There are two keys to making your goals a reality:
1) Deciding where you want to end up and
2) Starting out on that path.
You don’t have to plan for every single pot hole or detour on the way but you do need a general plan. When it comes to health and wellness, food and exercise are fundamental. Planning in advance is of the utmost importance. I don’t know anyone who eats healthfully and exercises regularly by accident. The healthiest people I know tend to maintain a diligent focus about it and work regularly to stay on track. You don’t end up an Olympic athlete by accident, and you don’t tend to achieve optimal health and avoid chronic disease by accident either.
When it comes to food, there is an abundance of plans. New diet plans make the headlines every month it seems. Most are really just variations on some of the same themes over and over again anyway. So if you are overweight as you’re reading this, and you’ve been following one eating style after another, is it fair to say that it’s not working? The problem is not that you haven’t found enough eating plans. Dr. Livingston shed light on a really basic principle about this for me. Part of the reason it’s so easy to quit following a plan is that it’s always someone else’s plan! Most of us have some issue with being told what to do, and there can be some serious barriers to eating what someone else tells you to eat. Sure you might be able to do it short term, but can you do it permanently?
So what’s the solution? Create your own plan. Really put some serious thought into it and decide what YOUR rules are. Do your research, remain open to what those people say whom you respect and wish to emulate. But pick and choose among that information to find what works for YOU. Rules and structure are important because they become your compass and they guide you toward your destination if you follow them. Taking time to get your rules right will be time well spent. In Never Binge Again Dr. Livingston suggests creating a food plan with 4 categories: Never, Always, Unrestricted, and Conditional. “Nevers” are foods, drinks, or behaviors you’ll never indulge in again for as long as you life. “Always” are things you’ll always do regarding food, drink, and food behaviors. “Unrestricted” items are just that – you permit yourself to have at will. “Conditionals” are the tricky ones – they’re the ones you will permit yourself but only at certain times or in certain amounts. You can download templates here to start working on your own.
As you start to write down your rules, you’ll no doubt hear lots of Pig Squeal. Especially when you get to the Nevers column, you’ll hear the most Pig Squeal. It’s ok. This is where you start to become aware of how the Pig has been manipulating your thoughts and behaviors. Keep your journal handy as you start this exercise. As you hear the Pig raise an objection, write it down. Come back to it later and figure out how you’re going to address it.
This is going to be a lengthy exercise, but it’s an important one and you are worth the time it’ll take to do it. Before you even begin the plan though, think about why you’re doing it. Do you have a desire to lose weight? Why? To look better? Feel better? Have more energy? Are you looking to improve your vital statistics to decrease your chances of chronic disease? Are you looking to lose weight so you can move more freely? To feel better in your clothes? Is it so you can be around and involved more with your kids? Your grandkids? Whatever your motivations are for choosing a healthful lifestyle, remind yourself of that frequently. It’s what will keep you going when times get challenging.
Step 1 – Define your Goal.
Step 2 – Define your Why.
Step 3 – Create your food Plan, figuring out which foods and food behaviors go in which category.
Step 4 – Get started.
I mentioned that this could be a lengthy exercise. But that’s not an excuse to sit on this assignment for 6 months as you decide what your plan is! Come up with the best plan you can for now and get started. Live with it for a few weeks at a time and then reevaluate it. This will be a living document for quite awhile, if not forever. They’re your rules and YOU can change them. Your Pig cannot change them on a whim, but you can change them.
I learned from Mike Dooley that the Universe can only guide you if you move in the direction of your dreams. It doesn’t come find you if you’re sitting at home just waiting for Oprah to call. He reminds us that you can plug your destination into your GPS but it can’t start providing directions and guidance until you actually leave your driveway and begin your journey. It’s the same with your plan. You can’t know how it’s working for you until you start living with it and start following it. So sit down with it, fill out your plan as best you can at this time, and just get started. You won’t be perfect, I’m sure, but you’ll learn more about how you (and the Pig) work by going through these motions and simply paying attention to the results.
We’ll talk more about how to phrase the rules effectively in the next post.