It’s starting to snow outside and I’m sitting in one of my favorite places, a local coffee shop playing jazz over the speakers, preparing to start again, again. Over the last couple of months I’ve gotten off track, gotten back on track, gotten off track, and gotten back on track. As much as I enjoy the temporary pleasures of comfort foods, I’m tired of not feeling good. If you’d like to hear more about my journey go here or here.
For those who struggle with chronic illness, holidays are a prime time for getting off track because the stress of the holiday combines with chronic pain and emotional stress, depleting our remaining stores of self-control. In the midst of the holiday stress it’s difficult for me (and I’m sure for you too) to remember that comfort food is only comforting for the 5-30 minutes it takes to eat it and, instead of providing comfort, it actually results in days of discomfort.
I know that if I’m going to make significant progress towards healing my body, and doing the things that fill me with joy, that I’m going to have to make consistent changes for a significant amount of time (at least 6 months). So this time instead of rushing myself into another long list of expectations, I want to set myself up for success by being intentional about creating a firm foundation. Since I was going through these steps for myself I thought I would give you an overview of my process and I’ll share more of the details in future posts.
1. Give yourself a break. No one’s perfect. In fact, the more you try to be perfect, the more you’re moving yourself away from your goal. Stress causes inflammation and inflammation stops, or reverses, the healing processes so it’s important to remember that your best is better than trying to be perfect. Yes, if you have a chronic illness that is impacted by your diet and lifestyle, the closer you are to perfect, the better your health will be. But it’s important that you strike a balance between striving for perfection and stressing yourself out. Repeat after me (I’m serious! Say these out loud to yourself right now!): It’s ok, my best is good enough. Progress is better than perfection.
3. Any day is a good day. Many people wait until New Year’s or a birthday to make a life change and, if that works for you, wonderful! But often times when people decide to start a lifestyle change on a date in the future they find themselves binging in the days leading up to their start date and this can lead to more damage instead of less. Instead, if your game plan is already in place, try picking a day in the very near future. The sooner you start, the sooner you will make progress.
4. Baby steps or cold turkey? Look into your past to a time when you successfully made a long term change. Have you been more successful when you took baby steps or when you went cold turkey? If you were most successful (notice I said most successful, not perfect) when taking baby steps then try taking baby steps again. If you were most successful when you went cold turkey then try that again. Everyone’s different so you have to find out what works for you using trial and error.
5. Get support. Most of us are far more successful when we have some form of accountability. In 2007 I decided that I would raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society by securing sponsorships for the Steamboat Springs Marathon. Fifteen miles into the marathon my feet, ankles, knees, and hips were aching with each step. I fantasized about stopping and giving up but I couldn’t bear to go home and tell all the people who had sponsored me the truth, that I didn’t finish. I ended up walking the last 11 miles of the marathon but I’m still proud of myself because I didn’t give up and I finished in spite of the pain. Get creative and ask yourself where can you find accountability? Can you share your goals and ask for accountability from your friends, family, a Facebook community, or on your blog? Can you hire a coach or join a program that will provide structure and accountability?
5. Tell me again, why am I doing this? Many factors go into getting off track but one of the leading factors is forgetting your purpose. Take some quiet time to think about why you want to improve your health and change your lifestyle.
6. Go deeper. I once heard someone say that shallow purpose leads to shallow efforts. If your “Why” is something like, I want to lose weight so I can wear a smaller size, you’re most likely going to find that you won’t be able to stay on track for long. Why? Because goals like wearing a smaller size are typically too shallow to provide much power. Many people who have been able to make lasting changes were able to do so because they connected with something deeper. So, dig deeper! What are the deeper reasons you want to make changes? Do you want to live longer so you can play with your grandchildren? Do you want to embody strength and resilience? Do you want to set an example for your children? Do you want to live a life full of passion and purpose?
7. Write it out. Once you’ve identified the bedrock reasons for making changes, write them down on 3×5 cards. Place the cards in areas where you will easily see them every day (your mirror, on the refrigerator, the visor of your car, on your computer, or in your wallet) and review them at least once a day. Out of sight means out of mind so reviewing your goals on a daily basis, and when you’re tempted to get off track, is absolutely essential to staying on track for the long run. It only takes a minute so there’s no excuse! If you’re forgetful about these types of things, set an alarm in your smart phone to remind you.
It’s time for me to get started on my own list of goals so I’ll leave you here. I would love to hear what your goals are so feel free to share them in the comments! And remember, the purpose of my blog is to help as many people as possible so if my posts resonate with you, take a moment to share them with your community. Happy holidays!
Mindy Kissner, HHC, LCSW
Thrive Wholistic Health