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1 step forward, 2 steps back: How to keep your diet & fitness progress from being hijacked by your inner slacker

Monday, March 5th, 2012

Has this ever happened to you?

You get all ramped up to get started on your health and weight loss plan.  You’ve got your whole-foods, low-fat plant-based diet plan organized and ready.  You’ve stocked your kitchen and in your enthusiasm and resolve, even printed out a few recipes.

You’ve outlined a simple workout plan to include that all-important exercise.   You know it helps keep you stay motivated and boosts your willpower.

All systems go. Motivation is high.

So far so good

Week one runs like a charm.  Sure, there’s a learning curve.  Yet soon the challenge  of being prepared with the right food to eat isn’t such a steep climb.  You’ve checked off the ‘today’s exercise’ box on your to-do chart.  Things start perking along.  Heck, you’ve got the knack of this thing.  This is going to be easy!

You start to feel better.  You drop a couple of pounds,. Your clothes feel roomier.  Then you find a day or two start to creep in where you missed a workout.  Or ran out of good eats.  No biggie, you think.  Look how far I’ve come!  I should be congratulating myself!

Before you know it, you’ve missed a day or two of physical activity and  justified a couple of cookies.  Or worse.

Or even what may seem like crazier, you figure “I’ve been so good, I deserve a reward!” which starts to chip slowly but surely away at your new, better eating and exercise gig.  The 2 cookies turn into a bagful. The 2 steps back turn into a slide.

The Problems and The Solutions

There are 2 things going on here

1)  Problem: Your “long-term interests’ self has run smack dab into the face of your ‘instant gratification’ self.

Self-control success has an unintended consequence:  It temporarily satisfies – and therefore silences – the higher self.  When you make progress toward your long-term goal, your brain –  with its mental checklist of many goals – turns off the mental processes that were driving you to pursue your long-term goal.  It will then turn its attention to the goal that has not yet been satisfied – the voice of self-indulgence.  Psychologists call this goal liberation. ~ Kelly McGonigal, The Willpower Instinct

Yikes!  The short-term goals of instant gratification – “go ahead and eat it, now!” and “that couch looks pretty good!” –  hijacks your best intentions and all of a sudden you find yourself 2 steps back

Solution:  Remember the ‘why’. Why do you want to ‘get healthy’?  Lose weight?  Get more fit?  What transformation will a healthy diet, weight loss, and a more fit body bring?  It’s time to reconnect emotionally with why you wanted to get healthy and lose weight in the first place.  In Boot Camp Mind, I call this Cultivate Your Vision and Incentives Momentum.

2)  Problem:  The thrill is gone.  It’s not so exciting anymore.  The honeymoon is over.

Solution:  Reframe.  Guess what?   You may be doing just what you set out to do. Remember when you said “I want it  to become a habit”? When a new practice progresses from the uber-focus required when you just get started to “I’ve got the hang of it” rhythm, it isn’t going to take all the attention needed initially  isn’t necessarily going to be required for you to continue.  Yes, you’ll still need to focus and to plan.  Yet once things move into the habit zone they are far easier to continue.  And isn’t that, after all, just what you wanted?  This is a hallmark of progress.  Yay you!

How to work your way through progress and self-sabotage

One reason that progress can cause you to sabotage the very progress you’ve made is because it shifts the power balance between these two inner voices:  The voice that has your better interests at heart and the voice that just wants instant gratification.  Respecting  both of these drives with compassion for yourself disarms the agents of self-destruction.

Remembering your reasons for setting out on this health and fitness journey in the first place helps you reach past the heat of the moment (temptation) and avoid messing things up.  This is why connection with your vision and boosting your willpower daily with physical activitymeditation and mindset practices are so key to long-term success.  They tap into  boot camp mind  The voice of alignment with and commitment to your better interests.

Keep your eyes on the prize

Don’t get me wrong.  Celebrating your successes and acknowledging your wins grows your confidence.   Yet staying connected with all the reasons you started down this road in the first place will pull you forward.  These things are not little;  they are, together, all the elements that allow me to enjoy a 50 lb weight loss for going on 15 years.   Keep the faith.

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Thanks so much for coming by. Please join me also on facebook.

References:  Fishbach, A. and R. Dhar.  “Goals as Excuses or Guides:  The Liberating Effect of Perceived Goal Progress on Choice.”  Journal of Consumer Research 32 (2005) 370-77.

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Responses

  • Jennifer says:

    Lani, for some reason it never occurred to me that making new habits, to make things easier, could actually mean my attention around all of it can change. But of course that makes perfect sense.

    This article is a perfect oompliment to your Boot Camp Mind course which, by the way, I am loving!

    Thank you for a great insipiration for starting the week!

    Jenn

    • Lani says:

      Hey Jenn, sounds like you are all-systems-go and thank you for your thoughts this morning.

      The interesting thing about REAL change is that even though it creates effort at first, once you get into a rhythm it frees up so much energy for other things – and with a healthier, more energetic body and mind, your potential is enormous. Are you ready for it?

      muah!
      Lani

  • Connie says:

    HI;
    I’m new here, and enjoying the education and encouragement from your website. I just downloaded the Fit Quickies a few days ago, and am highly motivated right now. However, this “One step forward and two steps back”, article describes me so well! I have lost over 10lbs this year, but it’s lose two, gain one, lose 5 gain 4, et cetera, and I only have a net loss of 2 lbs so far! I feel I’ve gained a personal trainer now, and know my 25lb. goal will be easier to reach with you in my corner! Thanks so much! There are even a few of the Fit Quickies I can do at work. Love it!

    • Lani says:

      Connie,

      All music to my ears and I can’t thank you enough for coming by and taking the time to share your thoughts. By doing so, you stake your claim on moving forward AND encourage others at the same time.

      I’m glad you like the article and hope that it provides you with some insights into how to move forward. Might I suggest, if you haven’t already read it, to read the Willpwer Workout series here:
      link to lanimuelrath.com

      And the Fit Quickies are not only for body shaping – the BIG benefit if you pepper those it at work is boosting your brain power while dissipating stress which creates better focus and opportunity for success. I can’t stress enough the power of a few minutes of meditation or a few minutes of movement to keep you moving forward and out of ‘stuck’. Are you in the Boot Camp Mind course? I just added some content about this to Week #10.

      You go! Stay connected and keep me posted about how I can help.

      Lani

    • Grayce says:

      Connie, Lani is such a wonderful inspiration, and the entire fq series is, well, the BEST body shaper, lifter upper (in more ways than one) get it together series I’ve ever seen. You are right, you HAVE gained a personal trainer ~ Lani is such an amazing encourager ~ having been there herself, she ‘knows’ the struggles first hand!

  • Paym says:

    OMG – this one is exactly what I am going through right now!!! And you are soooooooo right – this article is right on the ball for me!!
    And to be perfectly honest – the soultion is right there, I just gotta get into it!!

    Thanks again Lani!!!

    -Paym

    • Lani says:

      Hey Paym, that’s why we just keep moving forward and staying connected with the reminders. We’re all putting one foot in front of the other! Thanks for your post today.

  • anna says:

    great article as usual Lani, you know the best thing here is that you truly understand what we are all going through as i guess you have been through it all yuorself, but it makes so much more sense when you can read it in black and white, just another awesome read to print out for my scrap book, cheers Anna

  • Leigh says:

    Lani – perfect timing – I needed this this morning! Love the new window – hope it lets you see more of your little friend Rockie! Thanks for all you do for all of us!
    Leigh

    • Lani says:

      Hey Leigh! Thanks so much for your note. And we saw Rockie early this week! She’s wild now – we can only recognize her by the little tear in her ear.

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