For years I have worked with people who are lost when it comes to follow through on goals and behavior changes. It can be frustrating to set goals only to fail at achieving them. One reason people do not reach personal goals is they do not prioritize themselves above others. Now this may sound selfish, and many of us have been taught that to focus on myself would mean I am not a community player. However, the reality is … you MUST focus on yourself first. You cannot take care of anyone else if you are depleted. You HAVE to put yourself first if you are to be in a place to give. 

Many of us are so busy. In fact you may be saying “if I take that hour for myself, I won’t be able to feed my kids dinner or walk my dogs or get that project done at work”. Believe me I know. This is a constant struggle in my life. How can I balance my personal creative outlets, workouts, work tasks, feeding people, being a good pet owner, and showing my kids and husband how much I love them? Some days it feels like an unsurmountable task.

Yet what I know is … if I take care of me first, then the other stuff gets done AND gets done better. I’m more focused, engaged, and connected to my family, friends, and pets. I am more efficient at getting my work done because I am focused. I am happier because I feel better about myself. This is a direct result from accomplishing a goal I set in front of me. I feel masterful. The feeling of mastery is important in building self confidence which brings out my best self to share with others. To have all this, I MUST put myself first. 

In a study done by Burke, Swigart, Warziski, Derro, and Ewing (2009), the authors found that self-monitoring is a great way to increase understanding of behavior choices and change options, however 2 groups of people struggled to follow through. One group committed half way and the other gave up, completely. Key factors included making themselves and their goals a top priority and finding positive supportive people to surround themselves with. The pieces that separated those 2 groups from the one that solidly made their goal during the year of weight loss, and maintained it 6 months later, outlines ideas we can all use. 

First, the group that made it was organized and focused on the goal. They carried their food diaries (part of the study guidelines) with them, recorded their food and exercise choices, and had supportive people in their lives. They reported an understanding of cause and effect. They knew and/or learned how their choices everyday contributed to the goal they’d set and they made their choices in ways that promoted their success. On the other hand the groups that struggled had some big differences.

In both groups that struggled to meet the goals people were not as organized. They spoke of forgetting their journals or writing down daily food choices on scrapes of paper they later lost. They didn’t have strong support people in their corner and they didn’t prioritize themselves over other obligations. They used more excuses regarding busy life tasks and other responsibilities to make up for emotional eating and lack of adherence to the plan set forth by the study. Some even hid their goals and hopes from their loved ones and co-workers or commented on the sabotaging behavior toward them partners and friends did regarding their goal. In the group that struggled the most they were more overwhelmed with life, reported more physical exhaustion, had more self blame, and were not able to nurture and take responsibility for themselves. 

Want to take control of your life? Track yourself!
Fitbit

It’s interesting how we get in our own way. In the last article on the imposter phenomenon (Feeling Like a Phony. The Imposter Phenomenon) we discussed how we might come to hide our brilliance or feel like we can’t really try because we might fail. Many of us use this as a way to circumvent reaching our goals. Today, we are looking at how not taking full responsibility for ourselves and our personal choices gets in our way. Do either sound like you? If so they may be keeping you from your health goals.

Do you set a goal only to find ways around by blaming yourself or others? I hear things like “I can’t eat that way, my family won’t like it” or “I had to stay late at work because I couldn’t say no” or “everyone does it that way in my family, I don’t think I could go for a walk instead of watch TV”, this list goes on.

Do you find yourself setting the bar so high you’ll never make it on the first try and then blame yourself or others for your failure, shame yourself, or collapse under the strain of trying to be prefect?

What about organizing and planning well? Do you find yourself disorganized and unable to find your keys, journal, pen, a shoe not to mention find the time to collect your thoughts and write them down/track your food and moods?

The bottom line is you have choices everyday all day long. When we understand the link between our choices and our outcomes – plus take full responsibility for those outcome – we become more powerful. Here are some questions to get you started:

  1. Are you the top priority in your life?
    1. If not, why not?
  2. Can you keep your goal in your sights all the time (i.e. the office lunch? Holiday dinner? Getting to bed on time so you can work out early?)
    1. If not, what gets in your way?
  3. When planning your focus, can you follow through on packing snacks, choosing healthy movement/eating options, and getting enough down time in your daily life?
    1. Again, if not, why not?
  4. And if you can do those things – how do you do it? 
    1. What makes you successful? 
    2. How do you hold your focus?

Do you have the right support people in your corner? Who are they and what do you like about their support? If you don’t have supportive friends and family, where can you find them? A group? Work? Trainer? This was an important part of success for the group able to maintain their weight loss and a huge factor for the group that struggled the hardest. Here are some tips on finding a workout buddy who can support you: 3 things to consider when choosing a workout partner. 

If you are struggling with any of the above connect with me. Sometimes the behaviors getting in our way are serving a purpose. For instance, you might not know anyone you respect who is organized, or you may have been taught to be perfect is the only option. You might find that to reach your goal means your friends and family become distant and that is painful and confusing. At times the lack of accomplishing a goal is about the meaning we place on the goal and our identity tied into who we are today and who we believe we can be tomorrow.

Reference:

Burke, L.E., Swigart, V., Turk, M. W., Derro, N., and Ewing, L. J. (2009). Experiences of self-monitoring: Successes and struggles during treatment for weight loss. Quality Health Res 19(6), 815-828. doi:10.1177/1049732309335395 

Photo Credit: Confessions of a Jesus Freak Blog Post

 

How Does Your Garden Grow?

As we move closer to the official date of summer I thought it would be good to discuss gardens. Not the gardens in our yards, on our balconies, and growing in pots, but the garden that is your body.  Just like planting a garden good health takes tending. We have to work to get it to elicit the juicy fruit of health. Here are a few ways to make sure you have planted the right seeds in your fitness-garden. What fertilizer did you give it? Quality fuel goes a long way. It is important to choose clean, whole foods – things as close to their original composition as possible. This doesn’t have to be burdensome. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store and look for items with the least amount of ingredients.

I have been learning about how our nutrition impacts our physical and mental health. One tip to eating more healthy and emotional health is cutting out added sugar. According the Wall Street Journal “Most women should limit sugar intake to 100 calories or six teaspoons, a day. Men should limit their consumption to 150 calories. … A 12-ounce can of cola has 130 calories or eight teaspoons” These recommendations come from the American Heart Association. This recommendation is about the extra sugar added to our foods, like added sugar in dried cranberries (and other fruits), juices, crackers, chips, and cereals. Naturally occurring sugars aren’t on our list however it can be tough to pick them apart from added sugar. The best way to help figure it out is look on the label. Any food with added sugar comes out of your cart.

Then there is fat. There is research to support that our bodies need fat. It is known that many processes and vitamin absorption requires fat, however it can be confusing to determine what fat is a “good fat”. Typically, we want the fat in our diets to come from polyunsaturated fats (avocados, olive oil, nuts) and only about 10% of our daily intake to come from saturated fat (animal products). The omegas – 3, 6, & 9s – are also important to healthy function in our bodies. Things like wild salmon and nuts provide some of these luscious fats. So pay attention to the type of fat you are consuming, it’s a big part of good health and helps you feel more satisfied after a meal.

Food is an important component to good health – in fact without a good diet great exercise won’t take you far. You need good nutrition to get the great exercise. However exercise is the other half of the equation. So now that you have considered your food intake and have “planted seeds” of good nutrition it is time for adding exercise in.

Exercise allows our body to move through joint range of motion, build strength, bone density, and heart health. It helps our metabolism stay elevated and helps us create efficient metabolic pathways through our energy systems. All of this translates into feeling better while we do fun things in our lives. Some of us enjoy hiking, shopping, biking, kayaking, playing with the kids or grandkids or neighborhood kids, gardening, walking our dog, chasing our cats, exercise is the piece that makes all of these activities more enjoyable. You can begin by walking daily, adding in strength 2-3 times a week, increasing your current intensities or speed. The key is you just need to start. I have some links below to help you customize your needs.

See some of my older posts to get started on a new workout (here’s a quick search I did). I have some specific workouts up as well. Just search www.superiorworkout.com to find them in old blog posts. I also have a number of exercises with safety tips and equipment buying tips available on my video blog. If you have a specific question about a workout, let me know and I’ll be happy to answer your questions.

So as we come upon summer solstice how have you planted your garden of health? Are you feeding yourself well? Are you exercising hard enough, often enough, enjoyably? Now is the time to re-evaluate where you are and where you want to be … you’ll be amazed at the harvest you’ll reap with a little planning.

We’ll check on your garden in August (8wks) and see if it needs some weeding and then in September (13wks from now) to see what kind of harvest you’ve pulled in over the long days of summer sunshine.