Motivation in Action
I sometimes worry that I’m only telling people what doesn’t work, what you can’t rely on, when it comes to weight loss: willpower, moderation … and now motivation?!? I can hear you shouting at me, “okay smarty pants, so what does work then?!”
Creating healthy habits, for starters.
If motivation comes and goes like a bad mood then you must rely instead on changing your habits to see long-term, permanent success when it comes to lifestyle change.
The boots-on-the-ground reality of lifestyle change is that you need a toolbox of new healthy habits. So let’s deconstruct a habit to find out how to break a destructive one and create something new.
Merriam-webster.com defines a habit as:
a usual way of behaving : something that a person does often in a regular and repeated way.
An example of a healthy habit would be brushing (and flossing!) your teeth. You do it every day, at least twice a day, whether you feel like it or not because you know that you must in order to avoid having your teeth rot and fall out of your head. Seems like a small price to pay. So you “just do it,” as they say.
But what about breaking a bad habit?
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Picture this scenario: every day you come in the door after work, exhausted, throw open the fridge, stand in front of it and stuff food in your mouth mindlessly because you’re starving, wrung out and dinner’s at least 30 minutes away. I think we can agree, that’s a destructive habit. And if your goal is to lose weight, you need to break that habit and create a new one.
Not to say that you and Pavlov’s dog have anything in common, but your rather predictable behavior of walking in the door and throwing open the fridge, then eating everything in sight, is conditioned. You repeat that behavior because the circumstances and your mindset remain the same every day. If you just attempt to change it through motivation, it may work some days, but most likely it will not work in the long-run because all the same elements are still in place – all the same food’s in the fridge, you’re still exhausted, and dinner’s still 30 minutes away.
To change this habit, many things must change: for starters, clear unhealthy food choices out of your house! (Unhealthy food does not cross your threshold, remember?) You may need to eat a reasonable snack at 4pm so you’re not ravenous when you come home. You may need to get more sleep, or more exercise so you’re less exhausted. I recommend having a healthy dinner planned out before you walk in the door and at least some of the prep work done ahead of time. And while you’re cooking, pop a piece of gum in your mouth and drink a big glass of water. It does wonders!
The point is, you must think through where you’re going astray and then formulate an action plan to avoid failing into those old, familiar behaviors. Because you will.
So it turns out motivation looks less like a wave of change that washes over you, making you into some “perfect” version of yourself, and looks more like new behaviors using intentional strategies to clear a path between where you are now and where you want to be.
Motivation in action is really about creating new habits.
And creating those new habits takes a lot of thoughtful consideration, self-awareness and honesty. Then it takes a lot of hard work!
Is losing weight hard? Pfffft, don’t make me laugh. Yeah, it’s hard. But it gets easier. And you’re so damn worth it!
Let’s go get it!