Saturday, November 06, 2021

IF you’re stressed out often and your stress response is to eat, or not eat at all, or drink heavily, or any number of other less than optimal options, dealing with the source of the stress will be beneficial to your health.

Making lifestyle changes (like adding exercise or changing the way you eat) can be stressful. If your goal is to lose a little weight by eating less but your stress response is to eat…I’m sure you can see how that might be a problem.

If you have trouble asking for what you need from friends and/or family practice these conversations with a coach or trusted confidant.

Time management: write things down, make lists. Schedule in a calendar. Have a priority. Plan ahead and prepare. Sleep (so you’re properly rested) and eat well (so you’re properly fuelled).

Feeling rushed or overwhelmed: You can’t do it all, do it well, and be healthy. Practice relaxation. Learn to say no (this will take time and practice). I’d recommend reading Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown but I’m sure there are other great books on similar subjects. Have Plan B and C strategies.

We all get stressed. It’s ok. That’s not the problem. It’s what we do when it happens that can trip us up.

Mindset: All or nothing thinking (“if it’s not perfect I failed”): practice thinking on a continuum. What did I do a little better this time? What could I do better next time? What would’ve been a little worse?

Fixed mindset (“I can’t do it”, “I’m broken”): view challenges as an opportunity to learn. Think of creating new habits or changes to lifestyle as games or experiments. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose… but often you learn more from the losses. When faced with an obstacle remember to look at how far you’ve come, not just how far you might have left to go.

And the big one… not being consistent: write things down.

Celebrate improving behaviours and reward verifiable consistency. “I ate good quality, whole foods including lots of fruit, veggies and lean meats 80% of my meals this week… and here’s my food log to prove it!”

Keeping notes will help you to see whether you’re being consistent or not. If there are lots of blank spaces where you should have been doing things then you aren’t being consistent… it’s not the end of the world, you’ve learned your plan isn’t maintainable, change something and try again.

A good plan executed consistently will outdo a perfect plan only done now and then.

And if you do “fall off the wagon”: if you lose one hand of cards you don’t flip the table, throw away all your winnings up to that point and wait until the next cards night to start trying to win again do you? Nope. Next hand, do your best with the cards you’re dealt, and try to win again straight away.

Environment: What and who is around you will have a non-zero effect on how successful you are at achieving your goals. So some things to think about…

Too much willpower required at home: if the kitchen cupboards are full of foods that make it difficult to stay within your nutritional guidelines, have a kitchen clean out. It’s a lot easier to resist these foods for 30 minutes in the shop than it is to resist them 24 hours a day at home. If not having those foods in the cupboard isn’t an option (other people want them there) keep more appropriate options, that you actually enjoy, more readily available.

The same applies at work. Canteens can be very difficult places to stay within targets. Having options with you that let you stay on target is probably the simplest solution.

Unsupportive network: Your goals will not be understood by everyone around you, so an option would be to expand your circle. Join group exercise classes or activity meetups (hill walking clubs, dance studios, cycling groups… there are so many I’m sure) you’ll meet other people with similar goals to yours if you’re open to the experience.

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On The Spot: James Mernin

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