your eating plan as needed to increase your success rate.  Continued practice – without judgement – with give you the self-knowledge to recognize your needs.)

Reinforce process goals.  (For example, if your weakness has been eating for comfort at night, zero in on this time and take note of techniques that work for you.)

Prep for race day.  (Prep for your meals – and your life.  This means you must make sure you have food available, so go to the grocery store and do a little planning.  When you eat out, check the menu ahead of time so you will have a plan.  This need not be lots of work.  Start where you are and work toward improvement.)

Visualize executing your race plan.  (See yourself making better choices at the grocery store and at home/work.  Visualize yourself stopping when your body has had enough.  Whatever it is you are practicing, it doesn’t hurt to practice mentally as well.)

Stick with routine.  (Routine helps build habits.  You don’t have to eat the same thing day after day, but if you have a general pattern of eating, it will feel easier.  You won’t have to make so many last minute decisions.  That can be stressful!)

I love what Hebert says about what we can control and what we can’t:

You don’t control if you run 3:30.  You only control the steps that improve your chances of hitting that time, from how well you train to whether you take in fluids on race day.

BINGO!  I constantly remind my clients that the scale is not a controllable entity. (Damn scale, right!?)  It does not always make sense.  What you CAN control is what you do to get to your goal weight.  Are  you making healthy food available and keeping over-tempting treats out of your environment?  Are you eating an appropriate amount of food (enough to feel just satisfied) most of the time.

Hebert also encourages looking at the big picture when “keeping score” of your efforts.  I like to tell clients to put away the magnifying glass when looking at how they are doing.  You only need to improve overall, not every single day.  Step back and take a broader look at your progress.  Better yet, think of yourself as the earth and see how things look from the space shuttle.  You will miss the little bumps and disappointments.  Then you can see what you are really accomplishing.

Living Above The Line

I love this visual for attitudes! It certainly applies to improving health habits, including eating. In case this is not obvious, let’s look at how each “above the line” attitude helps, and how each “below the line” attitude hurts.

  • Creative – Being creative helps solve patterns that are not helping you. Creativity allows for better meal planning and avoidance of excessive temptation.
  • Generous – Are you stingy with feeding yourself? If you feel overly deprived, it is only a matter of time before the pendulum swings back toward excess. Being generous with others has also proven to be a great way to lift mood, which in turn lifts your ability to take care of yourself.
  • Hopeful – Do I need to expand on this?! Without hope, what good is any attempt?
  • Positive – A “can do” attitude – seeing the glass half full – keeps brain chemistry optimal. That makes everything possible.
  • Optimistic – Ditto
  • Energetic – Momentum comes from energy. Without it, not much gets done – no cooking, no workouts . . .
  • Loving – Are you worthy of good health? Of course you are. Believing that is the most basic way to exhibit self-love. With self-love, loving others is possible.

_______________________________________________ (the line!)

  • Angry – Anger creates reaction, not action. (An angry reaction to a weight on the scale often propels a binge or causes people to quit trying altogether.) From a place of calm, action can progress toward a goal.
  • Sad – Think of a deep, deep hole. That’s not the easiest place to work on changes.
  • Powerless – If you don’t think you can do it, guess what? You can’t.
  • Negative – Negative thoughts lead to negative actions. This is never a good way to improve.
  • Jealous – Does it feel good to envy someone else’s situation or body? “She eats whatever she wants and looks like THAT!” First of all, keep in mind that you never really know how someone else lives behind closed doors. Secondly, you have your metabolism and your body, and someone else’s situation does not have anything to do with that. Jealousy is self-destructive and takes your focus off of what you can do to help yourself.
  • Fearful – Fears cause inaction. Inaction causes NO CHANGE.
  • Pessimistic – OK, Debbie Downer, pick yourself up and start thinking more positively! Expect bad results, and that is exactly what you will get.

Living Above The Line

I was recently introduced to the concept of living above and below the line and wanted to share it with you. While many of us have heard these principles before, thinking about being above/below the line is a great way to visualize our patterns.

When we live above the line, we see life from a positive place and are hopeful, creative, and optimistic. When we live below the line, our attitudes are more negative and we can feel powerless, sad, angry, fearful or hopeless.

It is important to remember that we are in charge of how we see the world. While we are continually faced with challenges, the key is recognizing when certain thoughts enter our stream of consciousness and working on how we react to these challenges. To quote Epictetus – “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

For example, lets say…

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Life as a Run

I am so excited to be able to run again!  There was a long time – a couple of years, really – when I found myself struggling to get through even a mile without having pain in my knee.  I felt defeated every time I had to stop.  I felt so good otherwise, and other activities left me feeling strong and limitless.  It irritated me. Continue reading

Attitude is Key for Maintaining Weight Loss: Do Ya Think?!

There is no substitute for a positive attitude and confidence!

While leafing through my latest professional journal, I was happy to see research support for what I think is so important – the attitudes and behavior skill-building needed to maintain weight loss.  Let’s not forget how easy it is to lose weight relative to how hard it can be for many people to maintain the loss.  If long-term strategies are viewed as optional (“I’ll figure that out once I lose the weight”),  aggressive short-term efforts usually end in weight regain. Continue reading