This week’s Healthier You Program, we are working on advancing the understanding of mindfulness while being more exploratory and experiential. (AKA – Let’s Play!)
Monthly Archives: April 2017
An important step in making healthy lifestyle changes for the long term, (that most people don’t do), is to identify the roadblocks that may limit success. When introducing an exercise program and a more active lifestyle, it is easy to get derailed and go back to what feels comfortable – especially when a person is tired or has something more appealing they would like to do (Edmonton Oilers game anyone?)
When it comes to healthy eating, it is often even easier to experience a lapse, as unhealthy tempting options are everywhere – especially because we know through research, that humans only have so much will power. This is why it is very important to have an honest discussion with yourself – what have been the reasons in the past that I have stopped my healthy changes?
When other people are around, is it difficult to not follow the crowd? When you are tired, do you tend to go for the unhealthier choices? Do you get bored and unstimulated, and stop your routine? Are you a poor planner – and when life gets busy, you tend opt for unhealthy convenience? Do you not make yourself a priority and have a difficult time setting boundaries for yourself?
These questions need to be constantly evaluated. Most people experience lapses from time to time when making healthy lifestyle changes. However, it is important to be aware of these roadblocks, and preplan what you will do to prevent them from being ongoing excuses. Catching a lapse, or even preventing a lapse – ultimately PREVENTS A RELAPSE.
- Note – a lapse is temporarily reverting to previous behaviour (i.e. poor eating and not exercise during christmas holidays). A relapse is a long-term regression to previous behaviour.
Here is a Common Eating Roadblocks handout I use to discuss common barriers to success. It is also helpful for people to make a similar own personal handout for their own healthy eating roadblocks as well as exercise roadblocks.
If you had an opportunity to take a pill, that would have many benefits including:
- Decreases stress
- Improves cognitive function
- Increases the brains ability to control emotions and decreases reactivity
- Improves sleep
- Increases our immune system
- Decreases risk and severity of depression & anxiety
- Decreases blood pressure, and decrease risk of stroke & heart attack
- Increases brain neuroplasticity – the brains ability to change
- Increases brain gray matter – which is related to slowed brain aging and increased memory and concentration
- Improves relationship satisfaction, improves responses to conflict, improves empathy and acceptance of ones partner, and promotes attachment
- Reduces pain intensity and unpleasantness
How much would you pay for this pill? The bad news is that a pill doesn’t exist – but the good news is there is a mental exercise that can give you these benefits – called Mindfulness.
Mindfullness is complex to describe – but imagine yourself sitting near a river and watching the flowing water. Mindfulness is watching the flow of thoughts, feelings, ideas, judgments and habits as they come and go. Mindfulness is really about where your mind places your attention – and with practice, it gives you move control over emotions, thoughts and experiences. For example, when playing with kids or a pet, is your mind in the moment, or are you thinking or things you still need to complete today?
A great exercise to try to see how mindLESS we can be, particularly with food, is this mindfulness exercise:
(Make sure you have a healthy food item available such as a strawberry)
Now, I know it would take forever to eat a meal with this approach. But it truly shows us how much we miss in our day-to-day eating. We miss pleasure – intense flavors, beautiful shapes and details, and delightful smells. These queues are very important in signaling to our brain that we are full and satisfied.
We can apply mindfulness also to our every day activities. I developed the below mindfulness handout with information, and ideas for incorporating mindfulness into your daily life. How many of these tips are you willing to try?
(click on the above link for the handout)
Audio Mindfulness Exercise Adapted from: Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and Jon Kabat-Zinn (2007). The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness. New York: Guilford Press.
Motivation, Defining Success, & Intro to Healthy Thinking About Food
Are you ready for healthier changes in your life? Wonderful!!!
When starting any changes in your life, it is absolutely critical to ask the question: What does success look like? Most people will answer “weight loss.” However, it is important not to let the scale dictate everything. With my “Healthier You” Program, I need you to be aware that measuring weight, while certainly can be a part of measuring success, it is not the all, end all. And if weight is the all, end all for you, it has too much power over you.
This winter, a few months after having my son, I eventually got back into exercising and was doing really well with a regular strength program and going to spin class for cardio. After a few weeks, I was feeling energized, stronger and was proud of myself for investing in exercise after everything my body had went through. I was even really ENJOYING my exercise routine. However, one day, I mindlessly stepped on the scale, and saw that I had not lost a pound. I immediately felt frustrated, defeated and my motivation plummeted.
It took me about a week to change my negative self-talk and refocus. But I did learn a very important lesson… that I needed a better way to measure success to immunize myself from my disappointment autopilot self-sabbatoge.
My suggestion for people who want to make healthier changes in their life such as exercising more or improving their diet, is to create at least 3-5 other ways to measure success other than weight. Before weighing yourself, it is critical to check in with these other variables (you can use a scale of 1-10 to evaluate). Other ways to measure success may include: energy levels, how many times you exercised, how many days you have activity, healthy food choices, how many times you avoided unhealthy food choices, how you feel, or even how healthy you were this week overall.
Another important component my Healthier You program, is to really look at the reasons WHY you want to change. Here is a sample worksheet that can help you get started:
- Note – not all healthy lifestyle changes need to involve weight loss
I often suggest to have several copies of your reasons, and review them at the beginning of the day, and during times when you normally struggle (perhaps mid afternoon or mid evening?). If you are contemplating giving in to an unhealthy impulse, read these reasons for inspiration.
And the final part of this week’s program is to start being aware of your thoughts – with a focus on your relationship with hunger (as hunger is a very difficult feeling for many of us). Here is a handout that can give some examples of unhealthy thoughts to notice, and some examples of healthier counter-thoughts:
Best wishes on your own journey and keep checking back for more program information.