February 8, 2011

Planning's a Bitch...(but completely necessary)

....just kidding!
I was asked to present a briefing on Stress and Lifestyle for a large group of (predominantly) men who work very demanding and stressful jobs. Some are shift workers and others have an unpredictable work schedule. So I sat with the topic for a while and broke down the lifestyle factors that make a difference (nutrition, exercise, and sleep). How does one make the best of them all? What is the number one factor in making a change? I know I have written about this subject time after time and offered many important factors, but the one I think is up there with a sense of control and readiness to change is the ability to plan ahead.

Without planning, one's goals of adding more exercise and vegetables to one's day are doomed for failure. The challenge with planning, however, is planning is also a major behaviour change that poses as a barrier for many people. Not only are they faced with the challenge of dropping the diet pop and reaching for more broccoli, but they have to take the time to sit down and plan for it. How the hell am I going to be able to sell this message? It ain't gonna be pretty.

Take eating better, for example. Unless you have the time and inclination at the end of each day to buy everything you need for the next 24 hours, you must create a menu for the week and shop accordingly. Therefore, you must find the time to sit down (pen on paper) and write a list of the meals you want to make (assuming you are planning to sit down for dinner) and the ingredients you need for them. If one battles the munchies after work, you need to plan for that also by making a list of all healthy snack options available (so you won't reach for the chocolate chips or devour the tub of ice cream in the freezer). This all takes time and thought. This, I believe, is one of the biggest barriers to overcome.  The interesting part (to me) is that more times than not, the desire for time at the computer or on the couch overrides the desire to lose weight or just eating healthier. It is the human behaviour of getting what we want now; satisfying our present needs over those needs of the future. How does one overcome that?

At the moment, I am learning that planning ahead of time is the only way I will eat well. It's only been 1.2 weeks since I embarked on my "Kathi 2.0" program, but last night was the first night I really surprised myself on how serious I am taking it. I cooked quinoa burgers for tonite knowing I wouldn't have the time later AND made a few wraps for lunch the next day (after getting home from work at 8:30pm). For me, that's a huge step in the right direction as I would normally hit the couch. So I know how challenging planning can be. I don't have a huge schedule, but I have a huge lazy-streak in me and would rather watch Criminal Minds on Sunday night than make lunch or dinner for Monday (although I may rethink this as Criminal Minds is giving me nightmares).

So my suggestions for those who struggle with the planning thing looks like this...
1. Find some time (30 minutes) on Sunday to sit and figure out the lunch / dinner menu for the week.
2. Go grocery shopping before the week starts so you have everything you need for the week.
3. Note your successes and "failures" as you go through your week. What worked? What didn't?
4. Keep your mind focused on the end result. What are your motivations for making this change? Keep your mind on that.
5. If you fall off the planning wagon...get back on it the next day. Keep trying, you will succeed.

A planning template, like this one, is available on-line. Just google "menu planner"
or make up something that works for you.
 No one really gives planning the attention it deserves (in my opinion). We hear about what we should do and we see pictures in the fitness magazines of half naked women (who probably haven't lifted a weight in their lives and couldn't because they have no muscle due to all the dieting they have done to get the modelling gig....but that's another post) showing us how to do it, but I have never read an article that goes in much detail as we should when it comes to planning. There should be a course in it....(funny you should mention that....I'm teaching on at the North Island College starting next week...see "speaking engagements" for more information).

I'm done.


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