Be Kind to Your Future Self

One of the things I’ve previously struggled with when trying to create and, more importantly, maintain, new habits, it to keep the motivation going over the long term. I’ve often found that I’m good at getting motivated to begin a new habit, but once the initial wave of optimism fades, I find it becomes trickier to balance the demands of keeping the new habit going with the routines and unexpected happenings of daily life.

Recently, however, I’ve come across a new mantra courtesy of Gretchen Rubin and Liz Craft’s Happier podcast. In one of the episodes I listened to this summer (apologies, I can’t remember which one – note to self: jot things down in future!), Gretchen and Elizabeth talked about the idea of being kind to your future self. In short, there may be things you don’t really feel like doing in the moment but which, if you do do them, your future self will thank you for. For example, you might feel too tired after dinner to wash the dishes but if you leave them, when you wake up in the morning, you’ll wish you had just done them at the time. Therefore, thinking of your future self at the time you don’t feel like doing something can help to encourage you to do it.

I’ve been using this to my advantage in helping to stick to my healthy eating and exercise habits. There have been (several)times when I haven’t felt like preparing a healthy lunch or going to the gym, but I’ve stopped and thought about how grateful my future self will be that I did make the lunch or go to the gym. Similarly, I’ve employed this strategy when trying to avoid certain behaviours such as binge-eating or when tempted to indulge in more sweet treats than ar good for me. I’ve also found that picturing how that future self will look and feel – strong, lean, healthy and confident – when she’s thanking me for my actions has helped to boost the motivation to stick with my healthy habits.

 What are you going to do this week that your future self will thank you for? Let me know in the comments section.

Thanks for reading,

FFF

Who Doesn’t Want to be Happier?

People often comment that I’m always happy and have a positive attitude. Don’t get me wrong, I have my off days and I’m more than capable of having a good old strop, as Mr FFF will confirm, but, on the whole, I do try to maintain a positive outlook.

The key word in that statement is ‘maintain’. It’s something I actively work on and have done for years. One of the ways I do this is by listening to podcasts that promote positive thinking. One of the podcasts I particularly love in this vein in the ‘Happier‘ podcast.

Hosted by Gretchen Rubin, a writer who studies happiness and habits, and her sister Elizabeth Craft, a TV writer and producer. Each week they discuss tips and strategies for how to be happier and provide ‘try it at home’ ideas. Despite living, and recording the podcast, on opposite coasts of the USA, Gretchen and Elizabeth clearly have a close and supportive relationship which shines through in each episode.

I personally love listening to their podcasts whilst doing the housework – it always makes a boring chore a little Happier.

Thanks for reading,

FFF

Make Small Changes

When embarking on a new ‘diet’ or healthy living program, lots of people steam in and try to change everything all in one go. They tell themselves that they are not going to eat any ‘unhealthy’ food, they’re going to stop eating out and are going to go to the gym 5 days a week.

I think that these views are often fuelled by TV shows such as the biggest loser where we watch in admiration as people spend hours each day with a personal trainer and eat only healthful, nutritionally balanced meals and the weight of course falls off. But is this realistic for those of us who are not being paid to be on such a show? We have to remember that these participants are basically being paid to lose weight – it’s their job to do so.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m not being paid to live healthily and lose weight. I have to go out to work every day. And I haven’t got a team of chefs planning and preparing my meals.

When we try to change everything about our lifestyle in one go, it can often lead to overwhelm and can become unsustainable. So it’s often recommended that instead of overhauling every aspect of our lives, when trying to create new habits, we choose a few key areas in which to make small changes.

For me, this time around, that’s what I’ve been focusing on. I made the decision at the start of the summer to change just three things – I was going to start tracking my food, start exercising 3 times a week and stop eating out so often. Then I went on holiday and I decided that I was going to make a couple of small changes to how I would usually behave on holiday: I decided to continue going to the gym 3 times a week; to make the most of the healthy food options that were available and prepared for me rather than always choosing the most indulgent options; and to avoid drinking alcohol during the day.

I’m pleased to say that I’ve been sticking to these changes and have been seeing weight loss on the scales, reductions in my measurments and improvements in my fitness.

This weekend, I went out for dinner with friends for the first time since refocusing on my weightloss and health improvement goals. We went to a local steak house and again, I made some small changes to how I would normally approach a meal out: I decided I was only to going to have one glass of wine; we didn’t have starters although, if we were going to, I’d decided to order the salad option; I ordered the ‘lighter option’ version of steak accompaniments which saw my steak served with a delicious mixed salad instead of fries and fried onion loaf; then for dessert, I chose to order a peppermint tea with a mini-pud.

I left the restaurant feeling satisfied having enjoyed a delicous meal and great company, but I still felt in control. I also didn’t feel so stuffed that I spent the rest of the night feeling uncomfortable.

So, if you’re thinking about making big changes to your habits or lifestyle, maybe think again and just think about a couple of small changes you could make to get you started.

Have you decided to make any small changes to your habits or lifestyle? Let me know in the comments section.

Thanks for reading,

FFF

Change Your Story

We like to think we know ourselves pretty well. We know what our favourite food is, what kind of music we like to listen to and the things we like to do in our spare time.

But sometimes, what we think we ‘know’ about ourselves, is no more than a belief we hold based on the stories we tell ourselves. Understanding this can help us to break old, unhelpful habits and foster new ones that will help us to achieve our goals.

For example, I’d always thought of myself as someone who was not very good at art. I’d never attempt to do anything arty and if faced with a situation as a teacher when I had to, I’d break out into a cold sweat. I always told people “I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler!”. But a couple of years ago, I decided that I was going to try new things and booked myself onto a painting workshop. I loved it and was really pleased with the painting I created and even started to recreate the techniques I’d been taught at home.  I started to tell myself that I could paint and I was keen and eager to practise and go to more workshops to learn more skills.

But how can this help with weight loss and adopting a healthier lifestyle? What stories do we tell ourselves?

Personally, for years I’ve told myself the following stories:

  • I love to eat big meals
  • I always finish everything on my plate
  • I’m addicted to chocolate
  • I don’t like exercise
  • I don’t have time to exercise
  • I can’t run
  • I don’t run

Well, that’s a whole load of convincing myself that I’m an ‘unhealthy’ person! But, as any of you who’ve read my recent post about completing the C25K program know, it turns out I can run if I put the time and effort in. So it looks like “the only time I would contemplate running is if I’d just come out of the hairdresser’s and it was raining,” story had to be changed.

This got me thinking about what other stories I tell myself I ought to work on changing.

“I love to eat big meals and always finish everything on my plate” – Well, actually, whilst I do love to eat tasty food, I don’t like that uncomfortable feeling of being stuffed to the gills as it spoils the meal. So I focus on enjoying the flavours and textures and only eat until I’m satisfied.

“I’m addicted to chocolate” – No I’m not. I really enjoy chocolate but it is not healthy for me to eat one (or more!) bars every day. So I only enjoy good chocolate in moderation.

“I don’t like exercise” – Exercise is important for my physical and mental health and well being and I enjoy the way I feel after I’ve exercised.

“I don’t have time to exercise” – I’ve got the same amount of time as everyone else has and lots of those people manage to exercise. I make exercise a priority because it is important for my health.

Now, I’m not saying I’m consistently telling myself only the new stories without the old stories creeping in sometimes, but I’m trying. And the more I tell myself these new stories, the more I believe them.

What stories, helpful or unhelpful, do you tell yourself? Let me know in the comments section.

Thanks for reading,

FFF

One Won’t Hurt

Photo by kylie De Guia on Unsplash

I’m sure we’ve all used or heard this expression. I know I’ve definitely used it to justify:

  • having a cake
  • having a biscuit (even though I usually only eat those in twos)
  • having a glass of wine
  • not tracking a meal or snack
  • missing a workout

And it’s true. One won’t hurt. But if you’re having ‘one’ every day, eventually this adds up and has an impact. Darren Hardy talks more about this in his book ‘The Compund Effect’.

…decisions shape your destiny. Little, everyday decisions will take you either to the life you desire or to disaster by default.

The Compound Effect, Darren Hardy

I try to keep this principle at the forefront of my mind whenever I’m faced with making a decision about what to eat or whether to exercise or not. I ask myself a simple question,

“Will doing this take me closer to or further away from where I want to be?”