Are you one of the many people that finds it easier to make healthier choices when you are in your typical weekly routine but then struggle to keep in control at celebration events or social occasions? Sometimes all it takes is for one heavy night out to completely derail your healthy living intentions. Here are my top ten tips to stay on the happier, healthier track if you have an upcoming special event or social occasion to look forward to.
- Plan Ahead
If you know you have an event or social occasion approaching, plan a healthy week in the lead up to the event – get lots of exercise in, have healthy meals and snacks and limit the sweet treats and alcohol.
- Exercise on the day
An exercise session on the day of the event will put you on top form, feeling energised and in a good mood with your body feeling that little bit firmer! Great for feeling good about yourself.
- Eat before you go
Many people make the mistake of doing the complete opposite, practically starving themselves the day of the event. When you are in a state of hunger, your body craves fats and sugar more. Eat first and you will have more control and make better decisions.
- Make a rule
Pick a simple rule for the evening that will keep you focused. You could try; not having any nibbles, only having two courses, having a glass of water between drinks. Whichever personalised rule you make for yourself, stick to it!
- Drive, don’t drink
If you are the designated driver it will be easier to refuse alcoholic drinks when they are offered. If you are planning on drinking alcohol, a glass of water between drinks and choosing a lower calorie/sugar option, can act as damage limitation!
- Ask for support
Many people have special dietary requirements these days. You have yours also. Although they may not be allergy related, if you are trying to eat healthier, perhaps you could let your host or the people you are with know. We all need to be healthier and they may be inspired to plan a healthier menu for everyone because of you request!
- Sit away from the nibbles!
Not eating before you go can lead to feeling like a savage beast when the nibbles are sat down beside you! If you never got a chance to eat first, move to a place where the nibbles are out of reach!
- Smaller portions
Sometimes you may not have control over what you are served, but you will have control over how much you eat. Ask for a smaller portion. If you’re at a buffet choose a smaller plate. Eating before you go will give you control over this too.
- Plan a healthy aftermath
In advance of the event, ensure you have your cupboards stocked with healthy foods so that there is no excuse that can stop you getting back on track as soon as possible. This most important – a one-off event won’t do too much damage in comparison with days and weeks of unhealthy habits.
- Enjoy yourself
Life is to be enjoyed and social occasions are the perfect opportunity to do so. You can enjoy yourself whist also feeling empowered that you are in control and making better choices. Whatever the outcome, never beat yourself up, just accept what’s happened and move on as quickly as you can.
Head Coach, Inside Out PT
Why is it that we resist starting something new…
Starting a new exercise programme or some new eating habits
Simple. Because quite frankly change is hard. And here is why..
A habit is habit, good or bad, if we have done it often enough it gets stored in our Autopilot (subconscious mind) and becomes an automatic response.
It therefore takes conscious effort to create a new habit. Simple in theory, but it can be far from it.
So, if we have created some unhealthy habits, yes, we may often say we want the outcome that better health would give us.; ENERGY, CONFIDENCE, HAPPINESS, A Trimmer Firmer BODY.
We may think ‘right I should really do something about this’ .
However, there is a little part of our brain that can kick up all sorts of resistance and keep you stuck where you are.
It’s the part of the brain Prof Steve Peters calls the chimp in his fascinating book The Chimp Paradox. I like to call it the monkey mind; technically it’s the ‘limbic system’ which is the domain of the emotions and can often kick up irrational, impulsive thinking and simply put; thoughts that you don’t want and are usually unhelpful.
The monkey mind does serve an important purpose in the human brain. Its main purpose is essentially to ensure the next generation (survival and sex to you and me!). We all have and need this area of the brain.
So one function of the monkey mind is to detect threats and respond with the FIGHT, FLIGHT or FREEZE mechanism. Extremely useful when faced with a sabre-toothed tiger!
Unfortunately, the monkey mind likes to show up when it detects a potential threat to your ego, your confidence or self-esteem as yes it’s there to ‘protect’ you.
The monkey mind also doesn’t particularly like making the effort to change and will therefore always want to take the path of least resistance. This could be the quick fix juice diet OR going straight for the instant gratification and happiness that your favourite sweet treat gives you.
The monkey mind tricks you into thinking that this will help your current situation, and it may do in the short term, but it never lasts.
Here are some typical ‘gems’ the monkey mind can throw up when thinking of starting to exercise and/or change your diet
(These are examples and gradually go towards more ‘worst case scenario’ thinking. One or more may resonate with you)
“I will start on Monday!”
“it’s going to be hard, not sure I’m up for that”
“I’m too busy to really to do this so I will just try to do something when I can”
“I will feel bad if I try and fail”
“I’m not sure what to do anyway”
“What if it doesn’t work”
“What’s the point, I have not committed in the past, why bother ”
“What will people think of me, what if people judge me”
“I don’t deserve it anyway, I’m destined to be overweight, what’s the point of even trying”
All of this keeps you stuck. And when you are stuck you are like a sitting duck for more monkey mind thinking, more self-doubt, more fear of the unknown, more procrastination, more unhelpful thinking.
So what do we do …..
Well, firstly, let me say that it’s not your fault if you have been having any of these unhelpful thoughts. We all have them and the monkey mind is a powerful part of the brain that can take a firm grip of your thinking without you even really knowing it.
However, we are all responsible for managing our own monkey mind and there are times to let it have its say and times to ignore it and do the difficult and potentially uncomfortable (physically or mentally) thing that takes effort.
The key is MOMENTUM, we have to take the first step and GET STARTED with something, literally anything to get the wheels in motion. Recognise that you will feel the most amount of resistance (Monkey Mind thinking) just before taking the first step.
Now you know what’s going on inside your head, you can ignore this resistance and JUST DO IT, take the step.
Because, self-doubt, procrastination and ‘fear’ of the unknown CANNOT hit a moving target.
Plan and commit to doing 3 exercise sessions (minimum 30 mins each) with someone this week. Walking, running, a class, literally anything to get you in motion and unstuck.
Then you can start to map out a more logical and realistic plan for the coming months using the rational part of your brain.
Hopefully I have given some logical reasons as to why the saying “the first step is always the hardest” rings so true.
How do you define and respond to failure?
As I reflect on the year gone this topic keeps coming to the surface
It is crucial, as it is a 100% given that we are not going to succeed at everything we do.
If you have achieved absolutely everything you wanted to do in 2016 then congrats and please drop me a line and tell me how you did it!!
However, in my experience It’s not always going to go to plan.
So how we choose to interpret and deal with those setbacks is so important in maintaining and building our self-esteem and confidence.
Some get so crippled by the fear of failing (or maybe it’s the fear of success?) that they feel massive resistance to even making a plan to achieve something; I know because I have been there!
And yes your automatic response to falling short of a goal may be ‘I’m a failure’ ‘what are others going to think of me’ ‘what’s the point in trying’ ‘nothing I ever do works’ ‘it’s not fair’ ‘it’s not my fault’ … insert any other unhelpful thought/excuse…!
This response may be so hardwired into you that the possibility of responding differently and feeling positive about failure may seem impossible. It’s not.
Remember that it is only your automatic response because you have probably been responding like this for a very long time and you were probably even taught to respond like this (hopefully not deliberately!).
It does not mean that your response and feeling cannot be changed and yes it can take a bit of effort.
Let’s remember that a thought is just a thought, you can choose the meaning.
You do have the power to change the story that you tell yourself.
You can change perspective
So how about this….
Understand that failing has just given you another way of how not to do it… which brings you one step closer to doing it a better way!
Find 3 positives for every 1 area you need to work on in everything you do. Crucial for maintaining your house of confidence.
Congratulate yourself on the efforts you did make.
Once you have taken the learnings from the situation then ACCEPT that what has happened has happened, take a deep breath and make a new better plan, using what you have learnt.
You have the power to make different choices next time.
Can you wait 15 minutes?
Along with fourteen million others, I watched the final of the Great British Bake Off last week, drooling over the amazing baked delights prepared by the contestants.
I’m not the biggest cookery programme fan but whenever I watch these programmes I tend to feel hungry. Even if I’m not really hungry! I crave the foods that are being displayed, wishing I could tuck in to the unhealthy sweet, fatty, salty foods on offer – all of those things we should be limiting!
Temptation is all around us!
The TV – both programmes and advertising is just one form of food temptation that we face each day. Snacks kept at home, cakes in the office, supermarket deals, smells from food shops and many more external temptations are put in our path each day making it difficult to stay on the healthy eating track.
A strategy is needed to overcome these temptations and ensure that we stay empowered in making choices that keep us healthy.
Avoid if you can…
Psychologists say that the first course of action to deal with these external triggers is to avoid the temptation altogether. Last week, I could have just not watched the Bake Off, so no temptation, easy to stay on track. But I like the programme and wanted to know who the winner would be!
When the temptation built so much that I actually went to scan my cupboards for some unhealthy “treat” to devour, there was nothing there! I inadvertently had avoided the temptation, so had a drink instead and woke up the next day without an additional 200-400Kcal being consumed!
What are your biggest external triggers to eating?
Whilst avoiding the triggers is a successful course of action, it is not always possible. Many of our clients say that either snacking in the evening or being around “treats” at work are the biggest external triggers they need to deal with. You can’t not go to work and perhaps you have others at home that demand the “treats” stay. Temptation calls…
Additional strategies psychologists suggest to deal with the external triggers are to distract yourself to take your mind off it – maybe go for a walk, read a book, go on your phone, do some cleaning, etc. Or to try resistance training where you gradually build up the amount of time you can resist the temptation.
Can you wait 15 minutes?
Here is a challenge for you this week: When you feel that temptation to indulge in unhealthy snacking coming on, rather than doing so, have a drink of water and do something to take your mind off the temptation for 15 minutes.
If your willpower needs work, start at 5 or 10 minutes. If your willpower muscles are feeling strong, after the first 15 minute stint, if you still feel the temptation, repeat the process again and maybe opt for a healthy snack instead.
Are you up for the challenge?
If you are, before you do so, spend a few minutes to write down your most important reasons why you want to live a healthier life. If these reasons are strong enough, the power to resist the unhealthy “treats” will be greater.
By the way, I probably will be watching the Bake Off next year, and no, I definitely will not be keeping any unhealthy “treats” in my cupboards whilst doing so!
Isn’t it funny that here in Edinburgh we spend so much time moaning about the poor weather, desperately longing for some heat and sunshine. Then suddenly as if by magic, the clear blue skies arrive and the sun burns bright, rising the temperature. Cue the moans – “it’s too hot!”, “why do I have to work in this lovely weather” and “I don’t have any clothes to wear.”For the body conscious among us, the latter moan seems to have more relevance in the summer months rather than at other times of the year. In winter you can get away with using clothing to cover up body parts you maybe less proud of. On those rare mega hot days there are just two choices; remain in sweat marked clothes or reveal the flesh!Despite the promises you have been making to yourself to get in shape since January, maybe life just “got in the way” and then all of a sudden summer is here! The weather inspires you to get started in your healthier lifestyle. But then, the allure of the sunshine also comes accompanied with bar-b-q’s, alcohol and socialising temptations that seem to knock you off track.
Maybe the prospect of wearing your beach clothes on your summer holiday was enough to keep you motivated to stay in shape through the year. Or perhaps weeks before you embarked upon a crash diet and half committed to getting fit, which got you some results. Only to end up in a worse position then when you started after a period of overseas overindulgence and slipping back into bad habits upon your return.It is consistency in everyday habits that brings sustainable results and keeping motivation high to maintain these practices is what is needed. Setting weekly fitness and nutrition goals can help to keep you focused. When you achieve these goals, this can give you a motivational boost in the short term. Seeing changes in your body provides satisfaction and continued motivation to keep progressing.Many of our VIP clients get immense satisfaction from being able to fit into clothes that had been hidden away in their cupboards for years. Or treating themselves to new smaller sized clothes as a reward for all their hard work!What summer we did have here in Edinburgh is pretty much over! Will you be going back to hiding away in clothes that are getting just a little too tight? Or will you make a committed effort to improving your fitness and eating well in the next few months? Personal satisfaction, compliments from others and buying a new smaller sized outfit or two could be some of the rewards waiting for you at Christmas if you do!
Live for today or plan for tomorrow?
Many of us are consistently presented with this question several times on a daily basis.
Short-term fix or long-term gain?
Do you choose the short term fix of grabbing a take away on the way home or long term gain that comes through taking the time to prepare a healthy meal to nourish your body? Do you opt for immediate satisfaction of reaching for that glass of wine after a hard day’s work or the delayed gratification of saving the wine for the weekends and exercising instead?
Our quick fix society means that everything is readily available. We want things now and can often find a quick fix solution to our problems. But what if those quick fixes no longer solve the problems?
My grandfather’s story
Mainly due to lifestyle choices, my grandfather was diagnosed with diabetes in his sixties. He completely changed his lifestyle overnight – eating healthily and exercising regularly, which has continued. My grandfather turned 80 this year and is still fit, strong and independent but it seems that the lifestyle changes came too late as he has almost lost his sight and feeling in his feet due to the side effects of the diabetes.
There is a theory that if you look after your body for your first fifty years of your life, your body will take care of you for the next fifty. I do wonder if my grandfather could turn back time if he would’ve made better lifestyle choices.
Thankfully, my mum has learned from the experience of my grandparents and after years of encouraging her, is now a lot more active in daily life and is a regular at the gym. She makes better food choices too; eating less fast food and sweet treats, eating more vegetables, fruit and oily fish, drinking more water and reducing alcohol consumption. Simple daily practices that add up to a longer and more prosperous life!
Making better choices works!
The ageing process needn’t be like the experience of my grandfather though. Not if you start looking after yourself and making better choices. There is a 93 year old lady who comes to one of my Pilates classes. She’s always smiling and full of energy, she doesn’t look a day over seventy and can do more than some attendees in their fifties! This lady clearly has and still is making better lifestyle choices… Like attending Pilates, tai chi and other fitness classes!
My main motivation to exercise and eat healthily is because it makes me feel good! Empowered, energised and exhilarated! But at the back of my mind, I do consider how I want my health to be in the future.
How do you want to live your life in future?
Take a look at the health of your parents, grandparents and other older people when you are out and about. What is the condition of their health? How do you want to live your later years of life?
You don’t need to live your life like a saint, just make better choices on a daily basis. The feeling of empowerment you will get from doing this comes today, the longer term health benefits will continue tomorrow and way into the future!
My struggles with DIY (Do It Yourself)
MOTIVATION – how do we create and sustain it?
This one is absolute key and is something I have certainly struggled with over the years in certain areas of my life.
Wouldn’t it be amazing to know how to stay motivated, consistently? It can be tough and it can go up and down. So here is how to keep it up the majority of the time!
We can look at motivation in two ways and its crucial you are doing more of one and not the other…
“AWAY FROM” and “TOWARDS” Motivation.
The best way to describe “away from’ motivation is imagine you are standing next to something that you just cant stand, something really disgusting!!… and you would do anything to get away from it …. quickly! It doesn’t really matter what direction you go in as long as you move away from it to make yourself feel better.
So when you get far enough away your motivation stops as your situation becomes more bearable, things become ‘ok’ again. AND … because you didn’t really know where you were going you could just creep back to where you started! And so the process starts again.
Now having some ‘away from’ motivation can be a good thing, however, many of us subconsciously think like this a lot of the time, and its not helping us move forward, in fact its holding us back.
When we frame our goals more “Towards” exactly where we want to get to and map out a specific action plan of how to get there, in a specific timeframe, then we are 1000 times more likely to take action and stay motivated throughout the journey.
Hitting small targets to see and feel results will also keep you motivated. If you are not getting results you need to change what you are doing!
WHY DO YOU WANT IT?
Check that your goal is what you actually want by asking yourself WHY do you want it? WHY is it important to you to get it? You need a powerful WHY or else the motivation to do it will not be strong.
Your WHY must be in alignment with your core values and beliefs or else you are likely to sabotage your journey at some point.
It is rarely the first reason you think of and when you get down to the true WHY it can be the powerful mindset shift to kick you into action.
Find your WHY, write it down and remind yourself of it regularly, especially if you feel your motivation fading.
We all like REWARDS!
Of course when we start to see and feel results this will give you a further boost and may be rewarding enough to keep you on track. You may also want to put a more tangible reward in. The key with a reward is that it has to be valuable to YOU. AND you only get it if you achieve the mini milestone that you have set yourself.
ACCOUNTABILITY…. this part is vital!
Having a group or at least one person to support you and hold you accountable along the way is crucial. Tell each other your goals and support each other. We need others to help motivate us. Needing support is not being ‘weak’, its human nature, we thrive on support from others and also enjoy giving support.
So, by deciding on exactly want you want, when you want it by, why you want it, making sure its realistic/challenging, mapping out the smaller actions that will get you there and having at least one person to support you, you are setting yourself up to go ‘towards’ your biggest dreams….
Simple! But don’t confuse simple with being easy! This takes effort and when you have a powerful WHY you will do it.
Yes there may be a few bumps along the way or the odd wrong turn, but we can accept and deal with this and remember to stay focused on what we want and why we want it.
You have the power and the only person that gets in our way is….. ourselves!
Everything is possible so aim high and if you have any questions about getting yourself motivated or want help going through this process then just get in touch.
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