Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Mental Game

The prompt for me posting today is something I found myself doing the other day.  I had had a very long day at work and was finally getting a dinner break at 10:30 pm...I brought a healthy snack with me (a container of carrots and celery) and I had a full waterbottle of water to fill me up.  Unfortunately, it does not take 45 minutes to eat and drink all of this, so I eventually found myself having a stare down with the vending machine across from me.  The M&Ms were calling to me and it had been a while since I'd had chocolate (my aunt's chocolate chip cookies at Thanksgiving).  So what did I do?  I started rationalizing.

Me: "Well, I ate really well today, you know, super healthy, and I actually probably didn't eat enough, so you can afford to eat those M&Ms."  My Healthy Side: No.  You can't.  Think healthy habits.

Me: "But I've gone almost month and really only fell off the wagon that one time, so I deserve a treat."  My Healthy Side: No, you don't deserve it yet, it hasn't been a full month.  Healthy eating.

I rationalized to the point where I actually got up and bought the M&Ms.  Then I forced myself to look at the packaging and the Nutrition Facts.  Away they went into my bag, uneaten.

Unfortunately, I feel like I have played this mental game with myself a few times too many this past week.  I'm chalking it up to extra stress and extra work hours all due to the fast approaching Christmas.  Today I am taking a step back and getting organized in preparation for the week ahead so that I do not give in to temptation and avoid this mental game completely.

So many sources say that dieting, and being healthy is a mental game and I really believe this.  You have to be ready to commit to healthiness before you choose to do it if you want to remain successful for the long term.  There are also a million little things that sabotage us as we try to diet, like trying to trick ourselves into cheating, or over-weighing ourselves, not giving ourselves attainable goals, a lag in motivation, etc.  It is difficult to rise above it all, but once you do, it gets easier.

Here are some tips for how to remain successful mentally:

First of all, stop calling it a diet.  If you are losing weight, but do not plan on maintaining yourself once it comes off, that's a diet.  If you plan on keeping the weight off for good, then you need to start referring to what you're doing as a lifestyle.  In order to maintain your new weight, you're going to have to continually work at it.  So, you are choosing a new lifestyle.
Diet = temporary
Lifestyle = permanent

Next, you need to be prepared for the change.  It's not going to be enough that you just one day decide to go to the gym.  If you want to lose the weight, being mentally prepared for the changes in your life (lifestyle*) is important.  One helpful thing to do would be to ask yourself some questions that pertain to your goals and how and what you are going to do to achieve them.  Lastly, think about why you want to make these changes.  What are the reasons motivating you?  Think about these things every day as you enter your new lifestyle.

Figure out a method to monitor yourself and the things that you are doing to become healthy.  Are you going to keep a journal, or track your calories?  Are you going to set up an exercise schedule?  Organization can be a very useful tool to keep yourself focused and on track.

Keep yourself distracted with the other things in your life.  Do more, and you won't have the spare time to munch or to just sit around.  Sitting around commonly leads to eating.  Besides, inactivity is not a healthy way to live either.

Think positive.  You might notice that I probably come across as a little over-the-top on my blog with all of my "Have a great day!" etc, but it honestly is a mental thing for me.  If I can think positive, come across as positive, then I can actually be more positive in my daily life.  It prevents me from thinking about what I'm doing negatively, and thinking that what I'm doing is pointless.

You have to realize that you will have set backs and failures, but they are just all part of the process.  It happens to everybody and you can't let just one time get you down.  It's called getting back on the bike after falling off.  Remember that?  I've got scars on my knees to prove I fell off, but I can still ride a bike.  You have to lose the fear of failure and forge forward.  Too many times we get scared or we're looking for an excuse to fail.  You're going to cheat yourself out of living a healthy lifestyle.  So, think of ways to prevent cheating.  Schedule a cheat.  If you are going out with friends, use that as a one time cheat, just don't completely over-indulge, keep portion sizes in mind and make sure you have a full glass of water.  You'll be less likely to argue with yourself over the next bag of M&Ms you see.

I'll end with this last tip.  Challenge yourself.  Especially if you are a competitive person, try this.  There are quite a few sources that say it takes 21 days to break a habit, so you can take that 21 day challenge.  But don't see that as your end goal, see it as a successful step towards a healthier lifestyle.  Once you have completed a challenge, give yourself another one to keep your forward momentum.  I give myself a weekly challenge.  I want to eat better than I did the week before, so I've been looking for healthier alternatives and new recipes for ways to do that.  Get creative!

I hope these tips will help you to succeed mentally.  It's enough of a challenge to get healthy, and you shouldn't have to fight with yourself along the way, as inevitable as that is.  Good luck!

Just a reminder, my poll is over after today, so get your votes in before it's too late!  And look out for a new Featured Author post tomorrow.  Also, check out my new page, Quotables, that went up yesterday.

Here are some tips from Bob Harper:
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