“I wish I could lose weight.”
“I wish I could take a daily walk.”
“I wish I could cook healthy meals.”
How many times have you wished to feel better or healthier?
How often have you replaced wishing with the behavior needed to fulfill the wish? Hardly ever, right?
You’re not alone! Researchers have found that only about 20% of people who live an unhealthy life style are actually willing to take action to change.
Here’s how I went from wishing I was healthier to realizing my desire. Maybe it will help motivate you to convert your wishes into action.
Wishing for self-control
When my blood glucose levels rose slowly but steadily over a couple of years, I became more and more concerned. Both my dad and grandmother had developed diabetes in mid-life, so I knew I was at high risk.
But here’s what I discovered. Concern about my health didn’t necessarily translate into my taking action to improve the situation.
My biggest problem was controlling my sweet tooth. I usually managed to forgo unhealthy carbohydrates – chips, cookies, candy – for a few weeks following my yearly physical. I often lost a few pounds in the process, which you’d think would have motivated me to keep going.
But, my cravings always got the best of me, and I quickly reverted to unhealthy snacking within a few weeks.
My lack of self-control left me feeling powerless. I’m usually a pretty disciplined person, so my behavior confused me. I knew that I cared about my health and practiced other healthy behaviors, including cardio and strength training on a regular basis. So what made sticking to a low-carb eating plan so different and difficult?
I decided it was time to examine my thinking. I began to pay attention to the thoughts I had right before I reached for a sugary snack. Almost without fail, my mind began to churn out negative self-defeating thoughts that sabotaged my best intentions.
Here were just a few of my sabotaging thoughts.
- One slice of cake won’t make any difference in the long run.
- Since I’m not overweight and don’t fit the typical diabetic profile, I don’t need to take my risk seriously.
- I usually eat healthy foods, so it’s ok to cheat once in a while.
- I’ve never succeeded at eliminating sweets long term, so why bother trying.
I then used Dan’s Health Switch technique to uncover the “Thought Traps” or distortions contained within my thoughts.
I quickly discovered that my signature brand of negative thinking included plenty of “predicting the future,” “assuming permanence,” and “black and white thinking.”
For example, I assumed that nothing I did (eating sweets or avoiding sweets) would make any difference in the long run. My future would contain the same failures as my past.
I also assumed there were only two possible “black or white” outcomes to whatever I tried. I’d either succeed at changing my eating habits, or I wouldn’t. I could either take my diabetes risk seriously or completely ignore my risk. To my mind, there was no in-between or more moderate options.
Once I uncovered the specific thoughts underlying my behavior, I was then able to create helpful, logical responses to counteract each negative thought. Here are just a few of the logical, more realistic thoughts I came up with:
- Eating sweets is a short-lived pleasure. I always feel worse physically and emotionally a few hours later.
- Even if eating sweets doesn’t seem to matter in the moment, I’ll feel terrible if my blood glucose level rise.
- Blood tests don’t lie. Ignoring my risk won’t make it disappear.
- If I take my diabetes risk seriously now, I can keep the problem from getting worse.
- I have a stronger motivation to change my diet than I did in the past, so I have a good chance of succeeding this time.
Reading over my logical thoughts, I felt much more motivated to take action. First, I decided to become more informed about diabetes. An article by Chris Kresser convinced me to buy a blood glucose meter to monitor my blood sugar level a few times a day.
Once I began using the meter, I was shocked to see the huge spike in my glucose levels after eating refined carbs. Having that immediate feedback made it easier to refrain from unhealthy snacks.
I also changed my diet to include more healthy fats, such as nuts and coconut oil, which seemed to reduce my cravings, as well.
Over the past few months, I’ve made steady progress in controlling my blood sugar levels. I love seeing a number on my meter that’s well within normal range after eating my meals and snacks. My black (chocolate)and white (cottage cheese) thinking has given way to lots of other healthy food choices and colors.
If you’re struggling with making healthy changes, keep these tips in mind:
- Stop wasting time on self-recrimination.
- Instead, focus your energy on dissolving the thoughts that keep you from doing what you need to do.
- Use the Health Switch to transform your wishes into a healthier lifestyle!