I wrote this today with the intention to share it with the participants who will be joining me in the 100 in 30 challenge beginning in a few days.
In writing it I realized it can apply to so many more, to anybody striving to feel better and improve their health, fitness and wellbeing.
I've found there are some general phases that we tend to go through in our attempts to implement more health-full habits into our lives and move from where we currently are to where we want to be.
I’m a firm believer that when your WHY and when the choices it requires to get there are far more appealing than the old alternatives were/are, we can truly make lifelong lasting change.
Feel free to use stages of change guide (written with what I hope is a light hearted touch) based on my own personal experiences and experiences in working with clients over 30 years and check in as to where you may be in your own journey.
When implementing new things we may find ourselves shifting in and out of one or more or many of these various stages along the way.
Filled with insight, compassion, support and straight talk, the intention is to help empower you to your best life, body, mind and soul.
STAGE I freaking got this! New me, coming up!
The world is your oyster and you can do this, no big deal. Food is prepped, workouts scheduled, workout clothes ready and your outlook is bang on positive.
Staying on track all day feels good (and it should) and you’re feeling totally empowered because you’ve been doing it – all day long!
At this point I want you to REMEMBER THIS FEELING.
Keep it close, make it vivid, write it down to remind yourself.
Save it for a day where you feel you can’t or you’re feeling down or something challenging comes up, take out this feeling and savour it.
Remember that you did it before and you can keep doing it again.
The journey often has pot holes but do we stop the vehicle we're driving and say forget it, I’m just going to stand here forever?
Nope not very likely, so keep on driving and learn to anticipate future potholes and create a strategy to do things like: go slowly over them, drive around them, you get the picture.
STAGE Hmmm... I still have ____ more days of this...
Okay so I’m really doing this and I still have 28 or 29 days ahead to do this... Can I do this? I miss my donut, I miss my afternoon treat... I miss the take-out from Skip the Dishes. I don’t want to walk or workout, can’t I just do more tomorrow? (How does that generally work out for you?).
At this point evaluate and be sure this is something you could potentially see yourself doing consistently as a lifestyle LONG TERM.
If you can’t see that happening be honest with yourself about what you CAN do and stick with that as consistently as possible (to me consistency means about 80% of the time every day!).
If you’re in the “I still have _____ more days of this” mode it may be time to re-evaluate your approach. Is it too much too soon? Is it too "quick fixey-ish" (yes it's my blog and you are allowed to make up new words).
How can you (we) switch that thinking to something more like “I’m excited to be doing this for a long long time (maybe the rest of my life!)!
And a note that if you’re a little tired, headache-y, craving stuff, that’s totally normal.
Depending on the amount you've depended on quick fix foods, packaged foods with long ingredient lists (and sugars), how inactive you've been etc. those things may factor in to how much not inundating yourself with it all affects you. You’re a seed remember, give yourself the optimal environment to grow and one day flourish.
This feeling can last a few days, maybe a little longer or you might not experience it at all.
You’re body is working on a new normal (hopefully!) and don’t forget to remember that Day 1 feeling!
Pssst... if you use the sticky note method you can write it down and post the "day 1 feeling" EVERYWHERE.... your car, the bathroom, the vanity mirror, above your bed, in the kitchen, you get the picture.
Reach out, share, ask questions, get support, we’re in it together!
STAGE Grrrr what the *&^$ am I doing this for OR I want to give peace and love to the world!
You might be feeling slightly on edge, restless or irritable or anxious.
Try to remind yourself that doing health-full things is a gift of love to your body.
If that line of thought isn’t cutting it think to the end OR stomp your feet, find an empty field and yell loudly, call up a friend to vent or have a nice nap.
But don’t give up – this is temporary.
Temporary discomfort for long term gain my friends. I KNOW we all are capable of living our best lives and feeling our best selves. If you aren’t holding the space for yourself, know that I AM holding it for you.
Share in the community room, sometimes allowing yourself to be real and vulnerable inspires and supports the rest of us to do the same and then we know we are cared for and supported and that can be just the ammunition we need to re-start our engines and our intentions and our excitement.
Or, you could be in the phase where you’re feeling that life is the greatest thing ever (you’re right about that) and why have you waited to long to feel this way and ohmygoodnessthisfeelingrocks and everybody is awesome and you want to shout it from the rooftops because you’re doing it!
Both are normal responses.
There is NO right response my friends. Your journey is 100% unique to you.
This is not the time (heck there is never the time) to compare yourself to how somebody else is coping, doing, feeling, looking.
Repeat that again.
STAGE Okay this is bringing up some feelings…
You’ve been really taking this seriously and doing your best, following the recommended 2 minutes every morning and night of gratitude/meditation/breathing/prayer and things are shifting. You’re starting to become MUCH more aware (aka: getting off of auto-pilot) of your thoughts about yourself, food, exercise, maybe even people, your job, relationships and your desires.
Perhaps as you’ve incorporated more exercise and movement you’ve begun to have some feelings come up, maybe sadness, random tears or feelings of intense connection and joy.
This is all normal.
Guess what? You may be getting to know who you really are a little better.
You might be starting to see that one of the puzzle pieces is falling into place.
Perhaps you’re uncovering a new understanding about what drives you, how you’ve been thinking while on auto-pilot. Maybe this is the phase where you’re a little uncomfortable about facing some of the beliefs, judgements, behaviours and patterns that you’ve been believing, using, doing that might not have been letting you feel as good as you could or expressing your awesomeness as much as you might hope for.
These feelings might not be quite as comfy as you want them to be.
And you are more conscious that you may not want to use food, or avoidance, or (insert a behaviour here) to run away from them.
What is it that you DO need in this phase?
· Maybe it’s a hug?
· Maybe it’s a walk?
· Maybe it’s specific vitamins or minerals?
· Maybe it’s sleep?
· Maybe it’s to call somebody and work out an issue that’s been niggling away at your gut or mind?
· Maybe it’s forgiveness over something that’s causing you resentment?
This phase is a great time to take stock of who you are, what you are, what you believe, your fears – all of it. Write down the random “aha” stuff that comes to mind. Write down the connections you may be starting to make about “I’ve always done this because I believe this” kind of thing.
Connect the dots about “how doing this makes me feel because I don’t want to feel ______” kind of thing.
This is a deepening phase of self worth, self realization, self care, self love and a deeper sort of healing, not just the physical kind.
· How come I always believed I would never be able to do push ups?
· Where did I get the idea that I am a lazy person? When did I start to feel like I’m supposed to push through exhaustion and sleep less to get more done?
· Why have I been eating junk food when I’m not even hungry?
· Where did I get the belief that I could never enjoy coffee without sugar?
· I’m realizing that I’ve never given myself permission to try ____ because I just assumed I would fail at it.
· Wow I actually do have the time to do this when I make a few changes and prioritize my health.
Maybe you can relate to some, maybe you can’t. Maybe you’re own 100% unique shifts, beliefs and feeling-healing will come up for you.
The only way out of the prison of our mind is to be aware that we’ve put it there and be aware of what that prison is (thoughts, behaviours (or lack of them), beliefs and judgements).
It’s a great time to become more aware of checking in with how you are thinking. How you are eating. The choices you are making vs. The ones you would have made in the past.
It’s a great time to correlate the connection between how you eat and move (or don’t) and how your body (joints, muscles, brain) feel when you do.
This is what I consider to be a quiet time of self reflection when you really get to know yourself, and sometimes it’s like reconnecting with a beloved friend that you haven’t seen in a long, long time.
STAGE Holy shit I actually WANT to exercise now!
I have this technique that I share with my clients and it’s called the Move it for 2 rule. What it is, is when you don’t feel like working out or getting that walk in, or doing the exercise, you do something, anything that moves your body and gets your heart rate up, for 2 minutes.
You set a timer or use your watch – whatever. You move that body for 2 minutes.
If after 2 minutes you’re still totally not feeling it – at least you TRIED.
More often than not, you feel good (rather your body likes it whether your mind cares to realize it or not) and heck you’re already moving anyways right? And you’ll want to keep on moving.
Score a major point for you – it’s a win.
And so this phase “Holy shit I WANT to exercise...” is when you’re struck by a huge pattern/though/habit change that you actually look forward to and want to move your body now.
· Because you know it feels good – from consistent, repeated experience!
· Because you know you make better choices when you do – from consistent, repeated experience because you want that feeling more and more!
· Because you’re putting the action towards your WHY.
STAGE Conscious health-full choice despite the sweet treat option…
Or better yet, you had no emotional response to the huge chocolate cake.
This to me is the best phase and where the magic happens and where your why, intention, commitment and follow through all gels together to create SHIFT.
Shift happens when things change.
This is where you’ve really started to create that new mental highway – you started out in front of a dense forest with no trail in sight and you hacked away at it, walked over it so many times that you laid down a smooth path that got bigger and bigger and became a highway.
That’s a lot like how re-wiring our thoughts and patterns from un-health-full behaviour to health-full behaviour works.
That old route you used to take, you’re realizing that as easy as it was, you didn’t like where it took you because it was too bumpy, polluted, stressful of a ride.
This new route that YOU have built, it’s a really scenic drive, not as much traffic, you know where the rough parts are and maneuver them like a pro, it smells better and is far less polluted and when you get to where you’re going you don’t feel like your stomach is in knots from indigestion and anxiety.
This can be a huge aha moment and I encourage you to celebrate the heck out of it when you get there.
And when you DO celebrate when you’re really in this magic place of doing things that make you FEEL so good, you may decide not to celebrate by a huge “eating all the sugary, gooey things” but rather by splurging on some great new workout pants that hug your gorgeous curves in all the right places and make the next workout that much more awesome.
STAGE The scale went up – GAH!
Trust me, the scale is like a mutual fund, it can fluctuate minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, year to year.
Putting stock in the scale is like putting conditions on loving your child. Would you tell your child “I’ll only love you if you weight ___ pounds?”. I sure the heck hope not! Likely the answer to that is NO – a HUGE resounding no right? Be that child. Treat yourself accordingly. So the scale went up? Guess what? That could be your cycle/hormones. It could be drinking more water. It could change after a big trip to the bathroom. It could be you’ve gained some leaner (aka: tighter) muscle.
The best way to use the scale is like a mutual fund again. Use it (if you must) to gauge change over time in a longer term way.
IE: today I could weigh in at 160 pounds, tomorrow 162, the next day 158 and 6 months from now I could weight in at 140 pounds, the next day 141 pounds, the next day 144 pounds and the next 138 pounds, but overall I’m still down 20 right?
HELPFUL SCALE TIP: skip the minutia and focus on the big long term picture.
STAGE But it’s what I know...
We have countless stories of how we once did this for a month and felt great right? Or, that story about how 10 years ago we were at our healthiest and it lasted for a good couple of years.
But so then why..
Why do we find ourselves here now right now – again - having gotten back to our health and fitness, improving our energy, clearing the mental fog, getting back into a routine, nailing a food prep schedule, generally rocking our health and fitness and feeling proud of the life we’re living.
All I know is that our relationships with food, our beliefs about ourselves, our judgements about what things should be, feel or look like can be so deeply ingrained we might not get it the first try or two. Maybe it takes a few attempts.
Remember that old highway route vs. the new and incredible route we literally walked and walked and walked over to create?
Often it’s the path that gives us the least resistance that becomes the one we take.
Pull apart a package from 7-11 and nuke a breakfast burrito? Easy peasy.
Call an 800 number and get wings & fries delivered? Super simple!
Watch a fun show on Netflix instead of turning on the light, putting on the shoes, getting the workout video queued up and then having to shower or clean up? So much less effort.
Sometimes we defer back to that old route again. Even after the time and effort we put in to building that new route that we enjoyed so much more after all.
There’s a reason we achieve success at something and then revert back to the old ways.
There’s a reason the first attempt at recovery from addiction fails.
I have incredible news for you!
The more you take the new route, the more you go back to it and smooth it out more and more and more, the stronger that new route gets and the more attractive it gets, the more you really start to FEEL how awesome that new route is...
And the more you will choose CONSISTENTLY the more likely it becomes you'll eventually never want to use that old route again.
It’s not a myth.
It can be very true.
It’s part trust, part gratitude, part action, part a strong WHY and many parts neuro-science of behaviour.
This is the best time to go back to that deliciously awesome day 1 feeling. Remember it. Sticky note it. Schedule the reminder of it every day forever if you need to in your phone.
You’re creating a new super highway of choices in your life. A new super highway of health-full actions, activities, beliefs (as in the kind you wholeheartedly believe ok?) and behaviours.
You’ll notice you stop dropping the subtle auto-pilot judgements you’ve been making about not only yourself but also about other people!
We get really comfortable with the old way, with how things used to feel – even if they left us feeling tired, lethargic, heavy, unhappy and unmotivated. Imagine that, but we did! And despite that, the pull to go back there can be so strong.
I have been there my friends. A few times. Wondering "how the heck did I lose that momentum and find myself unhappy with my fitness, feeling bloated and unmotivated and eating poorly and sleeping like crap - AGAIN???"
Why did I start drinking more wine again? Ugh, what’s wrong with me.
Keep going until you get there.
THIS IS WHEN YOU USE YOUR TOOLS.
· When you remember your why.
· When you use the weekly worksheets.
· When you ask for support.
· When you share what’s happening with a trusted friend.
· When you stop, check in, take 2 minutes to breathe, 2 minutes to move, 2 minutes to pause.
· When you remember that day 1 feeling.
· When you think from the end.
It will happen when you’re truly ready to get out of any denial you have about how the outcome and the lifestyle is far more important to you than the effort (the food prepping, the exercising, the time it takes to do the things) it takes to achieve it.
Do you believe it?
When you do your body and brain will be listening.
STAGE Empowered and ready no matter what!
I’m biased but I do love this phase. To me this is my end goal phase.
The switch has been flipped and you’re 99% sure now that you trust yourself enough to know you can’t go back now only forwards.
Logically you don’t want to make all the effort for naught and have to start back from square one again. So you choose not to. And yes, it might have taken a few attempts, a few start and stop’s. And now you’re here. Having learned so much about yourself along the way.
What a gift.
This is your healthy life the one that you know you can maintain and you have a realistic NON perfectionist approach to it too.
· You know you’re going to have cake some days.
· You know you’ll miss a workout here and there.
· You know you’re still going to love, support and believe in yourself even if your arm jiggles.
· You know you may have days where the world feels like it’s caving in and you are in a mood, doubt yourself and spiral.
And you’ve learned it’s okay. You’re human not a perfect robot.
You’ve learned what works for you and what doesn’t. You’ve tuned in to subtle nuances with food, fitness, mindset.
You’ve achieved a better mental focus and outlook that aligns with who you’ve come to know you are. Your body has changed, perhaps transformed. You are far more stable mood wise than ever. You enjoy movement (even though you may never want to train for the Olympics), no longer dread health-full eating and are just all around more happy, content, satisfied, patient, calm and grateful these days.
You’ve perhaps come to realize that the truth is there isn’t any magic pill and never was and are so grateful to have a plan and a lifestyle that you can manage no matter where you are or what you have access to.
You’ve realized it’s more about being mindful about doing small things consistently than huge things once in a while.
And hopefully this is the point where you have a quiet calm, a quiet confidence about feeling at home in your body and at peace in your skin.