I have a new client who just turned 70. Like many others, one of her goals is to lose body fat; something she has been trying to do for several years. She knows exactly what her problem is-eating too much, too late at night, but she is unable to change her behavior. She knows the extra fat is unhealthy, yet she continues to make the wrong choice regarding food intake.
Changing an ingrained behavior (habit) is tough, primarily because most of our habits are performed by our subconscious-most of the time we are not aware of our actions. In Jeff Olson’s excellent book, The Slight Edge, he states that 90% of our actions are non-volitional, performed by our subconscious. In other words, we make only 10% of our decisions, our actions, by actually thinking them through. Wow; it’s no wonder habits are so hard to change. But, they CAN be changed. We can learn to get rid of the habits that negatively affect our lives, and put in place habits that are positive. And yes, it takes work, but it’s your/our life. If you know what it is that you truly want, it can make changing the habit(s) easier. You just have to know what you want; keep your eye on the prize.
Here’s how I approached her issue with her habit of overeating.
I told her to find a picture (if she has one) of herself when she was at the weight or body size she wanted to attain. If she couldn’t find one, find one in a magazine or a book of a realistic body shape she wants. Place it on a posterboard or something like that, and look at it several times a day. You have to see what you want in the future, in order to change it-the eye on the prize thing. And you have to believe it to be true, or it won’t happen.
Next, I told her of a strategy that has helped me with my decision-making process for changing habits. Whenever faced with a choice, I ask myself, ‘does my choice get me closer or further from my goal?’ Most of the time I’m successful, although I’m not perfect. And, if I make the wrong choice, I acknowledge it, take responsibility for it, learn from it, and move forward. I don’t beat myself up it.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I told her not to expect a miracle weight loss overnight. She will not achieve her ideal body in a week, or a month. But, like compound interest, it will build momentum, and by six months, or a year, she will be where she wants to be. It will come in baby steps, but it will come.
My client is only 10 days into her new journey, but so far so good. She’s taking it day by day, choice by choice. She is also exercising with me twice a week, and doing it on her own two or three times a week.
I’ll keep you posted on her progress.
Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.