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I know what to do. Why don’t I do it?

When I was first practicing as a nutritionist, I worked with a lot of people who had health problems related to diet. They were overweight. They had high blood sugar or high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

They (or their doctors) believed that they just needed someone to tell them what to eat and what not to eat. But as I quickly learned, the problem for most people is not that they don’t know what to do.

They know what to do. They just don’t know how to get themselves to do it.

They know that after dinner snacking is resulting in unwanted pounds. They just don’t know how to break the habit.

They know that they are eating a lot more sugar than is good for their bodies. They just don’t know how to stop.

They know that prepping healthy snacks or getting more exercise would be healthier. They just can’t seem to be consistent.

Now, not knowing how to do something is nothing to be ashamed of. But so often, even when people go looking for help, they tend to look in the wrong places. They look for something that will provide motivation or accountability. They look for someone with a new and different solution. They look for someone who will tell them what to do–only louder.

But none of this answers the real question: How do I change my behavior?

And this is the question that the year-long Weighless program is designed to answer.

Of course, as nutrition and fitness professionals, Brock and I have created a program that will help you figure out what eating and movement patterns work best for you. But much of the weekly curriculum and group coaching is devoted to helping people understand why they do the things they do and how to change the things they want to change.

Enrollment for the year-long Weighless program is currently closed. But you can get a jump-start on our approach to behavior change by tuning into our Change Academy podcast. And if you are thinking about joining the cohort that will begin in the Spring, be sure you’re on our mailing list.

Does your week always start strong and then fall apart?

“I start out strong every Monday, sticking to my plan, making healthy choices, checking off my daily wins…but then the week just wears me down. By Thursday, I’m completely off plan and making poor choices. I’m tired and stressed and can’t find my motivation.”

Sound familiar? 

What if we redesigned your week? Instead of  a 5-day slog  followed by a 2-day collapse,  what if your week were a 2-day sprint, 2 days of rest and recovery, followed by a final 3 day effort?  Would that make it easier to sustain your focus and motivation?

This doesn’t even require talking your boss into an alternate work schedule. All it takes is mental reframing.

Even those of use who work non-traditional schedules have been culturally conditioned to think in terms of 5-day weeks and 2-day weekends. We’ve also been trained to think of Monday as the day we “start fresh.”  with a renewed intention to make healthy choices,  But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Whatever your work schedule, trying thinking of your “personal work week” starting on Thursday.  If you set weekly intentions or keep a habit- or goal-tracking chart, have it run from Thursday to Wednesday.  

On Wednesday night, set aside an hour to prepare yourself mentally and logistically for what you want to accomplish personally in the week to come.  Write down your goals, intentions, and objectives. This would be a great time to listen to a podcast or read a book that inspires you to live your best life.  (Members of our year-long Weighless program sometimes use their Wednesday nights to listen to their weekly materials or to spend time problem-solving with us and their fellow members in the forum  )

 You head into Thursday calm, motivated, and prepared.for two days of solid effort. After two days, you get the weekend to restore and reset your intentions.  When you start again on Monday, your “week” is already half over. FInish strong!  And on Wednesday evening, assess your week and get ready for the next one. 

If you are tired of starting every Monday feeling strong and finishing every Friday wondering what happened to your health goals, this simple shift could make a big difference.  Even if you doubt that something so simple could help, what do you have to lose?  Let’s try it together this week and see how it goes.

How to be more consistent

Monday Morning Motivation: Finish What You Start - The Young Mommy LifeConsistent action is the key to lasting change.

And the key to being consistent is not biting off more than you can chew. A small action that you do every day will ultimately get you further than a big action that you do once.

But here’s the trap:  It’s easy to underestimate the impact of a small action. Which means we underestimate the impact of not doing it.

I learned this lesson (again) recently. A few months ago, I signed up for a program that teaches you how to use bodywork and alignment to improve your mobility and reduce stiffness and soreness.  (Ah, the joys of middle age.)

What attracted me to the program (other than the promise of relief) was the bite-size commitment required. Just ten minutes a day, five days a week. But a couple of months in, I realized that I was only doing the exercises once or twice a week.

Obviously, it wasn’t that I didn’t have enough time for a ten minute session. I think, sub-consciously, I didn’t quite believe that ten minutes a day could really make a difference. So I just wasn’t making it a priority.

Once I recognized what was going on in my brain, I got serious about my daily ten minutes. And after several weeks of consistent practice, I can’t believe the difference it’s made.

It was humbling to have to learn this lesson (again) because it’s something that we are constantly coaching our Weighless members on.

When you join the year-long Weighless program, we don’t require you to change everything about your life on Day 1. Instead, we start from wherever you are and begin making small shifts that move you steadily–and sustainably–toward your goal.

Sometimes, our members struggle with consistency. Not because anything we’ve suggested is too difficult. But because at first, it’s hard for them to believe that small actions can ever add up to big results.  Until they do.

This week, see if you can identify one small action that you could take every day that would move you a bit closer to your goal.  Make it small and commit to being consistent. Let’s see what kind of compound interest we can earn by January 1st.

What will your small action be?

Making meal-planning easier

One of the folks currently going through the year-long Weighless program recently asked for help with meal-planning. As this seems to be a sticking point for so many of you, I thought it might be helpful to share some of our problem solving here.

“Roger” was getting overwhelmed trying to find recipes that were compatible with weighing less–but also relatively easy to make. He felt like he needed to find 10-20 main dish recipes plus an assortment of vegetable recipes to accompany them but wasn’t sure what to look for or where to look.for them. He was spending a lot of time and getting really frustrated.

But I think we often make “meal-planning” way more complicated than it needs to be.  You don’t need to prepare 30 different dinners every month any more than you need to wear 30 different outfits.   As with your wardrobe, you can mix and match a handful of well-chosen items into dozens of simple but satisfying combinations.  If you get the hankering to dress up or cook a fancy dinner, you can do that. But it’s optional.

As I told Roger, rather than trying to assemble a few dozen recipes, you’ll get more mileage out of mastering a small handful of basic cooking techniques. This will give you far more flexibility and offers plenty of variety–without needing a whole bunch of recipes. 

For example, if you know how to roast, saute, and braise, you can make an almost infinite variety of delicious meals from whatever fresh ingredients you have on hand that week. And all three techniques are very simple, involving very few ingredients.

Here’s a typical week of meals at our house.

Monday: Grilled salmon, sauteed spinach with garlic, roasted root vegetables

TuesdayRed lentil stew with rice

Wednesday: Oven baked pork chops, roasted broccoli and carrots

Thursday: Steamed shrimp, roasted asparagus, roasted acorn squash

Friday: Braised collard greens with black eyed peas, baked sweet potatoes.

SaturdayPureed butternut squash soup, vegetable frittata with any leftover vegetables from the week.

Sunday: Homemade veggie pizza or socca

I’ve included links to a couple of recipes for you but for the most part, this is recipe-free cooking involving little more than olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and herbs. (And not to be immodest, but I don’t get a lot of complaints…). 

My point is that meal-planning does not have to be a big complicated affair — or an insurmountable hurdle. It took me less than 10 minutes to come up with that meal plan and it’s based on what I have in my fridge, pantry, and freezer right now.  Next week is likely to look very similar, except that all the nouns and adjectives will be in a different order!

Have you been making meal-planning more complicated than it needs to be? Developing a  “capsule wardrobe” of basic cooking techniques can make your life (and your quest to weigh less) much simpler.

Let us know how we can help,

Getting to your goal faster

I am not much of an (American) football fan. But because it was always a part of our family’s (American) Thanksgiving gatherings, turning on a game while cooking dinner always feels nostalgic. Especially this year, when nothing else feels normal or familiar. 

As I was half-listening to the game this year, I got to thinking about the difference between passing games and running games. Some teams throw lots of long passes in order to move the ball down the field and into the end zone as fast as possible. Passing games are exciting because the score can change rapidly. They’re also exciting because there’s a much greater chance of turnovers, incomplete passes, and interceptions.

Other teams prefer to play a running game. They rarely go for big yardage. Instead of putting the ball in the air where it can be picked off, they keep the ball on the ground. They may only move a few yards each play but they rarely turn over the ball. It’s a lot less flashy to watch but teams that do this well can be unstoppable. 

OK, here comes the analogy you knew was coming!!

Diets that promise fast weight loss are a lot like passing games. The score (on the scale) can change quickly!  But there’s also a big risk of failure, burnout, or rebound weight gain–which is the equivalent of fumbling the ball on the 1 yard line and having the opposing team run it all the way back for a touchdown.

In the Weighless program, we play more of a running game. We have seen over and over again that playing the slow and steady game of sustainable behavior change gets our members into the end zone more quickly, and with far less chance of fumbles and interceptions.

At first, they might miss the adrenaline rush of seeing those first five or ten pounds come off in a few weeks. But they soon learn to appreciate the reliability and security of a good ground game. Especially when they realize that its the only way to win at sustainable weight loss. 

So, ready to try out your running game? We’ve put together some ideas that you can put into practice this month (yes, even during the holidays!). You can download it here.

Are you sitting on the sidelines of your life?

As leaders of the Weighless community, Brock and I are not just here to give pep talks or give you something interesting to think about. We are offering tools that can help you create the results you want. But they have to be picked up and used.

So often we see people whose entire effort is comprised of completely passive activities: reading, researching, thinking, planning. All of those things have their place. But you’ve got to actually take some action if you want to see change happen.

If you’re thinking but not doing…

If you’re learning, but not taking action…

If you’re “inspired” but not actually moving…

…then you are sitting on the sidelines of your own life.

The only way to reach your goal is to get on the field. Yes, you might drop the ball or lose yards. But you can’t win (or lose!) by sitting on the sidelines.

 

The right (and wrong) way to use a diet tracker

Is tracking your food and calories (or WW points) essential  to losing or maintaining your weight?  Or is it a toxic dieter’s mindset?

Neither.

Food and activity trackers can be useful tools when they are used to gather information.  You can learn a lot about how different foods and portion sizes compare in terms of how many calories they provide and how much they fill you up.  You can learn how your body feels after a 400 calorie breakfast instead of a 200 calorie breakfast, or how it feels to eat 100 calories worth of roasted potatoes vs 100 calories worth of potato chips.

You can identify which foods (or hours of the day) are contributing excess calories that keep you from weighing less. You can experience how much you need to move around in order to hit 10,000 steps a day, or get a reality check on how often you’re getting 30 minutes of exercise. 

All of this can be useful and empowering information.  

But if you’ve been weighing, measuring, logging, and tracking every bite and step for more than a few weeks, you’re probably not gathering much new information. Instead of being your tutor, your tracker can easily become the judge, jury, and executioner.  

  • Instead of considering your hunger level, you ask your tracker how many more calories you’re allowed to eat.  Hit your limit? Then no more food for you.  (Or, worse: off to the gym to burn some calories so you can eat more.)
  • Instead of choosing foods that you enjoy and that make you feel good, you use your tracker to choose the one that’s lowest in calories. 
  • Instead of developing your self-awareness and self-control, you’re outsourcing both of these to a device.

That’s the opposite of empowering. 

We hear from so many people who are SO sick of tracking but terrified to stop. They’re afraid that, without their tracker to them when to stop eating, they’ll never stop.

But listen: If you have the discipline to stop eating when your tracker tells you to, you also have the ability to stop eating when your stomach (or brain) lets you know that you’ve had enough. You can reclaim the authority that you’ve given to your tracker.  And there’s nothing more freeing than realizing that you can trust yourself to know (and do) what’s in your best interests.

Not sure how to start?

The free 7-Day Mindset Reset program is a great way to begin exploring this territory.

Thoughts? Questions? Arguments? Post them in the comments below. 

Your love of baking is not the problem

Our newest Weighless members have just begun their year-long program. They’re getting to know each other and sharing their stories in the member forum. And several of them have mentioned the same obstacle to weight loss:

“My problem has always been that I just love to bake,”  one said, prompting a rousing chorus of “Me too!”

Man, can I relate.  I was also an avid baker in my 20s. I baked bread, pies, biscotti, scones, biscuits, you name it.  Around the holidays, I turned into a one-woman cookie factory. I took great pride in my creations and got a lot of positive strokes from my friends and family.  Who doesn’t love the friend, sister, or co-worker that’s constantly showing up with fresh-baked bread and cookies? (At least, that’s what I told myself.)

I loved the science and chemistry, the feel of springy dough under my hands, the yeasty scent, the beautiful end product.   All the things that we bakers say we love about baking.

The problem was that I also loved to eat bread, pies, cakes, and cookies.  I baked a lot. I ate a lot of baked goods. With predictable results.

And I finally realized that if I wanted to weigh less, I might need to bake less.

The less I baked, the fewer baked goods I ate. With predictable results.

I still bake for special occasions. Dad gets a rhubarb pie every Father’s Day. I make Challah bread for Easter brunch. (Yes, I get the irony.)   And if I decide to make cookies for the holidays, I’ll choose just one or two of the family favorites instead of all ten.

And you know what?  My family didn’t stop loving me. My friends didn’t stop inviting me over. Holidays are still special. And I have found new ways to be creative in the kitchen.

Time that I used to spend feeding my sourdough, I now spend rinsing my sprouts. Instead of making cookies, I make seed crackers.  Instead of kneading dough, I’m pickling carrots. Instead of trying out new pastry recipes, I try out new soup recipes.

It’s OK to love baking, or cooking, or even eating. But when our pursuit of that activity becomes an obstacle to our well-being, it’s no longer a hobby or an enthusiasm.  It’s a way to abandon ourselves.  A way to excuse or justify poor choices.

Now, you may be one of those rare creatures that can bake up a storm and never over-indulge.  But if you’re more like me, you might want to experiment with the notion that that you can love baking just as much but do it much less often.  You might like the results.

The Power of a Craving Reboot

When I was younger, I worked for a division of the Government in IT. In that crowd, there is a running joke that almost any computer issue can be resolved by “turning it off and back on again.” And all joking aside, it really does work… a surprising amount of the time. Seriously, give it a try next time your computer, phone, tablet or even TV is giving you grief.

The American author and poet, Anne Lamott, also wrote that “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” Which is a key point in her TED talk called “12 Truths I Learned from Life and Writing” which I encourage you to check out.

This restarting strategy is very similar to something we teach in the Weighless program as a way to outwit random food cravings. And no, it doesn’t involve you having to go and take a nap everytime you get a craving for [insert default food here]. It simply involves taking a break from the situation that caused the craving in the first place.

Many conventional diets will simply tell you that you are not allowed to have that food (or will try to sell you on a substitute version) but in Weighless we prefer to be both a little more forgiving and more realistic in our advice.

We know the strength of willpower but we also know its weaknesses – so whenever possible we prefer to take it out of the equation.

So, instead of using a ton of willpower (if you have any left at this point in the day) to resist that urge, we suggest instead to make a deal with yourself to simply take a break for 10-ish minutes and remove yourself from the location or situation that kicked off the craving. Restart your inner CPU, as it were.

Then, the second part of the deal with yourself is that if you still have that same craving after 10-ish minutes of letting your brain reboot, follow through and go ahead and enjoy a sensible amount of that treat. But, and this is important, you REALLY take the time to enjoy that treat!

Don’t eat it distracted.

Sit down, focus on the treat, and enjoy the heck out of each bite until you are satisfied.

You know what? Honestly, more often than not after the restart, our members generally forget about the craving and move on with their day. And even if they don’t, the anticipation, the ritual and the mindfulness of eating that treat with no distractions makes it more enjoyable and often they find that just a few bites is all they required.

Try this strategy next time you find yourself with a random craving and let us know how it works for you. I bet, like my crappy old MacBook, a restart will make all the difference.