Photo by: Catherine Teague
I use this photo of my dog and me walking to illustrate a point about habit development and behavior change: seek addition to your life, not subtraction. What do you want MORE of in your life? When we want to make healthy lifestyle changes, we tend to start with what we want to stop doing. For example:
· stop eating from the snack drawer in the office
· stop drinking so much after work
· stop spending so much time on my phone
· stop ordering out/picking up food
· stop eating so much meat
While it’s good to identify behavior you want to alter, basing your goals on a negative versus a positive can hurt your long-term success. Why? Because it emphasizes deprivation. You are coming from a place of restriction. This might not seem like a big deal, but mindset is key to maintaining changes in your schedule. Slight tweaks to how you approach your goals can be the very thing that enables you to reach them. Flip the script to what you want your life to include.
I like to work with clients on setting goals that come from a positive perspective and lead to action. So, for example, using those same goals but slightly tweaking the approach:
· stop eating from the snack drawer in the office ->
start packing a healthy snack in my work bag to eat when I need something (I get more healthy food)
· stop drinking so much after work ->
start walking my dog when I get home to relieve stress from work day (I get more outside time, exercise, bonding)
· stop spending so much time on my phone ->
start reading a new book before bed (I get more mentally beneficial stimulation, likely more sleep)
· stop ordering out/picking up food ->
start preparing and prepping my meals in advance so I have a quick, healthy meals available (I get more healthy food and save more $)
· stop eating so much meat ->
start filling plate with more vegetables so meat becomes a side (I get more fiber, color etc to my diet)
One of the best ways to stop doing something is to start doing something else in its place. Replace one habit with another one. Therefore, the void is being filled. You are adding something to your life not just taking something away.
When you want to make a change, take the perspective of abundance over restriction. I want more of this (not less of that). You will focus more on the positive action you can take to start feeling the way you want to feel. And, if you can get someone else involved who will mutually benefit from this change (like a dog!), you will feel an extra accountability to follow through with it. The positivity will be added to their life as well. Abundance all around.
One of the workshops I tend to do at companies is called “How to Increase Willpower.” Why? Because research shows that lack of willpower is the #1 reason people say they struggle to meet their goals. With all the snacks, catered food and stress that comes with working in an office, willpower is really pushed to the limit most days.
Willpower, by definition, is the trait of resolutely controlling your own behavior. Control. That’s a tricky word, right? It summons up all sorts of feelings of restriction, judgment, and guilt. Control can quickly become negative. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
One of the misconceptions about willpower is that in order to be in control you must say no - no to the donuts, the glass of wine, the Tuesday Tacos that were catered in for lunch. I challenge this by positioning control as saying yes – yes to what you ultimately want. What I mean by this is willpower is an act of impulse vs planned. Or put more simply: reactive vs proactive. To be in control is to have a plan in those moments of temptation. A plan enables you to say “I’m doing this instead.” It remains positive. Future-focused. Liberating.
That’s control. That’s willpower.
In my workshop, I provide several strategies on how to increase willpower with the goal of changing people’s perspective of it.
I recently did an interview with local Atlanta publication, VoyageATL, as part of their “Inspiring Stories” series. If you are looking for more information on what I do or why I do it, this is a great reference. My favorite question was whether or not Atlanta is a good city for Health Coaching. Here is article!
The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas tend to be when we let ourselves go. We fall out of routine. We overindulge with food and drink. We stay up late. We stay inside. We stay….still.
The season becomes a daze. Then we wake up in January and feel the need to reset.
But what makes the holidays scary in regards to keeping healthy habits – lack of structure, not being at home, relatives, having too much time but nothing to do etc – can also be the very things that ignite new life into our healthy habits. It’s all about your perspective. How you use this time. How you view this time.
Here are 4 tips on how to not fall off track during the season:
1. Don’t let one day or meal set the tone. - If you eat/drink too much or not as healthy as you would like, remember it’s only one meal, one day. No pressure. Eat/drink the way that fits with your health goals the next meal or snack, the next day. Every time you eat or drink is a new chance, another choice. It’s not all or nothing.
2. Create a colorful, balanced plate. – Avoid the beige, monochromatic plate. Before you make your plate, visualize what you want it to look like in detail. Then make a plate that matches that image. It’ll help you avoid impulse grabbing. You know what you are looking for. Visualization is key
3. Think differently about traditions/rituals. – If you always bake a lot with your sister out of nostalgia, what’s something else you can do together that serves that same purpose? Or what are only 1 or 2 recipes that you can make vs 4?
Also, how can you rethink leftovers? If you don’t want to keep all that food around but don’t want it to go to waste either…could you surprise a neighbor? A friend? Share.
4. See this time as a vacation from your normal routine, not your routine. – Take advantage of having more time and more friends/family around. Instead of going to the gym, maybe you go on a long walk with your boyfriend. Maybe you take your dogs to a state park for a hike. Maybe you meal prep with your mom and aunts for the week ahead (meal prep party!). Maybe you try a crazy workout class with your husband in the middle of the day because…why not? Then you can grab a fun lunch afterwards.
The holidays are meant to be fun and relaxing. A healthy routine can be too. Flex your habits in new ways this next month. Explore. Experiment. Get others involved. Accept that things will be different and be ok with it. Your routine will not be perfect, but is it ever?
Going out to eat with clients and colleagues is a part of a lot of our work lives. And, let’s face it, most of the restaurants selected are usually not the healthiest (ie steak houses). Appetizers, bottles of wine, heavy entrees, several desserts – we end up eating more than we would celebrating with friends and family. There’s just something about work dinners that gets us. It’s become the ultimate indulgent meal.
This doesn’t have to be the case, though. With a little preparation and some awareness during the meal, we can enjoy work dinners and still feel in control of our diet.
Here are some tips on how to navigate work dinners and not fall off a healthy eating routine:
1. Check out the menu in advance – once the restaurant has been selected, go online to review the options. Then pick your entrée. If you go into the meal knowing what you are going to order, you won’t be as tempted to order something unhealthy in the moment (and after a cocktail). Make a plan and stick with it. If there isn’t anything that looks like an option for you, plan to request a veggie dish. Most chefs will happily make a veggie dish with all the vegetables on hand.
2. Pick 1 or 2 indulgences – If the restaurant is known for great wine or dessert or you spot an irresistible appetizer, prioritize it. Then adjust the other parts of the meal to accommodate that choice. If you want more to drink, cut back on the apps and nix dessert. If you want apps and dessert, cut back on drinks. Or if an entrée is calling your name and it isn’t that healthy, don’t fill up on apps or splurge on dessert. It’s all a tradeoff. Find what you are most excited about and prioritize it.
3. Pay attention – It’s easy to get caught up in conversation and ambience and mindlessly eat or drink. Be aware of what you are eating and drinking and how you feel. You might realize you are more full than you thought (or more inebriated). Constantly checking in with yourself will help you avoid overindulgence.
4. Don’t compare your plate – We all have different priorities and nutritional needs, so don’t worry about what other people are doing at the table. Most people don’t care what you are or aren’t eating or drinking. Peer pressure exists, but as adults we should be able to stand our ground. Just stick to what you want to do and don’t worry about matching the decisions of others in the group.
5. Enjoy yourself and the company! If you eat or drink a little too much, know that you can pick up where you left off in the morning. No one meal does harm. It’s all the daily, repeatable decisions that make the difference in the long term. Stay the course.
I spent most of my childhood in a pool. In fact, I was almost born in a pool - my mom went into labor with me while hanging out with my bro in the water. Swimming is in my DNA. I joined the neighborhood summer league when I was 6, then year-around club teams, then my high school team. I thought swimming would always be a part of my life, but as I got older I fell out of it. Other things took priority – academics, friends, partying, etc. It just didn’t hold space in my life anymore. After college, finding affordable pools in the city was hard. They aren’t as accessible for daily workouts like other forms of exercise. I stopped swimming.
A couple of years ago, I wanted to shake up my workout routine and joined the local Y to start swimming again. At first, I loved it. Getting back into the water was like going back in time: the familiarity of the strokes, the technique, the lingering smell of chlorine on my skin, the total body exhaustion. I missed it – all of it.
Despite this rekindling of my love for swimming, I got bored. Getting in cold water in an indoor pool at 6am proved daunting. Not having any friends who swam made it lonely. My excitement waned. I stopped swimming again.
But now I’m back. For the past several months, I’ve been swimming at least 2-3 days a week and pushing myself further and harder than ever. Why? What’s different? Purpose. I signed up for my first relay triathlon. My swimming now holds more meaning than just a workout. I’m training. I’m preparing for a race that involves other people who are counting on me – to practice, to push myself, to show up ready to race.
I’m not saying that you need to sign up for races or events in order to workout. Daily exercise should be a part of our routine just like brushing our teeth. However, if you’re in a workout rut and need motivation to try something new or revisit something old, put a tangible goal to it that will hold you accountable. For example, if you want to run more, sign up for a local 5k. Or if you want to do more pull ups, challenge a friend to a future competition.
Putting purpose behind your workouts (other than to be fit and healthy) is sometimes the edge you need to really see your potential.
How much fiber have you had today?
We worry so much about getting enough protein everyday, but what about fiber? Fiber is essential for a healthy diet with benefits that go beyond just helping us poo. Fiber helps to lower cholesterol levels, control blood sugar, and aids us in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Most Americans, however, are not getting enough of fiber. Only an estimated 3% of us meet the daily requirements! With the rise in high protein diets (and misguided fear of fruit & carbohydrates), meat is crowding out space on our plates for fiber-rich foods. No wonder so many relatively healthy, active people are suffering from digestive distress and microbiome issues. We need more fiber in our lives.
So how much do we actually need? According to The Institute of Medicine, men under 50 should consume about 38 grams and women 25 grams of fiber each day. Adults over 50 require less with only 30 grams for men and 21 grams for women.
What are fiber-rich foods?
· Beans and legumes (split peas especially are high)
· Whole grains (whole grain/wheat bread, pasta)
· Oatmeal and oats
· Veggies (all of them)
· Fruit (especially berries)
What if you follow a paleo or keto diet? No fear. There are plenty of ways to sneak in more fiber without having to eat legumes or more fruit than you are comfortable consuming.
· Seeds – Add flaxseeds or flaxseed meal to your smoothies and yogurt. You can also bread chicken or fish with flaxseeds. Add chia seeds to really anything liquid. They will thicken it up and become gel-like. Great for a pudding texture.
· Cauliflower and broccoli– roasted, pureed, sautéed or made as rice both of these veggies can be added to almost any dish.
· Avocado – healthy fat and fiber? Win win. These little guys pack in 6.7 grams of fiber per half.
Artichokes – throw on a salad or butternut squash pasta to up the fiber content. This veggie packs more fiber than any other vegetable at over 10g per medium size artichoke.