Weight loss and healthy eating seems so simple: Eat fewer calories than you expend, and you will lose weight. But ask any of the 50 million individuals who are attempting to lose weight each year, and they will tell you it is not that easy. Its not just changing what you eat and exercising. It feels like battle. After all, you are tackling the 10-year daily visit to the vending machine, the 20-year-old snacking-while-watching-television habit and the real doozy: the dinners not complete unless I eat something sweet conviction.
Even as a health and fitness professional, you may experience times where you lack motivation for clean eating, or you might rationalize your food choices because you exercised a lot on a given day.
If you want clients to kick those bad habits that prevent eating fewer calories, then you need to prepare them to understand and change your behaviors. To get you started, here are some pointers for your clients to keep in mind:
First, understand your motivation. Why do you want to lose weight or make better eating decisions? If you do not have a reason that is truly meaningful to you, than you will have a tough road to climb.
People who attempt weight loss because they feel they should but arent invested wont be able to make the necessary permanent change in behavior. If you cant identify a reason, brainstorm. Write down every possible reason why you want to lose weight, eat clean, etc., and set it aside for a day or so. When you return to the list, write down why that reason is important to you (what will it do for you specifically).
When youve identified your top three and you feel strongly about them, its time to get started. If you still struggle, put the list away, and return every couple of days, adding answers and revisiting old ones until you have identified your reason why.
Once you have identified the very specific reason as to why, hang onto it. Make visible reminders. They could be pictures of you or pictures of a figure model or bodybuilder with a physique you admire that is hung in the kitchen or bathroom. Maybe it is a pair of pants you would like to fit into.
When you are feeling like giving up, try on the pants. Notice how they fit, where they are still tight, where they have gotten bigger. Now imagine what it will be like to fit into them again.
Take an index card, and write one sentence, summarizing your motivation. Carry the card with you. When you dont want to pack your meals or make a healthy eating decision, read the card several times. Tell yourself tomorrow if you feel like eating less healthy food, youll give in but for today, you will stick with it. The next time the scenario comes up, play the same game with yourself. Identify your motivation for giving up. Is going home and eating pizza, eating out at a restaurant or grabbing something from the vending machine really worth it?
We (and our clients) are our own worst enemy. Despite working hard at changing our behaviors and making efforts to make it happen, we subtly tell ourselves things like I hope I can do this, Ive been good, I deserve to take a day off or I blew it today, I might as well write today off and start fresh tomorrow.
The problem with these thoughts is that they are all negative. Telling yourself you hope you can do this indicates uncertainty and that some element is not within your control. Remember: Whatever your goal, it is possible. Consistent healthy eating and weight loss takes time. So direct your thoughts positively, and keep your motivation in sight.
Know Your Environment
A common concept in the area of psychology and behavior change is known as stimulus control. Stimulus control refers to cues (stimuli) in our environment that encourage us toward specific behaviors. These cues can be subtle (a television commercial for your favorite snack food) but arent always (the smell of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven). These cues can make you forget your commitment to a healthier eating plan.
Thankfully, all cues are not negative. Take, for example. a bowl of fresh fruit on the countertop or a refrigerator stocked with fresh vegetables. These cues are much more likely to remind you of your healthy eating plan.
Examine your behaviors. What negative behaviors would you like to change? Dont assume giving in to unhealthy decisions is due to a lack of willpower. Identify those things in your environment that occur prior to engaging in the behavior. For example, if you stop for fast food on the way home from work because you dont have anything to make at home, change those cues. Choose a different path home, leave your wallet at the office, or put your wallet in your trunk so you have to park the car rather than stopping quickly. Eliminate the negative cues surrounding the behavior and you are halfway to eliminating the behavior!
Do you give your best to your job, your family and your friends but never devote anything worthwhile to yourself? Use these behavior changes as an opportunity to put yourself first. Remind yourself that you are taking steps toward a healthier, leaner you and, most importantly, you are worth it!
If you do not see changes in your body or on the scale immediately, be patient. Weight loss and body composition changes will happen when you remain committed to your goal.
Kara Mohr, PhD, FACSM, is the co-owner of Mohr Results, Inc, and creator of the DVD, Grocery Shopping Made Easy. For more specific strategies to better help your clients reach their goals, visit www.MohrResults.com.