In my recent survey I asked what issues people would like to discuss with a life coach. The overwhelming response was “wellness (including weight and fitness)” with over 50% of respondents saying that they would be interested in working on this area.
So, we all know what we need to do to increase our wellness, control our weight, or improve our fitness (eat healthily, move more). So why do we not do it and why do we feel that we need help?
It’s not as simple as just having the willpower. Although we all know people who just one day decide and don’t stop until they’ve reached their goal, and maybe don’t stop then either. For some of these people there has been a trigger moment in making this decision, such as a health scare. For most of us though who can’t summon up that type of willpower, it has a lot to do with our mindset (I can’t versus I can) and our habits. I have read various things on habit and have seen advice such as it takes 21 days to 90 days to break a habit. A lot of people tend to give up in the first week or so (I can’t do it, it’s too hard, it’s just much easier to stay here on the couch in my comfort zone). Think of New Year’s Resolutions and how quickly we can fall off the wagon. Also, we tend to set goals which are too ambitious: trying to go cold turkey on the biscuits or going to the gym at 6.30am, 4 days a week. It’s too much to maintain and we ultimately fail. We’ve taken on too much and have set ourselves unrealistic goals. If you haven’t taken real exercise in years, you’re not going to be able to just go out there and run a 5k, and in fact you probably shouldn’t.
So, what are the more do-able, usable strategies that we can implement now, today, this week and which will set us up for success? Here’s a menu to choose from!
Change your goal from negative to positive. So instead of “I must lose weight”, say “I would like to be healthier and increase my fitness level.”
Why? Why do you want this? To be healthier, to feel better, to have more energy, to be a good example to your children? Focus on the why.
Write it down! Sounds too simple to be true, but the research backs it up. You are 42% more likely to attain a goal if you write it down. (Research by Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University in California)
Visualise yourself as that healthier, fitter person you want to be. Visualise yourself enjoying the exercise and healthy food.
Increase your water intake. Drink a glass of water when you get up, before you go to bed and anytime you are near the sink (to wash dishes, boil the kettle etc)
Small steps - Take the stairs not the lift, go for a walk at lunchtime. We’ve all heard it before but get off the bus a stop or 2 earlier. Walk the dog, go out with the kids, walk to work, or walk part of the way, get out.
Get a fitness tracker and get counting your steps – it’s addictive!
Buddy up with someone and that way you will have someone to be accountable to and be less likely to pull out or quit. Or join a class and pre-pay for several sessions.
Eat more mindfully, savouring the taste and texture of food, eat slowly.
Know that resistance is normal. Most people feel that “Ugh, I don’t want to do this”, but concentrate on how great you’ll feel afterwards.
Thinking of having a biscuit, chocolate bar, packet of crisps? Pause for 30 seconds before you open the cupboard or package. Ask yourself, “Do I really want this?”, “How do I feel?” If the answer is “hungry” then pause to consider if there is anything more nutritious to eat. If the answer is “bored”, “emotional”, “upset”, “lonely” or something else then identify your trigger and see if you can distract yourself or replace it with something else (drink a glass of water, go to another room, sing a song, jog on the spot, read a book) something to break the association.
(If the emotion, upset or whatever your trigger is something which is negatively affecting your life on an ongoing basis then please talk to a GP or counsellor and seek help)
Ultimately, it’s about creating a more positive mindset and creating new habits to replace the old.Have patience. Try conscious deliberate thinking.It’s going to take time for your brain to learn new thoughts and habits, but new connections will forge in your brain (it’s neuroscience baby!) and new habits will form.And be self-compassionate – that means not beating yourself up for having a biscuit or 4!
Where coaching can help here is in numerous ways:
A coach can help you focus on your why and help you set your goal and stick to it.
You have someone to be accountable to. If you have another coaching session in 4 weeks’ time, you will want to report progress. And you’re paying for it, so you’re financially invested too!
A coach can help you turn your self-limiting beliefs (I can’t) into empowering beliefs (I can).
Coaching can help you focus on your thoughts, to turn them around into something more positive with more meaning to you.
A coach can help you identify your triggers, so that you become aware of them and help you come up with strategies to deal with them.