This past weekend I attended a SPARTAN SGX workshop, and one of our discussions was about getting clients to change their unhealthy behavior and make positive changes in their lives.
This topic really resonates with me, so I decided I wanted to elaborate on this here on the blog.
As a kid, I grew up with a parent who had a degree in nutrition and was overall, very fit and healthy – yet I on the other hand, was either chubby, overweight or obese for most of my young-adult life. I bounced in and out of these three categories throughout junior high and high school. My mother tried countless times to get me to try to lose weight. She would encourage me to exercise, eat less, watch my portions, eat more veggies, drink water, don’t go for seconds… and so on. She tried so often that it began to really irritate me, especially when she tried the brutal honesty approach. But despite her many efforts, 9 times out of 10 her efforts didn’t work.
To put it simply, I was human. And as a human, we do NOT like being told what to do. We get it enough at work, school, peer pressure etc.; so when we hear it from our loved ones about something as personal as our bodies and health, our instant reaction is to behave in the opposite way that your loved one intends. Rebellion, in a sense.
When it comes to weight loss and getting healthy, we want change to happen on our terms, not on anyone else’s terms. We want to be in control, and when other people try to chime in and get us to behave or change a certain part about our lifestyle, we don’t want to cave, or succumb to their requests. We don’t want to be told what to do. WE want to decide. I want to decide. Because of this, as an act of rebellion, we choose to do the exact opposite. Take that loved ones! Try to tell me to change just one more time, and then watch me stare you down while I eat this cupcake!!
Oh boy, I’ve been there, and I still see it happen all over the place.
This type of behavior intrigues me, probably because it hits me on such a personal level, but also – how do we change it? Is there a right way to ask a loved one to change and have them actually listen to your reasoning? Because we all know deep down they have your best interests at heart. They just want a healthier, happier YOU.
On a similar note, we often find ourselves having similar arguments and behavioral reactants with ourselves, am I right? I know I did. I knew I needed to change, but then when a plate of cookies presented itself to me, I tried my best to practice self-control and willpower – until some skinny girl walked up and grabbed two cookies – and then I convinced myself if she can do that, so can I. Screw you Erin, I can do whatever I want. – almost as if I was rebelling… against myself.
Ultimately it all boils down to control. We want to be the ones in control of our destiny, our life and our overall health. The irony here is that we rebel – whether it is against our loved ones or our own inner voice – because we are completely out of control – yet we are trying to prove to them (or ourselves) that we are indeed in control. But the truth is, we have not yet taken hold of our willpower and have not yet grasped the control over our mind to simply tell ourselves “I don’t need these things” and walk away. Because of this very lack of control, we rebel. We indulge. We overeat. We loathe ourselves and our incapability to make wiser decisions.
And so the cycle continues.
So how do we gain control? How to we convince our loved ones to gain control without hurting feelings, or causing them to rebel or react negatively?
I’m not convinced there is one set answer here, since every single person is different. What I do know is, on a personal level, I didn’t gain control over my life and health until I finally hit rock bottom and realized just how much I wasn’t respecting myself and my body. I was drinking heavily, binge eating, starving, eating junk and utterly sleep deprived. I did not love myself. I was lucky enough to eventually realize this, and decide that before anyone else can fully love me, I really need to learn to love myself and respect the body I was given. I set realistic goals. Bite sized goals. Weight loss in 5 lb increments. I celebrated the small stuff. Like eating clean for a month. Quitting soda. (Goals need to be broken into small milestones rather than jumping to the final conclusion of losing X amount of pounds, or running X number of miles. In my personal opinion it is the only way to succeed for life. We don’t realistically start running by jumping into a full marathon, right?)
Start small… and I mean SMALL.
Drink only water for a week. See how that goes. Eat clean for 70% of your day. And move from there. Start walking every night. Or every other night. Then start running. Cut out fast food and try making your dinners a few night a week. Give up gluten for just 30 days. You see where I’m going with this…
If you’re wanting to help a loved one get healthy… do it with them. Support goes only so far if your actions don’t match your desires for your loved ones. My husband did a 21 day detox with me, even though he didn’t need to lose ANY weight whatsoever. His support alone helped me through it, and got me to lose the first 10 lbs to gain the momentum I needed to WANT to make more of a change. He suffered with me through the cravings and occasional hunger, and smelling others’ delicious food at work. We braved that together, and it made those 21 days a bonding experience. The support kept me going.
So I guess the moral of this post is become fully aware of your behavior. Embrace the need for change, rather than fight it. We all want to react certain ways to change, or the need for change, but ultimately our initial reactions aren’t necessarily the best things for us. Work on gaining control of the mind. The rest will follow.
The mind is the hardest obstacle you will ever have to overcome. If you can overcome the mind, and the behaviors it creates, everything else will fall into place.