The answer might surprise you. While most of us say we want to change ourselves (by losing weight, for instance), deep down, we really don’t want to let go of our unhealthy habits. In my practice, I find that nine out of ten patients simply aren’t ready to change. But don’t despair; there is a right way to start the process.
Dr. Jana Knable, with IU Health Physicians Behavioral Health, sheds light on the pitfalls behind even the best intentions.
The only way to achieve real change is with complete honesty, and not just with a weight loss buddy or counselor. I’m talking about being honest with yourself. Sugarcoating the problem (pardon the pun) is the single most common reason for failure.
Now apply this unflinching honesty to examining the key areas of current behavior, motivations, and behavior modification.
Start by writing down absolutely every single thing you eat for 30 days. No “rounding down.” You don’t have to share this list with anyone — again, this is about being true to yourself. You have to face your habits, head-on. If you find this is too difficult, you’re not ready to begin behavior modification.
Next, be honest about why you’re making the resolution. It may be pure vanity, like fitting into a smaller dress size for a college reunion. That’s okay; vanity can be an effective motivator. But change will stand a greater chance of sticking if you find a deeper reason, like improving your health. Again, if you’re finding it hard to be honest about why you’re making the resolution, you may not be ready to keep it.
Finally, look at how you will change your behavior. Don’t simply say, “I’ll eat better” — that’s too vague. Be specific, but don’t punish yourself either. Instead of focusing on what you’ll “give up,” make your intent to add one healthy habit at a time. You’ll find that once you’ve drunk eight glasses of water per day, you probably won’t want that high-calorie soda. The mindset should become more about crowding out the bad, and less about deprivation.
It’s very important that you set out with the intention to incorporate healthy habits seven days a week. No slouching on weekends. We’ll talk more about daily practice in a follow-up story in March, but in the meantime, begin to truthfully examine what you’re doing, why you want to change, and specific ways of changing. Use the next 60 days to build new habits that will crowd out the old ones. And we’ll talk again in March.
If you need help setting goals and reminders, check out the FREE “Healthy Habits” app from Indiana University Health and the American Heart Association. Download it by clicking here.
(Image Credit: Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock)