The Perfect Plan
When we are rich and famous we will be able to afford our own personal trainer. We can shift all responsibility to her for our healthy eating and fitness. We will have the great advantage of having someone to blame if it doesn’t work.
In the meantime we have to rely on ourselves to make it work. Is our own willpower enough to keep us going?
Charles Duhigg, in his book, The Power of Habit, tells us;
‘This is how willpower becomes a habit; by choosing certain behaviour ahead of time and then following that routine when an inflection point arrives.’
That could mean that when we hear the kettle start to boil in the morning we immediately remember to start our morning stretch routine.
Unfortunately it might also mean that when we come home tired and stressed at the end of a busy day we immediately think of cake or chocolate.
If we start being able to rely on the power of habit we might not use up all our willpower. Willpower does seem to be a finite resource.
In this short, 4 minute video, John Ratey gives us research-based information about how exercise increases motivation. There is a powerful connection between brain and movement. He says that exercise is like a magic pill.
‘Imagine you are ‘offered’ to give up 30 minutes of your morning time for a free magic pill. The pill improves your learning capability, reduces anxiety and stress, improves your mood and motivation and generally makes you a better version of yourself for the rest of the day. Would you take that offer?’
A twenty minute ‘walk at home’ video might be a better solution to tiredness and stress than even cake and chocolate.
It’s all about motivation isn’t it?
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’”
Now what we are facing is not exactly fear or horror but it is still our challenge and we still have to face it every day.
The result is not improved fitness and weight management but just unmanageable amounts of tiresome guilt.
We need to remind ourselves every day;
- this is what we really want,
- why we are doing this,
- the consequences of not following through,
- yes, we are worth it.
Otherwise we start to drift and once again another plan fails to work and we are in the market for the next great idea.
The perfect plan is the one that we can stick to. How do we know that daily reminders will work, help us to stay on track?
Actually this is not new, the ideas of daily reminders, group support, encouraging consistent efforts to stay on track. These methods are tried and tested and people have been using them for thousands of years.
All the major religions of the world encourage their followers to pray 3 or 4 times a day. They provide solid group support.
There are often beautiful buildings where they meet at least once a week to pray together, with inspiring readings and services and uplifting music or at least congregational singing.
This all gives a sense of belonging to the group and a commitment to the shared group values. The support of the group helps individuals to get through times of trial and to stay focussed.
Daily regular prayer is a reminder of their religion’s truths and even while they are busy with their daily tasks it’s saying,‘
Hey, remember who you are and why you are here. Don’t let yourself down by doing something you’ll only regret later.’
They know that other members of their church group will also pray at these regular times so even if they can’t physically meet in the same room every day they can still have that sense of belonging and group support and reminder of their shared values.
Our Shared Goals
Now in order to get daily support for our shared health and fitness goals we don’t need to meet every day in the same room. We don’t even need to live in the same part of the world. There is the possibility of getting support online.
SparkPeople is a free site whose mission is;
‘to help SPARK millions of PEOPLE to reach their health and fitness goals.’
The tracker is really useful. Besides telling us how many calories we are eating as the day goes on (which can be quite a surprise!) it tells us how much protein, carbs, fat and other nutrients we are eating.
We can also ‘earn’ extra calories by doing a spot of exercise, which is very encouraging. It even gives us some exercises to do if we choose to exercise at home. All this is great for motivation.
We just need to log on in the comfort of our own homes at a time that suits ourselves and provide each other with support and encouragement. Yes, it’s true that the internet is full of nonsense but we can also link up with good people we would never otherwise get to meet.
Knowing that we are supporting others also provides encouragement for ourselves. When we fall off the plan we are not only letting ourselves down but letting down people who depend on us.
Daily Support at Home
We can design our own daily support at home in the form of promises to ourselves, sometimes called ‘mantras’ but can be sayings that we invent for ourselves.
They are for our own encouragement so should be meaningful for ourselves;
- ‘What is it I really want?’
- ‘ This is the day, I can make this happen.’
- ‘Don’t let myself down.’
We can put these up on the fridge or in various parts of the house or carry a card in our pocket and take it out and read it several times throughout the day.
We can reward ourselves. Many parents have star charts and sticker charts around the home to encourage cooperative behaviour from their children.
What about us? We can reward and reinforce our successes. Keeping a record of our achievements is the first step;
- weight maintained,
- weight lost,
- healthy eating plan adhered to,
- daily walk,
- daily exercise,
- community involvement.
We can keep a graph of our progress and either display it where everyone can see it or maybe choose not to have it on public view. Gillian Riley tells us that it is all about choices.
Some of us find that it helps to let friends see and comment on our achievements while others hate that sort of involvement and prefer to keep their progress private.
Have a Good Day
Let’s not forget confession. If we know that we are going to have to write down what we actually did eat today, not what our plan was telling us to eat we might stop and think. We don’t tell anyone else, of course, but we will have to read it again tomorrow.
We know how great we feel when we have a good day to look back on and how we feel when it hasn’t been such a good day.
Weightlossresources is also useful for keeping track. It will also estimate our calories consumed for the day, subtract calories for exercise and show us the proportions of fat, carbs and protein that we’ve had.