You are ready for change.
Everything you eat will be nutritious. Every day will be productive. Every thought will be charitable. Every relationship will be rewarding.
It’s a new day with a new sheriff in town. From here on out, life is going to be different.
What’s wrong with that?
Two things: the night before and the days afterward.
Let’s look at a specific change—say, limiting your sugar intake. A worthy goal! First, though, you’re going to treat yourself to a scrumptious dinner topped off with about eight different desserts. After all, you need to reward yourself for the fact that you will Never Eat Sugar Again in Your Lifetime.
The morning after, you wake up and realize that you’re due at your nephew’s birthday party. Aunt Ella’s killer cupcakes! Oh well. The diet will start Monday. Meanwhile, there will be another scrumptious dinner. See where this is going?
That’s the night (or nights) before. It’s sometimes called “Last Supper Syndrome”.
The days afterward? They can trap you into a vicious circle of guilt.
Adrian is two weeks into his new regimen. He feels great. Then the unthinkable happens: he eats a brownie.
One slip does not a disaster make. Unfortunately, Adrian’s reaction to the slip is to feel guilty. Guilt leads to binging, more guilt and more binging. Voilà: circle.
Adrian will probably pull himself out of the circle (after another last supper, of course). By then, more damage has been done than if he had just enjoyed the brownie and gone right back to healthful eating.
Are Adrian’s health aspirations doomed to failure? Emphatically not. But it would help him to remember that big change happens best through small steps.
STEP 1: Know where you are. Imagine planning a 5K race. How will you know where to put the finish line if you don’t know where the runners will start? Before you cut down on sugar, figure out how much sugar you currently consume. Don’t forget to include processed foods. If you eat out, estimate as closely as you can. Don’t change anything; just observe.
STEP 2: Know where you’re going—exactly. “I’m cutting down on sugar” is vague. “Cutting out sugar completely” is drastic. Decide exactly how much (in teaspoons or grams) you want to decrease your sugar intake by. This amount isn’t written in stone; you can adjust it later.
STEP 3: Start small and build momentum. Did you know that the average American eats almost a ton of food a year? Yet if someone plopped a ton of food in front of you and insisted you eat it, you’d protest that you couldn’t possibly. Moral: Don’t try to accomplish too much at once. Take a single step. Why not start by drinking your tea or coffee unsweetened? It’s only a teaspoon or two of sugar, but it’s a beginning. Get used to one small change before you make another.
STEP 4: There is no “fail”. When making lifestyle changes, you cannot fail. You may change more slowly than anticipated. You may experience setbacks. You may even stop for a while. But there is no such state as failed. As long as you can try again, you are still on the road to success.
Here’s to you—the new you!