Monday, September 24, 2012

Victory Is Yours!

Our 60 days of the Healthier You Challenge have come and gone. How did you do? Most of you are probably like me: I made some good progress but didn't consistently meet all of my challenges. I assessed and tweaked along the way. I patted myself on the back some and kicked myself in the butt some. I didn't achieve major physical transformations but I do feel like I learned some valuable lessons and adopted some good behaviors along the way.

The challenges you set for yourself will largely determine how you assess your progress. Hopefully you wrote out your challenges so you can look back at them now to review what you've accomplished. Your challenges were supposed to be process-oriented rather than goal-oriented but you also stated desired outcomes. These are generally how we measure our success.

Here are a few of the responses I've gotten from people about the outcomes they've earned by challenging themselves to adopt healthy behaviors like quitting smoking, drinking more water, eating a healthier diet, exercising, taking vitamins, and sleeping more: 
  • Look younger
  • Breathe easier
  • Sleep better
  • Better digestion, fewer stomach aches
  • Less moody
  • Improved overall mood
  • Reduced stress
  • Fewer headaches
  • Improved relationships
  • Able to get things done more easily (housework, yardwork, etc)
  • Clothes fit better
  • Improved blood sugar levels
  • Improved blood pressure
  • Improved cholesterol levels
  • Fewer falls
  • More independent (have the strength and agility to lift, bend, carry, etc.)
  • Can put on underwear without holding on to the dresser (still my personal favorite!)
For any and all improvements in health behaviors, people generally find that they experience emotional changes as well. Many of us feel:
  • More confident
  • More competent
  • More energetic
  • Happier
  • More optimistic
When you change a health behavior successfully and feel the emotions above, you might also feel more able to take on other challenges in your life. The tools I've given you during the Healthier You Challenge can be applied to virtually any area of your life. Are you stressed about money? Do you feel rushed and anxious a lot? Are you afraid to have anyone over because your house is always messy? Are you unhappy with your performance at work? Why not set some challenges in these areas? Remember these key steps:
  1. State challenges in the positive
  2. Make your challenges process-oriented rather than goal oriented
  3. Make challenges Specific, Measurable, and Achievable
  4. Scaffold and Hook behaviors
  5. Log your behaviors
  6. Reassess and Tweak as needed
  7. Give yourself credit
  8. Keep challenging yourself in new ways as you maintain the behaviors you've already changed
  9. Make a fresh start if you need to
You can always refer back to previous posts if you need a refresher on any of these steps.

I'd love to hear from all of you about the changes you made, the benefits you earned, and what new challenges you are planning. Your experiences might help other people change their lives too!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Is FOMO Holding You Back?

A few months ago I read an article about FOMO -- Fear of Missing Out. The author argued that one impact of social media has been that we now overextend ourselves because we're so afraid of missing an opportunity. She used examples like seeing a friend post fun photos on Facebook of a dinner out that you couldn't attend. The result of having a few experiences like that leads us to say "yes" too often, wreaking havoc on our schedules, our bodies and our minds which all need some rest. As I read the article, I kept thinking about how for most of my life, being healthy was fraught with FOMO moments. Here are a few FOMO inducing situations and how you might be able to deal with them:

1. FOMO: Social Events -- In our culture, socializing and celebrating often revolve around food and alcohol. Sometimes, we feel like the only way to stick to healthy behavior changes is to avoid social situations where we will be challenged. Rather than feel like you are missing out, can you change the way you and your social circle spend time together? Here are a few ideas: 

Invite friends and coworkers for a walk or hike.

Instead of a dinner-out with your spouse, try a new fitness class together (like, maybe Zumba? wink-wink). Couples who take on new challenges together tend to be happier. Plus, studies show that when you work out, dopamine levels in your brain increase which makes you feel more loving toward your partner. Double-Bonus!

I will be teaching Stroller Strides soon and one of the aspects of the program I like best is that it gives parents a chance to socialize with each other and to build a community while everyone is getting fit! Much better than Moms and Muffins (or Moms and Margaritas).

Maybe exercise is not part of your Healthier You Challenge. Maybe you are trying to eat healthier foods, quit drinking alcohol, or quit smoking. What if you learned something new with your friends that didn't revolve around eating, drinking, or smoking? Take up knitting, or woodworking, or photography.
Maybe you are trying to get more sleep but you stay up late with your partner, or friends, or on social media like facebook. It may not be a matter then of changing your environment or activity but of setting clear boundaries with the people in your life and explaining those boundaries to them. "Hey, _________, I really love our late night chats but I'm trying to get more sleep. Could we get together for a walk twice a week instead?" If your social network is not on board with your healthy changes, it may be time to find some new friends. That may sound harsh, and I don't mean cut people out of your life entirely, but you may benefit from finding people who already engage in the healthy behaviors you are trying to adopt. Hang out with them, learn from them, be inspired by them. Create your own social events that incorporate your new, healthier lifestyle. You won't have FOMO because you'll be too busy having fun in different ways!
2. FOMO: Food --  For some of us, the only way to control what we eat is to control our environments and avoid being around certain foods that we tend to over-eat. You might be like me in that once I eat things like cookies or chips, I want to keep eating them, at that moment, and for the foreseeable future. I find that I have to pretty much eliminate high-calorie, low-nutrient foods to keep my weight stable (crackers, chips, sweets, ice cream). I found out a couple of years ago that I am allergic to gluten, eggs, and all dairy. While it is challenging to avoid these foods, I find I don't miss them as much as I thought I would. I use substitutions and I remind myself how awful I feel when I eat them. It almost always works. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that food is just food and that we really can live without eating certain things. Maybe not peanut butter. But just about everything else we can live without.

What provokes FOMO for you? How can you fill that space with something that will help you with your behavior challenges? Take some time this week to think about it and plan ahead for those FOMO moments!

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Make a Fresh Start

Random funny picture someone posted on Facebook

SCHOOL STARTED!!!!! I have very mixed feelings about this. My daughter started second grade today and my son started Kindergarten. While it was difficult to see my kids take one more step away from me in the whole growing up process, I'm so excited to have more time for my business and myself. And no more preschool tuition!!! Whoo-hoo!!! I've decided to channel all of my angst about my kids into new focus and dedication to achieving my own goals. With school (and soccer season) comes a lot of routine and scheduling. My plan is to build my personal challenges into THEIR routine as much as possible.

My desired outcomes in this Healthier You Challenge have been to increase my muscle strength and flexibility, and to reduce my body fat percentage. I've been hit or miss on following through with the challenges that would get me there. I struggled all summer to get into a weight lifting routine. Other than teaching my Zumba classes, I didn't really fit in much exercise. It seemed like every time I'd get into a groove doing strength training and yoga, something would come along and blow it to smithereens. So I decided that with this fresh start, I would make my health a priority. I've committed to walking the kids to school (1 mile each way). I will work up to running the parts that I'm alone. Today I did 3 round trips. I also bought a month of unlimited classes at The Bar Method. I plan to go to classes there 3-4 times a week, starting next week. I push myself much harder when I'm taking a class so I'm very excited to fit this in! These actions, in addition to teaching my regular classes, should help me reach my desired outcomes. After this month, I will reassess and possibly find a new kind of class to try (Crossfit, here I come!). Or maybe I'll be able to keep those times for working out at home with my suspension straps. So far, this is the only action they are getting:

So my focus right now is not so much what I'm actually doing with my body, but to get myself into a routine that allows me to fit in fitness while I continue to work, to spend time with my family, to help coach my son's soccer team, to do laundry, to go to the grocery store, etc., etc. A bonus is that I have time to chat with my kids as we walk to and from school (sometimes they even let me hold their hands!). And I have a couple of friends who will also be doing The Bar Method classes so I can pretend I have a social life!

Even if back-to-school isn't a relevant time marker for you, use this opportunity to evaluate your routine. Fall is coming and with it will come changes in the length of the day, the types of fruits and vegetables available, the kinds of clothes you are wearing, your ability to workout outside. Some of those changes may be ones you welcome and are excited about; some may pose a challenge. Take some time now to shake things up or to plan ahead for the changes you'll be facing. You can give yourself a fresh start any day. You can even buy yourself a new backpack for it.