Strategies for lifestyle changes: Give yourself credit

As mentioned in an email post a few days ago, one of the mottos that I live my life by is "you get more of what you focus on". This means if you focus on good things, you'll see more of them and your life will become attuned to see the positives.


This is important when we are making lifestyle changes.  It's all too easy to get bogged down with the times when we slip or don't eat according to our plan, or forget to exercise.  But focussing on these negative aspects isn't as helpful as focussing on what we are doing right.

It is much better to tell ourselves "good job" or "well done" for those times in the day when we are successful and stick to our eating plan or lifestyle change.  Doing so builds our self-confidence and proves that we can take control and exert self-discipline.


In a study at the University of Pittsburgh, participants lost more weight if they practiced skills that increased their confidence, compared to participants who didn't acknowledge their successes.

Unsuccessful dieters tend to focus too much on their mistakes, viewing themselves as weak, bad or hopeless.  They tend to ignore the small daily successes and consequently don't gain a sense of self-efficacy - which is a belief that they can reach their goals.


It may seem a little odd to praise yourself but these new lifestyle skills we are learning don't come all at once.  It is a process and so acknowledging that you are breaking old habits helps build your confidence.

A nice idea to keep you motivated is to buy a small counter - like a knitting row counter or a counter app for iPhones/Androids (there are plenty to chose from).  Keep it in your pocket and every time you stick to your plan during the day and do something right, click the counter. At the end of your day, you'll see your daily "credit" and know that you've made a real achievement in changing old habits.


It may seem silly, but it does work.  Commit to just giving it a go tomorrow and see if it makes you feel better about yourself.
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Strategies for making diet and lifestyle changes: Part 1. Motivate yourself daily

This is the first of a series of blog posts about different strategies that will help you make changes to your diet and lifestyle.  While we may have a diet all planned out, the kitchen stocked and know what we should be doing, sometimes our head gets in the way and the thoughts we have can sabotage our plans. So each week, we'll look at a different strategy for coping with changes.  We'll try and figure out what to say to ourselves, when we have sabotaging, unhelpful thoughts.


To start off, we'll look today at how to motivate yourself daily.  You can start using this even before you make any diet and lifestyle changes.  Its all about reminding yourself of why you want to lose weight or increase exercise or stop smoking/drinking or.....whatever change you are contemplating.

Maybe you are thinking that you don't need reminding - you'll always remember.   But that's not always the case when temptation arises or you start thinking the following kind of thoughts:

  • it's okay if I eat this
  • it doesn't really matter
  • I've been good all day
  • Just a little bit
  • It's too hard to resist
  • Just a little taste
  • I deserve it
  • Everyone else is eating it
To combat these thoughts or visual temptations, you need to have a written compelling list of reasons as to why you are making these changes.  And then you need to read this list regularly several times each day.

Examples of reasons or the advantages these changes will make in your life could be:
  • losing weight will improve my self confidence
  • I'll feel much more at ease with my partner if I lose some weight
  • I'll be able to join in family activities better without getting puffed and exhausted so quickly
  • I'll be proud of myself for my achievement
  • I can bend down without groaning
  • My health will improve
  • I'll be able to get off/reduce my medication
  • I'll look better
  • I'll feel better about myself
  • I won't have to worry about diabetes
  • I'll be able to go up the steps
  • I won't feel self conscious when I go into a room of strangers
  • I'll enjoy shopping for clothes
  • I can wear more fashionable clothes
  • My husband will stop nagging me
Whatever your reasons are for making the changes you want to make, write them out on one or more index cards. List them all.  Using an index card means that they are all listed on something small enough that you can carry with you. You can put it in a pocket, or a purse or handbag.  

When you've done this - read the card every morning before you have breakfast to create a reminder for the day ahead.  As you read them, think about achieving every advantage. Reading actually makes you reflect more, rather than just recalling them in your head - so take that minute or two and read through each one.  If other advantages occur to you, add them to the list as the days go by.

Now you need to read them again at least once or twice during the day, so consider putting reminders like a sticky note in the kitchen or bathroom or in the car, saying something like "take 30 seconds".  This will act as your reminder to read the list again, and reinforce your motivations. 

You may find yourself resisting reading the cards, but use those reminders and take those few seconds, as the more you do it, not only do you continue to motivate yourself, but you will also build your self-discipline. Go find some index cards now and start writing your "Advantages Card".


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