January 6, 2012

January brings change...or does it?

If you have made some resolutions,
I hope your list doesn't look like this.
This is most certainly a recipe for
failure and a disappointing 2012.
This is the month I have to work a little harder to find my favorite piece of cardio equipment unoccupied and wait a little longer for the weight machines. But it only lasts about a month. Unfortunately (or fortunately...depending on who's perspective you take) January brings change but most of it is temporary. People pile into the gyms and sign up for quit smoking programs with the sincere hope of making this year their year, but only a few make it (kinda like those little baby turtles that are born on the beach and have to make a run for it to the ocean before they get picked off by the seagulls).  In fact, I can honestly say that within five minutes of a conversation with a potential "changer" I can tell if they will have success or drop off with the majority. "They" (statisticians and researchers) suggest that 60% of "changers" will fall off their wagons in 6 months. Honestly, I don't believe these people ever worked in a gym. Over my 20+ years watching people come and go, I think the stat is more like 75% and the timeline is more like 1.5 months.
So how does one really make a change this year that will stick? Even though "failure" is just as important as success when one changes a behaviour, you can get kinda tired of it (to the point of flailing your arms in the air and yelling some really rude word at an innocent passerby). If you have embarked on a lifestyle change (if you have started up at the gym again, cut out sugar, are eating more veggies, or are wanting to increase your overall health or lose those final pounds)....please trust that the suggestions I make are both from experience, education, and research. I"m not just pulling them out of my bum 'cause I'm bored....(just in case you were thinking that to yourself)....

Choose only ONE change and focus on that until you succeed.
You may want to exercise more and eat less, but I can promise you this won't last long. My suggestion, now that I know more about the uselessness of exercise on weight loss, is focus on the healthy eating. Start by cutting out something small for 1-2 weeks and move on to another. OR just start by focusing on smaller portion sizes. That, alone, may reap some pretty amazing results.

Begin exercise slowly and thoughtfully.
The wave of exercisers in January are all pretty much the same. They come in 5 days a week and go hard for over an hour. They exercise improperly (their form is incorrect or they don't know how to use the equipment safely) and they do too much, too soon, too fast, too hard, and injure very quickly or just become too tired to lift a pen. Begin with only 2 times per week! That's right. Only 2 times per week. Research suggests adding more exercise will lower your rate of success. Once you are able to keep that schedule for one month, add another day (and so on and so on).

You must enjoy your exercise program.
There is more research suggesting that if you don't enjoy your exercise you won't exercise (kinda a no brainer but whatever...). If you dread the gym atmosphere do not get a gym membership. Most people do because they think it is the only way to get "effective" exercise. You can exercise anywhere and anyhow. Dancing, swimming, hiking, walking, biking, marching in your living room, walking up and down a stairwell, clean your house or mow your lawn with gusto; there are many choices.

Change with someone else.
Again, studies show you are more apt to stick with it if you do it with a buddy. The only challenge with that is if you rely on each other for motivation and one person drops that ball....you're kinda screwed. You have to chose your change buddy wisely and for some people, that's also a challenge. But if you can do it..great!

Record as much as you can.
Record keeping serves a very important purpose in the process of change. It allows us to get a good picture of what is being done and what is getting in our way of change. If you record on a scale of 1-10 your energy level and find out for the last week you were a 4...something's up. If you are rating a 5 on enjoyment, you know it won't last a lifestyle...something needs to change. From what you are doing and eating to how you feel and think, it's all very important to note during the change process.

Be patient! Go slow! Think long term!
This is the number one rule in the change game. Do not give yourself until the summer to drop 20 pounds. Although you could certainly do it (and probably very safely) this timeline doesn't give you much wiggle room or room for lapses in behaviour. Lapses are learning tools and help us construct stronger and more palatable action plans. If you were to give yourself one year...now that will allow for lapses (temporary fall backs), relapses (long term fall backs), and for those times when you don't give a crap and all you want is a bag of Doritos and a tub of Chunky Monkey (not that I would know anything about that.....).

Falling of the wagon is good for your health and long term success!
That's right. You want to fall off the wagon so you may learn what caused you to fall off your wagon. For me, it took a good two years to learn about my own behaviours around food to finally lose 30 pounds and keep it off. Every time I peeled myself off my carpet and wiped the sugar powder off my face, I would examine why I did what I did and construct plans to ensure it didn't happen again (oh ya...it happened again...just fewer mishaps over the years).

That's it. These are my suggestions to keep you in the change process once the others are back to their "normal" behaviours again. As you can see, it's not the science of eating or exercise but the psychology of change that creates success (not that I'm bias or anything).

Again, if you have any questions or would like more information on this or anything else related to this subject matter, please feel free to email me or leave a comment below. I promise to respond within 24 hours.


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