So, there I was sitting there on my couch, staring at the half empty package of Double Stuff Oreos, and thinking (not for the first time), “Well I blew it! Might as well finish them off! Not losing any weight now!”
Many times, I had this same argument with myself, got angry with myself, and gave up on myself.
I so wanted to be healthier, happier, smarter, more prepared financially, and all the things we know we are supposed to be and do to be the best version of ourselves! So why did I keep letting myself down and failing in what I WANTED to do?
I started to really delve into WHY I kept driving in circles in other areas of my life – not just weight, but getting up early, staying on task with time management, going to the gym, etc. The same cyclical pattern showed up:
- Life Changing Epiphany!! – I must lose weight, or I must spend less $$$
- Make list of HUGE IMMEDIATE changes to my everyday life
- Declare to myself, and many times my family and friends, that THIS TIME I mean it!
- Go strong for a few days, a week, a month…following almost impossible standards
- Decide I can’t do this, and self-loathing wraps its ugly, damp blanket on my back again
- Go back to “life as usual” and wonder why I suck at it so bad?
- Eventually circle back around to #1 and try again, a little less hopeful each time
Anyone else ever do that? Or is it just me?
Well, I think I finally learned the ultimate life-hack!
EAT THE DAMN COOKIE!
(Once in a while, and just 1 cookie!)
For me, weight has always been an issue – and it almost always came down to my sweet tooth when I would fail at trying to diet and losing weight. I tried Atkins before KETO was even a thing, the military diet, the smoothie diet, etc. Sometimes I would do pretty well, but I was so restricted by what I could and could not eat, and the new habits were SO FAR FETCHED from what I was the day before making this new life change, that I never kept them up for long.
Maybe I’d lose 25 punds in a few weeks – but I was almost constantly thinking about how much I hated this diet and just wanted a full calorie, tons of whip cream, extra mocha and caramel drizzle Frappe. Sure enough, almost like that test you didn’t prepare for, one day I’d cave and have a cookie, and then the next thing I knew I was eating half the package.
I’d give up, tell myself I wasn’t worthy of being the size I wanted to be, and I’d slowly but surely swell back into my, don’t-care-what-size-these-are, super stretchy pants. Even though I’d die a little more inside each time I pulled those pants on again, I didn’t see myself ever having the willpower to be any different.
I was approaching it all wrong.
We set ourselves up for failure right off the bat when we decide we have to change drastically and right now! It’s unsustainable on so many levels – not just emotionally or physically hard, but also convenience, family obligations, budget, and other factors can make such large changes hard to maintain. We hit a kink in the plan (like giving in to the temptation of a cookie to curb a sugar-withdrawal headache), and derail ourselves completely.
What if we made small, consistent changes over time? Made small, meaningful changes that move you toward your end goal, but are sustainable for the long term, even for your lifetime?
So, I gave it a try, because what did I have to lose this time? If I failed, I failed and it was no big deal because I was used to that. Oh, but what if it worked???
Before, I would jump in full speed – cutting out ALL sugar and carbs from my diet, restricting myself to the point of being irritable and lightheaded, and focusing on what I couldn’t have and hating life. This time, I started making changes I knew I could stick with. I lowered the amount of empty carbs by cutting out most sandwiches and opted for salads or wraps and allowed myself three small cookies or pieces of chocolate per day.
I ate reasonably healthy the rest of the day, but when I craved a treat, I let myself have it, in MODERATION. And, because those little treats were no longer OFF LIMITS, I didn’t fall into a guilty binging vortex of despair, and the next morning I wasn’t angry with myself or feeling like a failure. I was able to keep making healthy choices and reducing empty foods for 80% of my day almost effortlessly with a little planning, and I knew I would be able to have a treat if I felt I wanted one. Eventually, it became second nature to grab just 1 cookie or one fun size Crackle bar and feel satisfied rather than lacking.
I lost 10 pounds in about a month! This time without being stressed all day long about what I was eating, or more so about what I wasn’t allowed to eat. I didn’t binge and give up, I had grace for myself even when I did indulge in more than a few cookies on a less than stellar will-power day.
In my mind, I knew I was making better choices, albeit small choices, but still moving forward in my goal to be a healthier version of me; not in a month or a few weeks, but soon enough and for the rest of my life.
Small consistent changes over time.
Studies have shown that habits change our mindset and even how our brain patterns function. We can re-train our brains if our ACTIONS are consistent, even if our hearts aren’t there yet. Our amazing brains recognize these new habits and they become part of your “programming” after 60-90 days.
Ladies, in order to really get where we want to be, we must be patient and have some grace for ourselves and understand we are creatures of habit. You know where you want to be 10 years down the road, in order to get there your WHY must be important enough to overcome the WHY NOTS – because it’s easier to NOT do something than to DO IT. Taking a large goal and breaking it into smaller, attainable goals sets you up to be successful along the way!
We are blessed with these amazing bio-computers that want to help make us the best version of ourselves possible, we just need to learn the code. So, choose habit changes that are large enough to make the impact you want, but reasonable enough that you can be consistent and keep your promises to yourself to stick with the changes.
Tell yourself you ARE getting up early, and WHY you want to get up early, and then keeping that promise to yourself and getting your butt out of bed 15 minutes earlier each day until you get to that goal wake up time and keep it up! Eventually you will re-train your brain that 6 am is your “normal” wake up time, and the magic of it all is that your brain starts to LIKE getting up at that time and no longer fights you day after day.
If you’re a habitual spender and your trying to start saving money, don’t start with restricting yourself to spending $0 on enjoying the little things and putting ALL of your discretionary income into a savings account. Instead visualize your ideal situation and break that end goal into sections and timelines. Then decide what small changes you can make in intervals to reach your goal. Maybe you can cut down from 5 lattes a week at the coffee shop to only 2 – saving that $15-$30 a week to put toward your goal of adding $1,000 to your emergency fund in 6 months.
If your goal is a big one, you may have a lot of habits to change and it may take a long time to reach the end goal. Just know that each small consistent change you make, gets you closer to that end goal and you WILL REACH IT! Each month, find another habit you could change or implement to move your life closer to those goals. Keep making small changes that you can stick with and watch your mindset and lifestyle slowly but consistently change over time and be more aligned with your ideal self.
Knowing the life you desire and deserve will be waiting at the end of the marathon gives you motivation to keep going, and somewhere along the way it becomes second nature and you forget your running!
Remember, we have to KEEP UP these new habits, not just for a week or a month, but 3 months before our brains are re-programmed and conditioned for lasting change. Create a plan that is doable, and then DO IT!