Dieting: When Life Gets In The Way

That pesky thing called life. It has a way of fouling up the best laid plans, doesn’t it?

First you decide you’re going to start keeping your car cleaner, thinking, “I know, I’ll wash it every Saturday morning.” Great. You have a plan. Saturday comes along and someone calls inviting you to go golfing. “I was going to wash the car, but I can do it later this afternoon,” and off you go. Maybe you do wash the car later that afternoon…

Next week Saturday comes along and someone invited you camping so you’re in the woods, thinking, “Oh, well, can’t wash the car from here, can I?”

Next week, you’ve forgotten all about your car washing plan, so even though you’re not busy you’re thinking, “I don’t really FEEL like washing the car right now. I’ll do it later,” and so it goes.

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” — John Lennon

I’ve seen it happen in my own life, time and again, as soon as I make a plan, something foils it. I join the gym, and get the flu. My car breaks down the first night of a new class. When the ground is dry it doesn’t rain, and as soon as you wash the car, it does. This isn’t meant to set us up with a pessimistic outlook but just to point out why persistence in the face of obstacles is what separates the haves from the have nots.

It’s not what happens but what you DO with what happens that matters.

The best approach is one-day-at-a-time, or even lesser intervals depending on what it is. With smoking for instance, it can be one half-hour at a time, and with food or eating, it can be one meal at a time, one hunger at a time, or whatever works for you.

For me, if I say I won’t do something anymore, it never lasts, but if I wake up in the morning and decide for that day, and only that day, that I will do something or follow through with something, then it does happen. There’s a real rush of accomplishment when you wake up and realize that yesterday you did follow-through. You accomplished what you set out to do. And that’s when it’s easy to decide your intention for that day (or that hour).

Let the success build, and let the lapses pass. It takes practice to get proficient, so just plan to keep at it. Small lapses aren’t failures, they are only lapses, and you then decided for the next time period. You will find that you are following through more often than not, as time goes by. Doing this allows you to pre-plan when you know you’ll not stick to your eating plan, and thus, makes it okay. When you give yourself permission it’s amazing how much less you’ll feel like overdoing it.

What about when you decide and something comes up unexpectedly? For instance, you decided you’re going to work out on Monday, Wednesday and Friday’s after work at 6:00 PM. This works great on Monday and Wednesday but Friday someone asks you to join them after work for a beer or dinner. Maybe that cute co-worker you’ve had your eye on.

What do you do? Do you say, “No, thanks, I have to work out,” and risk never getting to know that person, or “No, I already have plans,” and sound like a jerk, or “Maybe some other time,” and you know there’ll never be another time, or “Yes, that sounds great,” and then you berate yourself for being a wimp and not following through with your workout plan. Either way you’re not going to feel good about your decision, are you? You’re setting yourself up to fail.

A better plan: First, before you decide what you want to do, think it through completely. This is part of the “Creating a Compelling Outcome” process (taught in my 8-week course and used in private sessions as well). When you decide what you’d like to do you must also consider everything else that will be affected, and whether your plan is workable in the real world.

If you thought about it before-hand you may have realized that things would often come up Friday evenings, so you decided to work out on Monday and Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings, or some other schedule. Thinking about what might interfere is why many people do their working out in the early morning hours. Working out in the morning virtually ensures nothing else will come up. No one invites you out for 6:00 AM except maybe your running partner!

If you want to get up early, think it through. Are you a night person? Early morning hours probably won’t work for you, but some other time will. Do you have a spouse who’d complain loudly? Consider them as well, but don’t let others wishes keep you from following through, just consider others, and any objections they may have. Then you can figure out in advance how you could counter those objections. It’s basically a way to look at your plans from all the angles, figure out the danger zones, decide in advance on strategies to keep you on track.

Secondly, once in awhile you won’t be able to keep to your plan. That’s okay. Holidays interfere with gym hours. I’ve been annoyed when the gym was closed on Christmas Day!

If you’re making changes in your eating habits, do the same thing. I’ve done this successfully with many eating habits such as my old “Once a week burgers and fries habit” which is now down to seldom or a couple of times a year. I did this by taking my four times a month burgers and fries habit and cutting it first back to three times a month. Then twice a month, then it was easy enough to just stop. Once I broke the regular cycle, it was easy.

I never did go to once a month. Even if you associate your eating with your best times, you can still make changes successfully when you realize that not everybody’s life revolves around food – many things do, special occasions, etc., but not everything.

Basic Steps for Creating a Compelling Outcome:

1. Decide what you want

2. What else will happen if you achieve this?

3. Will anyone else be affected?

4. What resources do you already have that will help you achieve this, i.e. time, equipment, money, support?

5. Do you need any other resources to achieve this such as money, time, etc?

6. Is achieving this within your ability and control?

7. Will anyone else object?

8. What is the first step toward achieving this now?

These are basically the types of questions to ask yourself. Choose an outcome, go through the above questions and if you find you cannot answer them to your satisfaction, go back and change the outcome, then go through the questions again. Do this as many times as is necessary until you’ve found an outcome you know you can achieve, and then you will achieve it.

Remember too, you’re not setting up a perfectionist situation, but a plan you can live with and work with. Choose one small thing to change, one habit, one event. Achieving small wins daily builds to enormous successes, and life goes on. Enjoy every moment of it.

Then, when those special situations arise, you’ll know what to do, because you’ve already planned ahead, and even if you abandon your plan, for a vacation perhaps, you just get right back on track when you return feeling refreshed and excited to get started again. Relaxing like this on a vacation many find they eat a lot, play a lot and any weight they gain is lost within days of their return.

My ideas are meant to help you generate some of your own. More ideas to come. Keep those cards and letters coming too! I love your input.