Tag Archives: motivation

Moving forward feels so much easier than backtracking . . .

This applies to more than just what happened recently on my way to the gym.  Let me explain.

My husband and I headed out to the gym together, with everything we needed for a quick workout . . . except – oh no! – my running shoes.  I discovered the oversight when we parked and I gathered everything:  Purse?  Check.  Phone?  Check.  Shoes for my workout?  Hmmm.  Gotta go back home.

That’s what this winter has done to me.  On the positive side, I am wearing boots more often; in the past, I have worn shoes and ended up tracking water and salt all over.  On the negative side, . . . well, my boots are really not the best for the treadmill.

As I drove back for the shoes, I had plenty of time to think.  I was irritated, really irritated!!  It was only 20 extra minutes, not a terrible delay, but it felt excruciating.  Why?  I decided that it was because I was back-tracking, moving away from my destination, not toward it.  (Interestingly, I had a huge mental shift in the 30 seconds between parking the car and heading back to the gym.)

I think it’s all about forward movement.  It just feels so much more positive and productive.   Even so, it is helpful to remember that we may actually learn more as we watch ourselves moving away from it.

This is true of any goal, but because I am a nutrition professional, I am especially interested in how this affects nutrition and health goals.  It feels wonderful to be “in charge” of choices, moving toward a more positive health state:  lower weight, lower cholesterol, or anything else.

The difficulty arises when something causes a change of course, and suddenly the goal looks very, very far away, and seems to get fainter and fainter the farther away it gets.  This is part of the process, but getting back to forward movement is the only way to get there.  What can you learn from the experience?  Learn something, or remind yourself of what you already know, and then turn that car around!

There is no sense in lamenting whatever caused the detour – in my case, forgetfulness – because it is over.  I could have given up and curled up at home with a book instead of going back to work out, but I turned around right away.  A few silent curse words and a tiny kick of the snow bank with my thick snow boot, and I was headed back with my shoes.  I even found myself thinking, I’m glad I have my boots on now, because that would have hurt if I had my running shoes on.

Black-and-White, Disguised as Gray

I keep thinking about a recent interaction with a client.  After a fairly significant weight loss – 20 pounds – she was stuck . . . couldn’t get motivated, and was in fact gaining.  Life threw her a curve ball – injury – causing the loss of mojo.

After looking at the plan she still thought she should follow (but wasn’t!), I could see that it was quite rigid and restrictive.  It was probably a struggle while she was losing, but she could manage it . . . it’s so much easier to do that when weight is coming off!  It was easy to see that without the weight loss to make it worthwhile, it was so hard to get back to it.

I suggested loosening up the plan a bit.  “I just can’t ‘gray it up’,” she told me.  “Whenever I loosen things up, I lose it!”

Hmm . . . this is what seemed so interesting to me.  If, in fact, she were thinking in gray terms (flexibly, realistically, humanly), she would have been more likely to keep moderate eating habits going, even if they were not by the book (or diet in this case).  I’m sure she would “lose it” (control, that is) less frequently if she were not so black and white in her thinking.

What was really happening:  She was viewing anything less than “perfect” as bad (the “black” in the black-and-white cycle).  She couldn’t seem to get back to “good” eating (the white side of it), so it all looked bleak . . . and, as a result of this thinking, the situation was much bleaker than a gray scenario ever would have been.

Truly gray thinking would have validated the change of circumstances and set some new guidelines (flexible ones) that took into account the new situation in which she found herself.  Maintenance would have been a more realistic goal until her injury healed, and maintenance is better than gaining.

Without the positive feedback the scale offered when she was able to follow a vigorous exercise program, the drive to follow a rigid eating program just wasn’t there!  This is where truly gray thinking would have helped by  making the eating plan less restrictive, making maintenance seem like a just and fair outcome.  In other word, if you are not sacrificing much, you do not expect as much in return – simple “return on investment” thinking applied to behavior change!

A Pea Coat Is Just a Pea Coat, or Is It?

Motivators are so individual.  I have seen people work toward health or weight loss goals with the incentive of “earning” a special bowl or vase they might not otherwise buy. . . or maybe they would, but somehow it is different when they “earn” it.  Others will work for mere stars on a chart.

One of my clients told me about his recent motivational technique, one that is working very nicely for him.  He gives himself money – tracked in a notebook log – for accomplishing certain behavior goals.  Not eating after a certain time at night earns a dollar amount, etc.

He applies his “earnings” to clothing purchases.  Granted they are items he needs and would probably buy anyway, but he explains that “it just feels more like I earned it.”

I love creative ideas like this.  The fact that he came up with the plan himself makes it even better – it is customized to his personal motivators.  We all can get discouraged – or just plain bored – working for a long time toward a goal.  It helps to offer a personalized “carrot” to keep us moving forward.

Is this just a game we can play with ourselves?  Of course, but who cares if it is effective.  There are plenty of mental games we play with ourselves that work against our goals.  Let’s take advantage of every opportunity to get mind games to work for us instead.  That’s what I think!

Find A Way That Resonates With YOU

How can you watch your eating in a way that really makes sense to you . . . that you just GET?  This is an important question.  The standard way is usually some form of food journaling that looks at calories or points or some other measure of energy intake.

I have seen this method work well for many people, especially if they use tracking when they really need it and learn other methods to make life easier in between.

Recently one of my clients tried a different approach.  Instead of tracking what she ate, she tracked her general feeling after eating.  She looked more at the experience of eating.  The question she asked herself after she ate was . . .

Did that feel kind?

What a great way to really notice the spirit of eating.  It can certainly be kind and nourishing, but it can also feel self-abusive, or at least somewhat less than supportive.  In the case of this individual, this is probably the biggest determinant of how healthy her eating will be, making it a brilliant method . . . for her.

We are such individuals, so it is important to work with your temperament and tendencies.  Forcing an artificial-feeling method on yourself is not useful.  In this case, this method worked brilliantly.  There is a more warm and fuzzy feeling attached to the whole process – for her – and the weight is coming off better than it had been before.  Hooray!!

Experiment if you don’t like how your current method is working, and remember that things change and we change.  What feels right today may not work as well in 6 months.  Remaining curious and kind – what a gift!

” . . . you just explode.”

It’s another year, another opportunity to find fresh hope, new inspiration, and novel ways to approach a healthier lifestyle.  I am on the hunt for motivational materials – quotes, pictures, videos, experiences – to share with my groups who approach another year of changing long-time habits (not easy!  not quick!  not always self-propelling!) AND to fuel my own improvements in 2013.

Thinking in the car about this, I drove by one of our beloved Wisconsin landmarks – a frozen custard fast food restaurant.  On the billboard outside, seductive flashes of light announced the specials:  Chicken Parmesan! . . . Butterfinger Blast!!!

Butterfinger Blast!!! – what an explosive name for a frozen custard treat!  Got me thinking about something that truly motivated me recently.  It was an obituary about the late Ray Bradbury, prolific author and obviously happy, high energy man.  Reading about his “explosion” of a life, it suddenly seemed laughable that food should be described using terms like “blast”, “fun”, and yes, even “explosive (taste)”.  And what about the term “lit” we use to describe the intoxicating effect of alcohol?  Read the obit (below), and see if you don’t agree that junk food and alcohol as feel-good substances are poor substitutes for the real thing – a truly LIT, WHITE HOT  life that EXPLODES into the world with the finest of our natural gifts.

Energy!  Light!!  Explosion!!!

Energy! Light!! Explosion!!!

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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