By Charles Platkin
January has already come and gone. It goes by fast. I know you made all those resolutions, but it's cold, or you're just too busy to make your resolutions stick. I know there are many acronyms being used today, especially in our text-based life. However, I have one more for you: BREAK IT!
Here's a how-to guide for changing some of your hard-to-break habits.
BACKWARD. Review your past patterns. Taking a careful look at your past can help you to avoid repeating harmful patterns and determine where you want to go in the future. The past may be behind you, but thinking about it and analyzing what happened is the key to your dieting future. Keep an open mind. Think of the strategies that didn't work in your previous attempts to lose weight. By looking at your failures, you learn what NOT to repeat. You probably learned something from every diet you've been on. It's up to you to find out what you gained from all that hard work.
RESPONSIBLE. Create a responsible attitude right now; recognize that you are the only one who can make something happen in your life. People love to blame. We blame situations, circumstances, events and even ourselves for where we are in our lives. Blame excuses us from acting responsibly. In terms of diet, it allows us to avoid focusing on controlling our weight because there's nothing we can do about it. Keep in mind, however, that one of the key characteristics of all successful weight-losers is their ability to avoid blaming and accept responsibility for whatever trips them up along the road. Keep this concept close when you attempt your next weight-loss campaign: We may not be fully responsible for every event in our lives; accidents do happen. However, we are solely responsible for how we respond to those events. Many of our own patterns — the ones we do control — provide us opportunity, success and failure.
ELEVATE. Pull yourself up by setting goals. According to a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, good goal-setting and planning increase your chances of making and maintaining improvements in nutrition-related behaviors by 84 percent. But why should that surprise you? Most of life — even figuring out the best route from the dry cleaners to the post office to the supermarket — requires some planning. We have no problem coming up with detailed strategies when planning an event like a wedding. In fact, we obsess over every detail — the band, the dress, the tux and the caterer. But when it comes to losing weight, we don't give strategic planning a fraction of the passion it deserves. There are seven characteristics of effective planning and goal setting that you can remember with the acronym SMARTER: Specific; Motivating; Achievable; Rewarding; Tactical; Evaluated; Revisable.
ACTION. Develop an action plan by thinking ahead. When pursuing a goal, it is crucial to have a well-thought-out, written plan. You can minimize crises by anticipating obstacles and figuring out r how you will surmount them. And keep in mind, great things are achieved by a series of small things--micro-choices that add up. Micro-choices are the ones we make in the moment. For instance, whether we choose to eat an apple or a slice of apple pie, whether we bike to work or take the car. Its those micro-choices that make up our lives -- to learn more about micro-choices see: http://www.dietdetective.com/changing-behavior-all-about-those-micro-choices-we-make-2/ . Also, confidence is critical for taking action. In fact, a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that as self-efficacy improved, eating habits also improved and weight loss was greater.
KNOCK OUT. Knock out your excuses with excuse busting. Come up with Excuse Busters and Plan Bs. Punch holes in your excuses until they are no longer airtight. Do this by coming up with counterarguments for every single excuse you may have for not achieving your goals.
IMAGINE. Researchers at Utrecht University in the Netherlands reported that those who believed they could control their eating and didn't blame being overweight on "bad genes" lost the most weight. It's called "visualization" — an imagined, meaningful, detailed vision of your life after you've reached your goal weight. During the last Olympics, there was much discussion of athletes having a "vision" of crossing the finish line and winning the race before starting the event. I call these visions "Life Preservers." Think of every emotional and physical detail that will follow your success and reflect on them to help you get through the tough times or when you feel that you're losing sight of your goal. For example, imagine a thinner, healthier you running into your ex at the mall.
Another key visualization technique used by almost all world-class athletes is mental rehearsal. I'm sure you've heard the expression "practice makes perfect." The concept is to rehearse an upcoming event, not on the field but in your mind. By doing that, you trick your brain into having an experience you didn't actually have. You need to rehearse your eating choices before they take place, before you eat at your favorite restaurant, before you go into the office knowing that it's "doughnut Friday."
TODAY. Don't delay. Part of making any behavioral change is actually getting started and putting your plan in motion. Start right now.
Charles Platkin, Ph.D., is a nutrition and public health advocate and founder of DietDetective.com, and the director of the New York City Food Policy Center at Hunter College. Copyright 2016-17 by Charles Platkin. All rights reserved. Sign up for the free Diet Detective newsletter at www.DietDetective.com.