Every day we are bombarded with information about the importance of healthy eating, whether it’s reducing our sugar levels, ensuring we eat our five-a-day (which recently became ten-a-day), or making sure we keep ourselves hydrated by drinking two litres of water every day.
There is always a magazine article or blog (just like this one) with some “top tips” that I know you will already know… tips like:
- Take your lunch break – even if its 30 minutes, away from the desk! Research shows a quick recharge will make you more productive for the rest of the day.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep energy levels up. Dehydration can make us really lethargic and tired.
We all know that to maintain a healthy weight then we should eat a well-balanced diet. If we are trying to lose weight then we need to eat less and increase our activity levels. It’s not rocket science.
Yet if we all know what to do or at least know where to get the information from then why is it so difficult for us to do it?
I recently attended a seminar given by the inspiring Professor Steve Peters, a consultant psychiatrist and the author of the bestselling book, The Chimp Paradox. His book eloquently explains the way in which our minds work and how we can use this understanding to manage our thoughts and emotions to live a more successful and confident life.
It has to be one of the most useful books I have ever read. It sits proudly on my bookshelf and unlike a lot of the books on there, it is well-thumbed!
At his seminar, Professor Steve Peters was talking about this very subject; about his take on diets and why they don’t work. When we go on a diet we tend to start off with great enthusiasm and we feel very motivated. Over time this enthusiasm wears off. We don’t see changes as quickly as we want to and it gets hard to stick to a healthy lifestyle.
We just need one off day and, before we know it, we’ve abandoned the diet completely and gorged on a couple of chocolate muffins to make ourselves feel better.
We tell ourselves we’ll get back to it on Monday but of course, we don’t…
Motivation relies on our feelings and feelings change. So, if we rely on our level of motivation when it comes to healthy eating, it isn’t going to be very reliable, is it?
Imagine you had offered to help your friend and look after her dog while she was on holiday for a week. This involved going to her house twice a day, feeding the dog and taking it for a walk. At the start of the week the weather is great and it’s pretty easy – enjoyable even! Then a storm sets in for the rest of the week and it rains nonstop.
You wouldn’t just give up and say, “Sorry I just didn’t feel motivated to look after your dog when the rain came and I haven’t bothered to walk it for 5 days”.
You would carry on because you had made a commitment. Commitment means following a plan and continuing even when it gets hard and you don’t feel like doing something.
Motivation is helpful and can drive us on when the reward is something that we really want, but it is a commitment that will keep us going and bring us the success we desire.
So, if you are wanting to make some changes to your relationship with food by eating more healthily, the first thing you need to ask yourself is:
“Is the reward of healthy eating enough for me to want to commit to making the changes that are going to be needed?”
If your answer is “no” then you need to spend some time reflecting on what is stopping you from wanting to commit?
If you are ready to commit then set yourself a couple of goals, draw up a plan and make some small changes. It is better to start with one or two small actions and then build momentum rather than making big leaps that won’t work long term.
A client of mine, who wanted to reduce the amount of sugar she was eating, set herself specific goals. She wrote them down on a piece of paper and popped a picture of a lovely bowl of full of colourful fruit next to it on her desk so she could see it all the time as a reminder of her commitment to herself.
She made an action plan, which included a commitment not to buy any chocolates and sweets when supermarket shopping – if they weren’t in the house she couldn’t be tempted. She also included a reward so if she achieved a month of not eating sugary treats over four weeks she would treat herself to a massage.
Today, she looks and feels wonderful and has much more energy to do the things she loves.
So, are you ready to commit?
If you are, then make a solid plan that will help you achieve the goals you have committed too. Because if you change your mind, the body will soon follow!