A former client of mine had developed a habit of buying potato chips on her way home from work every day.
At the end of a long day during her long commute home, she would stop at the same store each day and buy a small bag of potato chips.
Then she would wait until she got home and ate dinner before she would sit down with the chips and enjoy them as she read a book.
This habit was a big problem for her because it was preventing her from losing weight.
And the habit seemed so entrenched for her she could not imagine how she was going to overcome it.
I asked her when she decided to eat the chips.
She said, “In the evening when I am reading.”
And I asked, “Are you sure?”
When she thought about it she said, “No, when I leave work.”
She hadn’t realized that she was DECIDING to eat those potato chips long before she ate them!
She had avoided eating them in the car because she didn’t want to “ruin her dinner”.
So you can see that there was some real calculation going on but the decision itself was made mindlessly.
She was not “thinking” when she made the decision.
I asked her how she could address this decision WHEN she made it.
She realized that because she was tired, stressed, and hungry at the end of her workday she had a strong urge for the potato chips then.
So her solution was to eat a healthy snack in the car on the ride home.
The simple practice of having a snack in the car immediately removed the potato chips from being in her routine and therefore she was able to easily overcome the bad habit!
This is an example of how important it is to bring mindfulness to WHEN you are making decisions about healthy lifestyle habits.
And this is important because where you are now is, in large part, due to a long series of decisions you have made.
Watch the video for more……and there is more below
We make decisions all day every day. Some are more impactful than others.
When it comes to losing weight there are daily moments that can determine our long-term success.
I call those “critical moments” in your journey.
One of my goals with clients is to bring awareness to those moments and see if we can improve decision-making and ultimately make the weight loss process easier and more pleasurable.
First, it’s important to recognize that even though these “critical moments” may happen in the middle of the afternoon or late at night, what often determines your decisions is a series of actions you have already taken in the past.
So, how do you make better decisions?
From many years of struggling with making the right decisions myself and from specializing in weight loss all these years I have come to realize there are a few things you can do in order to make better eating choices.
- Be Aware and Pause
- Set Goals and Plan
- Use Mental Imagery
- Have the “Will”
Be Aware and Pause
The first step is to evaluate when your “critical moments” are occurring.
This can vary from person to person.
9 times out of 10 clients can easily identify exactly when those moments will come.
Maybe it’s the critical moment in the morning when you decide you are going to be too tired to work out later.
Or it could be at 10 PM when you decide to go to the kitchen and eat or go to the bathroom and brush your teeth.
Maybe it’s when you get home from work and decide whether to eat those healthy leftovers or order out pizza for dinner.
You know when those moments come in your life.
When they do, I suggest you PAUSE and pay attention.
What is going on?
How do you feel? Stressed? Overwhelmed? Tired? Bored?
What is the setting for the decision-making?
Remember, that sometimes these critical moments are not occurring when you are actually doing the behavior. They can come hours or even days before.
I’ve had clients tell me months before an event such as their birthday that they WILL be eating cake!
Set Goals & Plan
Once you are aware of where you need to make changes it's time to take action.
Two things that can help right away are to identify your goals and have a plan.
There are two types of goals: outcome and process goals.
Outcome goals are about the end results. For example, “I want to fit into size …..” or “I want to weigh ……. pounds.”
Process goals are your habits. They are the train that will carry you toward your outcome goals.
Without process goals, you probably will not reach your desired outcomes.
Focusing on the habits that you want to have in place in order to reach your desired outcomes is a much more satisfying and effective practice than just focusing on outcome goals.
So first set your outcome and process goals.
I recommend setting your 1-year goals first and then working backward.
We usually set the 1-year, 6-month, 3-month, and 1-month goals and then I ask..”Okay, in order to reach your 1-month goals what do you need to be doing today and this week in order to get there?”
This is also a big part of planning.
By setting your outcome and process goals you have already started planning. Yippee!
But it’s not only that.
You have to plan for those “critical moments” as well.
So…..plan for it.
Have your gym shoes and your workout plan ready.
Brush your teeth earlier in the evening.
Have quick, easy, and appealing food ready to go for those long days.
This isn’t rocket science, this is just planning.
And you can do it!
Use Mental Imagery
Believe it or not, you use mental imagery all the time.
Many cravings are basically your mind imagining the fun and delight of eating something.
We imagine ourselves going on vacation or getting that raise.
You can use this with food as well.
Take a few minutes every day to make a mental movie about yourself when you have reached your goals. What does that look like?
Tell the story in your mind.
What do you see, hear, feel, taste, and smell?
Make the story as vivid as you can.
And not just the outcome but also the habits you do daily to sustain that outcome.
Make a beautiful movie about yourself being and doing exactly what you want.
And use this movie during those “critical moments”.
Just when you are about to “decide” whether or not to eat those cookies I invite you to pause and replay that movie.
Do the cookies lose their appeal?
Have the “Will”
If you were about to eat some cookies and I told you they contained poison and they could kill you, would you still eat them?
Because you would be highly motivated to not die.
You see, when we are sufficiently motivated, we will move mountains to make something work for us.
Not eating that cookie is all about “will”.
You must have the will to make the right decisions.
Where does will come from?
It comes from your deepest desires.
Staying alive is a pretty deep desire so you won’t eat those poison cookies.
How do you have more “will” around everyday critical moments?
By setting goals, having a plan, and being really really clear on your “whys”.
The cool thing is that if you do the mental imagery and replay those movies where you are the star who makes great decisions habitually and looks and feels great, that will always keep you in touch with your “whys”.
Buy-in means that you believe something matters.
I could have listed this one first because, in order to take the time to set goals, make a plan, and make your mental movies, you kind of have to believe that it will make a difference and work.
But I put it last because I find that most people START with buy-in but it wanes.
At first, most people are all gung-ho. “Let’s do this!”
But over time that enthusiasm decreases.
“Will that one extra cookie really matter?”
“What difference will this walking make anyway?”
You have to know, understand, and believe that every decision matters.
Of course, we all still make bad decisions sometimes.
I’m not preaching perfection here.
But if you think “ah…it won’t make much of a difference” it can be a very slippery, slippery slope!
So, keep up your “will” and your “buy-in” with awareness and the “pause”, strong goals, planning, and mental imagery.
All of these tools fit nicely together and support each other. And they will help you reach your dreams!