Step 12: Trick yourself into changing your choices

For some reason we humans tend to look at things in terms of dichotomies:

  • black/white
  • less/more 
  • right/wrong
  • go to the gym/stay home
  • etc.

If you’re going to do something why not do it all the way, right? ;)

Last week I turned 30 and I have to admit I spent the whole week celebrating. My reasoning: well, I started the week eating unhealthy stuff and have so many parties and social things to do I might as well just keep eating bad the whole week….

So I presented myself with choices like:

  • Write another blog post or relax.
  • Eat a brownie or have no dessert at all.
  • Go to Starbucks or having nothing for breakfast.

I know, I know. Not the smartest decisions, but I know I’m not the only one who is guilty of all or nothing thinking. When I was learning to be a teacher at the University of Montana a professor told me something I’ll never forget: Many student teachers make the mistake of giving their students ultimatums. For example, “Do your work or go to the Principal’s office.” Obviously, the student teacher immediately laments their decision to give the student a choice when students dig in their heels and chooses the Principal.

My professor suggested that we avoid this by never giving students a choice we don’t want them to make. All or nothing decisions can end badly (students in the Principal’s office aren’t studying) and they are ultimately unnecessary. Instead, a smart teacher will do what quizzes, polls and surveys often do. Present you with a few unappealing choices (all of which will result in something good) and let you pick the path that sucks the least for you. For example, “Read a chapter from the book or write in your journal for 15 minutes.” Neither is appealing to a stubborn student, but given the choice, they may prefer one more than another.

I’m not going to go into WHY I think people tend to think in dichotomies, but this morning I propose using a brilliant mental ‘trick’ to help yourself avoid all or nothing thinking.

The Step:

Trick yourself into changing your choices.

Change Your Choices copy

Here’s How to Do It:

  1. Consider the “bad” and/or extreme decisions you make often that you’d like to change.
  2. Think about alternatives you can give yourself.
  3. The next time you need to make a decision, pay attention to your thoughts.
  4. If you’re giving yourself a “good vs bad” type choice, change the decision from “good vs. bad” and give yourself a few choices you dislike. For example, instead of: Eat ice cream or have nothing for dessert; make the choice: Have fruit or yogurt for dessert.
  5. Stick with your decision. You’ve picked something you don’t want to do the hardest part is to dig in your heels and really commit to your decision.
  6. Pat yourself on the back if you go through with it. If you don’t go through with it think about why this might be and try again.
  7. Practice! The best way to get better at good decision making is by doing it over and over again. Keep at it.

Don’t forget to let me know how it goes too!

If you’re just joining us,  you can get caught up on all the steps here and If you’d like to your weekly step in your inbox sign up for a subscription to my blog in the sidebar!

52 Steps to Health – Step 10: Embrace the difficult

“I want to get healthy, but I don’t like vegetables.”

“I hear yoga is really good for you, but I’m not that flexible”

“I want to take Zumba at the gym, but I don’t want to look like an idiot in front of others.”

Every positive thing in life comes with something negative. As Seth Godin once wrote, “You don’t get to just do the good parts.

Of course. :)

Sometimes it seems like every time things in life start to feel ok (or even awesome) there is something else to push through or work towards or fight to overcome. What’s worse is the difficult always leaves this awful, uncomfortable, “dread” feeling that is sometimes difficult to shake. Some people (most?) avoid that feeling as much as they can.

There is another approach, however, that is better than avoidance, better than fighting, and better than waiting for something difficult to go away.

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The Step:

Embrace the difficult.

How:

  1. Chose something difficult that’s happening in your life (or something difficult you’d like to try)
  2. Chose a time and/or place THIS WEEK to get the thing done and commit to it: Put it on your calendar, make a mental note, ask a friend to go with you, etc.
  3. Decide how you’re going to EMBRACE the awful, uncomfortable, “dread” feeling:
  • If you’re going to your first ever Zumba class and dread looking like a complete fool, find a tutu or a pair of polka dot knee socks and embrace the dread!
  • If you’ve been avoiding your taxes because you dread how much money you owe, make a date with your significant other and battle it together. Set up some healthy snacks, some good music and reward yourselves when you’re finished.
  • If you hate vegetables (and/or hate to cook) plan a new meal with ingredients you’d like to try. Look up new recipes  buy yourself cool new tools for the kitchen, put on some music, invite friends over and make it an event.
  • Having a problem at work? Be proactive and talk to someone about it over a cup of coffee on you. Remember to stay professional when you explain the situation and ask for help.

This week I challenge you to EMBRACE THE DIFFICULT.

I’ll be embracing it by (finally) doing my taxes this week and giving myself some sort of awesome reward. Hmmmmm. What should it be?

P.S. If you’re just joining us, read all about 52 weeks, 52 steps here. You can get caught up on all the steps here  and If you’d like to your weekly step in your inbox sign up for a subscription to my blog!

Step 8: Eat more fruits and vegetables

It’s no surprise that there are many benefits to eating fruits and vegetables. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases and fruits and vegetables also provide essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and other substances that are important for good health (source ). In fact, many now believe that at least half your plate for each meal should be fruits and vegetables.

While I can’t tell you what’s right or wrong in terms of your diet and your body, I can say that I feel healthier, lighter, and more satisfied when I have fruits and/or veggies with every meal.

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The Step:

Eat fruits and/or vegetables with every meal and snack.

How:

  1. Commit to the challenge of eating a fruit and/or vegetable with every meal or snack
  2. Spend today finding new recipes that include fruits and veggies you love and would like to try.
  3. Make a list and go shopping for your favorite fruits and veggies. Make sure you have enough fresh produce for the next few days.
  4. Pick a trigger that will remind you to eat a fruit or veggie with every meal or snack. For example:
  • Keep an apple or banana at your desk.
  • Stock up your fridge with ready-to-eat carrot slices.
  • Plan a new meal that sounds yummy and exciting.
  • Start each meal or snack with your fruit and veggies and then move on to the other stuff you have prepared.

Good luck!

P.S. Are you participating in 52 weeks, 52 steps? How is it going?

P.P.S. If you’re just joining us, you can read all about 52 weeks, 52 steps and get caught up on all the steps here. If you’d like to your weekly step in your inbox sign up for a subscription to my blog here.

Step 5: Try something new

After lots of self torment, reflection, and asking the opinions of others I finally signed up for the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic.

I’m just a bit nervous

Actually, honestly, I’m terrified (don’t worry, it’s the good kind). ;)

How can I be ‘good terrified’?

Well, I think I’m experiencing Eustress (i.e. positive stress). It’s the feeling you get when you challenge yourself to something scary, when you take a few steps just past your comfort zone, you look around, and you start to sweat a bit.

I’m terrified because I know I’m going to do something really challenging, and I’ve started mentally preparing. I have tons of nervous energy building up but, despite the fear, this is actually a good thing. Eustress is what pushes people to achieve goals, to climb mountains, to enter marathons, to win races. It’s our body’s way of helping us through pressure.

So, because I’m all eustressed out right now, I thought I’d make the next step correspond to what I’m doing.

Are you scared? Don’t worry, it’s a good thing… ;)

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The Step:

Challenge yourself to try something new (something that scares you just a little).

How:

Day 1: Write down a short list of things you’ve wanted to try, but haven’t yet.
Day 2: Think it over and weigh your options
Day 3: Pick one that:

  • You can realistically achieve (or one you can train for).
  • Seems a little too big and/or scares you just a little

Day 4: Make the commitment to yourself. Choose a time, place, and/or training schedule. If the thing you’ve picked costs money, buy (or start saving towards) it this week.
Day 5: Announce your new activity to your friends and family.
Day 6: Start – even if you can only spend 5 minutes – do it!

Lastly, if you choose to do this step, let me know what you pick. I’d love to hear all about it. :)

P.S. If you’re just joining us, you can read all about 52 weeks, 52 steps.

Step Four: Measure

It may seem arbitrary to your health and somewhat superficial, but knowing where you’ve started (with the help of measurements) is a great way to keep motivated when all hope seems lost. Further, if you can look at how far you’ve come, it becomes pretty difficult to throw all your efforts out on a whim.

For me, taking measurements doesn’t mean simply weighing yourself and breaking out a measuring tape. I only ever advocate measuring oneself based on goals:

Want to lose weight? → Weigh yourself.
Want to reduce pain? → Compare your pain to a pain chart.
Want to have less stress in your life? → Rate your stress level compared to a stress level scale. Also, write down what’s stressing you out.
Want to eat healthier foods? → Write a list (or take a snapshot) of what you eat on a typical day. Write what you’d like to change.
Want your body to be bigger (or smaller)? → Whip out the measuring tape.

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The Step:

With your health goals in mind, take your measurements and keep them in a place you’ll remember to use for reflection in the future.

How:

  1. Commit to writing down a few “measurements” each day this week.
  2. Choose how and where you will be recording your measurements (For example: In a spiral notebook, on a new blog, by taking pictures and uploading to Tumblr, in a word document, etc.)
  3. Record a few measurements (and the goals they relate to). Here are a few examples of measurements to get you started:
  • Take your measurements with a tape measure
  • Weigh yourself
  • Calculate your BMI
  • Find out your body fat percentage
  • Take pictures of meals
  • Write down your stress level
  • Write down any pain you feel on a regular basis
  • Write about what you’re thinking about or working on this week
  • Write down a few recent victories

Keep your measurements in a safe place (hopefully somewhere you’ll revisit again).

Are you participating in 52 weeks, 52 steps? How is it going? Let me know in the comments!

Also, If you’re just joining us, you can read all about 52 weeks, 52 steps and get caught up on all the steps here. If you’d like to your weekly step in your inbox sign up for a subscription to my blog here.