Change Is A Messy Process

Most people have a hard time accepting the need to change and find it even harder to actually make meaningful life changes. Change is scary. The natural fear of the unknown and uncertainty that comes with it is enough to make most people just remain the same. Change requires people to be uncomfortable and that is a feeling most people will not seek out. It takes strength and courage to do anything different or unfamiliar, because unfamiliarity breeds discomfort, and the more unfamiliar “it” is, the more discomfort we feel. Importantly, courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is acknowledging your fear and doing what you need to do in spite of it.

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It’s not unusual for people to stay in painful, unhealthy situations, sometimes for years or decades, even when they know they need to make changes. They become comfortable with the pain. Certain unhealthy conditions become somewhat normal.

How can pain be comfortable?

  • They are familiar with the pain of their specific situation. They know exactly how it works and what the results will be. The expectation of the pain brings no surprises.

  • There is a certain predictability and comfort in it. Most people become motivated and begin to move toward making major life changes only when the pain of staying the same outweighs the fear of doing something different.

Use the fear of change as an invitation to practice self-compassion and self-forgiveness. And when we do, self-criticism and feelings of failure or of not being good enough soften and fade away. When that happens, we can cultivate an attitude of acceptance and loving awareness toward ourselves which deepens our capacity to make progress.

Principles to remember when attempting change in any area:

  1. Change is a messy process of trial, error, and experimentation.

  2. Change involves taking risks.

  3. Mistakes should be made and accepted as a part of the process. They are opportunities to learn and adjust.

  4. Change often feels worse before it feels better.

  5. Change involves failure. Failure is only information. Even when attempts at change don’t yield the desired outcome, they provide valuable information that can be integrated into future attempts at change.

Resilient Mindset

In my personal experience overcoming challenging events take a lot of resilience. Overcoming problems and troubleshooting will be something that you have to deal with on a daily basis when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. 

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from a challenging event or overcome a series of obstacles that have gotten in the way of an individual achieving their goals.

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I believe that resilience and mindset have a strong connection.  A person's personal outlook can affect how they react when problems exist. 

Psychologists have studied the difference between “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset”, and how these affect one’s ability to achieve success.  Those with a “fixed mindset” tend to avoid challenges, give up easily, and ignore useful negative feedback. On the contrary, individuals who possess a more “growth mindset” have been shown to embrace challenges, endure in the face of adversity, and learn from criticism.  It is easy to see how those who possess more of a “growth mindset” will be more likely to carry traits of resiliency like patience, compassion, gratitude, and letting go. Those that have a growth mindset tend to bounce back from challenging events more effectively.

Having a fixed mindset can derail you from achieving your goals. It will show up in many ways throughout your journey. I have had several coaching sessions about this topic but here is an example of a fixed mindset and how it can be detrimental to your healthy lifestyle journey. 

It's not easy to be physically active in society today. We have the convenience attitude when it comes to most tasks because we feel like we are saving time. So things that could actually aide us in being physically active we will avoid simply because it doesn't fit perfectly into our schedule and it may be challenging to add anything to it. You would be surprised how much your daily activity stepped up if you did tasks like cleaning your car by hand, cleaning your home without the assistance of a maid service, washing dishes by hand, and walking to get the mail instead of stopping by it in our cars on the way home. 

Resiliency is extremely important because obstacles will always arise in an effort to derail you from your goals.  For example, I am a health coach and my job is to help clients achieve their fitness goals.  Some of these include increasing strength, losing weight, gaining lean muscle, and improving health in an effort to get off medication. I am confident in my abilities to design a well-researched, high-level program to help them get there. The actual implementation of the program presents its own set of problems. Some clients have young children to take care of, while others have most of their time consumed by work and travel.  While children, work, and travel all demand unique attention, none of them allow my clients to spend more time in the gym working on their health and wellness.  Hence, these variables, while very important in life, are often obstacles that get in the way of one achieving their goals.

I would be remiss in my coaching duties to allow my clients to continue to let these variables derail them from making themselves healthier.  Therefore, we plan around these other demands in search of what I like to call, “areas of opportunity”.  Many people tend to dwell on all of the time they don’t have to exercise or prepare food (fixed mindset) as opposed to the time that they do have (growth mindset).  I love to ask the right questions and have a conversation about identifying areas of opportunity for people to commit to their health and wellness goals.  I promise there's always a way to create time to hit your goals. You may just have to be very strategic in how you go about it. Once you identify this, you can set up an action plan to implement into your program in a more manageable and realistic fashion.

But you have to make the mental shift to a growth mindset and be resilient when problems present themselves. Because they will, just wait. 

2018 Resolutions

Let's talk statistics. I want to give the bad news before we talk about a solution to the problem. 
* 25 percent of people abandon their New Year’s resolutions after one week.
* 60 percent of people abandon them within six months. (The average person makes the same New Year’s resolution ten separate times without success.)
* Only 5 percent of those who lose weight on a diet keep it off; 95% regain it. A significant percentage gain back more than they originally lost.
* Even after a heart attack, only 14 percent of patients make any lasting changes around eating or exercise.

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I need to get something off my chest. You may or may not agree with me and that is fine. We can talk about it. Just keep an open mind as you continue to read (hopefully). 

Setting new goals can be depressing. I've witnessed this mindset with clients, friends, and family I've worked with over the years, and I've even felt the same way personally sometimes. On one hand, we take stock of all we didn't do that we thought we might during the current year, and on the other hand, we face another year and wonder if we can muster a shred of hope to make things different. 

What should we do instead? Should we throw out all the sticky notes, do away with making a list of resolutions or what? 

I can tell you what I've done that has drastically changed at how I set goals, and achieve the things that I want to do different year to year. 

Did you know that research shows that people who focus on the process of achieving the desired outcome are more likely to achieve it than those who simply think about the outcome itself? The key difference is focusing on the process of achieving the desired outcome, not just thinking about the outcome.

Last year I wrote about having a new mindset and creating a mantra for the year. This year I want to discuss a new way of framing the things you want to achieve. 

1) Write it down. 

Sounds simple, right? Don't jump ahead on me yet. Let me explain. 

Life is hard. It is particularly difficult when you aren’t seeing progress. You feel like you're working yourself to death, going nowhere. But written goals are like mile-markers on a highway. They enable you to see how far you have come and how far you need to go. They also provide an opportunity for celebration when you attain them. Writing into your future further engages your imagination, emotions, and other problem-solving faculties so that you more fully assimilate the process ahead.

2) Tell someone. 

There are two problems with trying to lay out your goals and then attain them alone. One, isolation. A major contributing factor to people feeling blue during the holidays is social isolation. Friendship is a lot like food. We need it to survive. We seem to have a basic drive for it. Psychologists find that human beings have the fundamental need for inclusion in group life and for close relationships. We are truly social animals. We function best when this social need is met. It is easier to stay motivated, to meet the varied challenges of life. When we share our goals with a trusted person in our life we will be held accountable and have the opportunity to share the ups and downs of the journey to reach our goals. Finding accountability groups, masterminds, or other circles can help us attain our goals. Such circles provide inspiration for getting new ideas, gaining strategy for meeting challenges, and celebrating when milestones are reached.

Mindset, a strong will, and positive action all help us manifest our vision, goals, and intentions.  You should get started, right now.

Can Depression Be Treated With Physical Exercise?

Depression afflicts about 5 percent of adults in all developed countries. It is a major cause of disability. The disability rate is even higher in those with mild depression. The main symptom
of depression is fatigue. Fatigue is a low level of physical and mental energy. 

People with depression often have other chronic medical issues, like heart disease. Over time, depression influences how people live. It can lower self-esteem and motivation. It can have negative effects on close relationships and can alter your relationship with food. In other words, depression makes everyday life harder. 

Current standard therapy for depression is drug treatment, the effectiveness of which is not well documented in older adults. 

Research shows that regular moderate or vigorous physical activity and exercise improves mental well-being. It also helps with other symptoms of depression. For example, active people are 45 percent less likely to develop symptoms of depression. The effects are similar to those after drug therapy. Exercise is a mighty depression fighter for numerous reasons. Most importantly, it encourages all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that elevate feelings of peace and well-being. It also releases endorphin's, strong chemicals in your brain that excite your spirits and make you feel good. Lastly, exercise can also serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression.

Does the type of exercise make a difference? Most studies show that moderate to high levels of physical activity reduce symptoms more than lighter levels. There are many different modes of performing this type of exercise.

Moderate activity and exercise include but are not limited to the following:
* Walking at a moderate or brisk pace of 3 to 4.5 mph
* Low-grade hiking
* Roller skating
* Weight training
* Yoga
* Gymnastics
* Dancing
* Recreational games
Vigorous activity and exercise include but are not limited to the following: 
* Aerobic walking at 4.5 mph or higher
* Jogging or running
* Mountain climbing, rock climbing, backpacking
* Bicycling
* Circuit weight training
* Karate, judo, tae-kwon-do, jujitsu
* Boxing
* Competitive sports
* Roller skating or in-line skating at a brisk pace 

The research isn't clear on the minimal or best amount of exercise needed, but I do know that you don’t need a high fitness level to get the benefits. At the end of the day, being regularly active is more important than being fit.

I am empathetic to the fact that the last thing a person wants to do when they are depressed is exercise or be physically active. But I encourage you to try some form of physical activity that is comfortable. Even it is just cleaning your house or working in the yard for a little while. Even just a few minutes of physical activity is better than none at all. If you don’t have time for 15 or 30 minutes of exercise, or if your body tells you to take a break after 5 or 10 minutes, for example, that’s okay, too. Start with 5- or 10-minute sessions and slowly increase your time. The more you exercise, the more energy you’ll have, so eventually you’ll feel ready for a little more. 

The key is to commit to doing some moderate physical activity on most days. As exercising becomes a habit, you can slowly add extra minutes or try different types of activities. If you keep at it, the benefits of exercise will begin to pay off.

Does Healthy Food Taste Disgusting

The health and fitness information on the internet is astounding. If you want to know something you can definitely find it within seconds on the internet.

But even though we have so much information at our fingertips, the average weight of Americans continues to rise. The average weight of women is as much as the average weight of American men in 1960. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the average American male weighed about 166.3 pounds in 1960. The average weight for American women in 2010 was 166.2 pounds, which marks about a 18.5 percent increase. The average weight for women in 1960 was 140 pounds.

Why is the continuous rise in body weight happening but we essentially have more information on how to be healthier than ever before? 

There are some annoying fitness fanatics out there that try to tell people that eating healthfully tastes as good if not better than eating junk food. That couldn't be further from the truth. Of course a cookie will taste better than an apple. Of course the french fries taste better than green vegetables. Pie and cake are going to be more comforting than fiber rich fruits. It is time we stopped the crazy talk. We need to re-frame the way we think. 

Instead of thinking that healthy food should taste as good or better than high-calorie junk food, we should accept that it doesn’t. This isn’t a bad thing. The healthy food doesn’t need to be disgusting either. But hoping that your grilled turkey burger will be as savory as your favorite burger from Five Guys is a little crazy. This sort of thinking can also lead to a poor relationship with food too.

We need to accept that while it is not as pleasurable as the decadent high-calorie savory food, the healthy food aligns more with our values.

I'm not trying to say we can’t have the junk food once in a while. A small amount can fit into pretty much everyone’s diet. A bowl of your favorite cereal isn't going to cause you to have a metabolic syndrome. You aren't going to get fat off one donut every now and then. A couple slices of pizza can fit into your caloric structure from time to time. However, think about what you value, then freely choose which food aligns more with that value.

Do you value being a good role model for your children? If so, you have the ability to choose that piece of fruit instead of the cookies and chips. Sure those cookies and chips would be super pleasurable especially when you’re super hungry after a day of hard work, but while that apple isn’t as pleasurable, it aligns with your values.

Do you value your health? If so, you will do what is necessary to manage. When we ignore managing it or fail to make it a priority we face the consequences of those actions, and so do our loved ones. You don't want to leave them with the responsibility to take care of you for something that could have been avoided.

If your health is important to you, align your actions to match those values.

Becoming More Self-Aware

Do you think that you are self-aware? I find that there are a few categories that most people will fall in. Some people either don't give self-awareness any thought or think that they are perfectly self-aware when in fact they are very much the opposite. Many avoid any thought or mention of self-awareness because they are aware of their short comings and don't want to be reminded of them.

Self Awareness is having a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions.

As you develop self awareness you are able to make changes in the thoughts and interpretations you make in your mind. Self awareness is one of the attributes of Emotional Intelligence and an important factor in achieving weight loss success.

I believe that it is safe to say that most of us live our lives on autopilot. In a way it makes a complicated and busy life easier to deal with. In a world where we have so much going on around us and it is hard for us to be present, we seek out ways to help us stay on autopilot. We allow ourselves to develop habits, many of them don't improve our health, in order to cope. In a lot of what we do we become automaton like, and life floats on by. We get up in the morning and take stimulants to get us through the day. We go to work and sit for 8 hours, come home and sit for another 4 hours and then go to bed only to start over again tomorrow. We fail to notice what's going on around us. We don't notice very much at all, particularly about ourselves. Things just happen to our health and we seem to lose track of them. Something common I hear when talking to a client who wants to lose weight is, "I don't know how I got overweight, I sort of woke up one day and knew I needed to make some changes."

When occasionally we are made to confront the real world, or the world we have unknowingly created for ourselves, it makes us so unhappy that we usually crawl back into our shells and continue on as before. It can be scary for someone to hear they are prediabetic and it is easier to just stay on the course that they are on and hope for the best rather than trying to change.

The secret of successful weight loss, and permanent weight loss in particular, is self-awareness. The only way to lose weight permanently is to make personal change. If you are not aware of your bad habits and of what has to be changed, then the task is almost impossible. If food is a coping strategy for when you are stressed but you haven't been real with yourself and admitted that, then true change can't take place.

Becoming more self-aware is not difficult but it does take work. Here are a few helpful tools that could help you improve your self -awareness.

1. You should develop a daily practice of setting aside at least twenty minutes to reflect on your life. This practice enables you to focus on the important things in your life, not just the immediate. Reflection takes many forms. Some keep a journal, some pray, and others take a long walk or jog. I use my workout time as a time of reflection.

2. Ask friends to call you out when you are doing a behavior you already know you want to change. For instance, “Look, I know I will be motivated to go to the gym on Monday but by Wednesday I will make excuses not to go. Can you text me and ask me if I have exercises Wednesday through Friday?"

The more self-aware you become, the more self-confident you will feel. You will be in a far better position to take informed, responsible decisions about your health and your weight. Being able to lose weight and keep it off will very soon become a reality.