“Should I or shouldn’t I. . . . ?”
It happened to me countless times in the past: I’d read a book about healthy eating or see an inspiring movie or read an inspiring blog post. I’d go off like a house on fire, buying new foods, planning recipes to make, revamping my entire kitchen.
I’d change the way I ate. . . for a while.
But eventually, I always went back to the unhealthy ways, even though I knew that wasn’t what I wanted. It took a life-threatening illness for me to finally make the switch.
Sadly, I’ve seen the same pattern in far too many other women, too. Maybe you’ve been there? You know you want to change your diet for good, but it just never seems to “stick.”
In the first part of this series, I shared four reasons why it’s so hard for humans to think about, or attempt, changes in our lives. Today I’ll take it a step further, and discuss why we can be thrown off-course even when we implement changes.
If you feel stuck in the trap of fear and inaction, take heart: there are ways to overcome and bypass these traps, so that you can make those changes a permanent part of your life.
Next time you want to change the way you eat for good, consider the following.
I. You underestimate how much you are capable of change, so you give up too soon.
How can I be so sure about this point? Because, as humans, our ability to adapt and change is almost infinite. Given the right circumstances, we are, quite literally, capable of almost anything.
When we were certain that no one could run a mile faster than 4 minutes, Roger Bannister broke the record–and within a year, so had several other people. When faced with the possibility that the Soviet Union might win the “race to the moon,” the US pulled out all the stops and landed there in record time (ahead of the Russians). When the original Chicken Soup for the Soul book was rejected over and over, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen refused to give up. In the end, the book was rejected 144 times before it was finally accepted for publication (and look what happened!).
So, why do so many of us stop before we achieve the goals we seek?
Once again, it’s that pesky amygdala (part of our unconscious brain), telling us that it’s easier to simply “stay the same.” You might see some success and then fall prey to the brain’s message that you’re just “not capable” of doing what you want to do. But that’s just the unconscious messaging telling you to stay safe again.
II. You overestimate how quickly change will become permanent–so you give up too soon.
Nowadays, we live in a pretty much “instant” world. We’ve become accustomed to seeing change in no time. Unfortunately, human behavior doesn’t fit this pattern, so we end up with unrealistic expectations about how quickly we are capable of changing.
For instance, when I noticed the stirrings of a sinus infection last year, I was absolutely determined not to take antibiotics (which would set back my candida recovery by months, perhaps years) unless I was literally on my deathbed. Luckily, I didn’t have to rely on that last resort.
The treatment did work, and worked beautifully; once the infection was gone, it was gone. Plus, I had no side effects of medication to contend with. However, the recovery took much longer than anticipated. In fact, it took a full 6 weeks for me to feel 100% well again.
Now, had I taken an antibiotic for the infection, I most likely would have seen results in 48 hours or less.
Instead, I continued with my nasal irrigation, tinctures, steam inhalation and other naturopathic remedies for the full six weeks, then weaned off them slowly.
Was this a drag? Absolutely. Did it cut into my time to do other things? Yes, again. But did it create the change I was looking for? Yes, indeedy!
The same is true of changing your eating habits, or, for that matter, any habit. We expect that if we introduce a new behavior, it will “stick” in a few days (or an average of 2 months, which is what the experts tell us).
Even two months sounds rather long, doesn’t it? Yet I’m amazed at how many people email or message me to say something like, “I’ve been on my anti-candida diet for two weeks now! I can tell I’m feeling better. When will I be able to return to my normal eating?”
While it is typical to see some improvement in two weeks, unfortunately, the changes necessary for full healing and recovery always (at least in my experience) take longer than that. In fact, as in my own case, it can take a couple of years to see major results.
When this reality hits home, many people will spiral out of control and simply give up the quest for change. It’s at times like that you might need some additional help to keep you on track.
When I first began meditating daily, it was a struggle to find the time and to stay focused. I relied on my coach to keep me on track. That way, I never skipped more than one session, which allowed me to get back to building a consistent habit really quickly. Left to my own devices, I probably would have abandoned it entirely.
So next time you try to implement a new behavior (or diet), remember that our bodies and brains have their own timing.
And just because we wish things could change in a matter of hours, we need to stick with it longer if we want to see lasting changes in our lives.
III. You lose perspective when you try to change, so you give up too soon.
(Hmmm, do we detect a pattern here?). 😉
Given our brain’s tendency to focus more on the negative than the positive (see Part 1 for more about this), when something goes wrong or interrupts the changes we wish to make, our first impulse is to discount progress and fall back into old behavior patterns.
Years ago, I worked with a client who had multiple health issues, including candida, and she wanted to change her diet. She also had trouble sleeping, and had been using over-the-counter medications to knock herself out at night.
We began to work on decreasing stress and implementing a bedtime routine to help her sleep better. We also found some food-based replacements that could help ease her into a more relaxed state before bedtime.
After about a month, she came to our session clearly upset. “I could barely fall asleep yesterday,” she bemoaned. “I was tossing and turning for at least an hour. This just isn’t working. I think I’ll go back to the pills.”
At that point, I asked her to pull out her tracking sheet (because having a concrete record of your changes is one great way to ensure you don’t forget how far you’ve come!).
When she reviewed the previous month–not just that single negative day–she realized that, overall, her sleep had improved remarkably: from only 4 hours per night when we started, she had incresaed sleep to 7 hours per night; plus, it normally took her only about 15 minutes to fall asleep for the previous 1-1/2 weeks, when it had taken up to 2 hours before our work together.
She had to admit that the general trend was incredibly positive, and that the previous night had been an anomaly. But if I hadn’t reminded her to stop, reflect, and compare the present with the past, she would have remained under the impression that “nothing was changing.”
Sometimes, you just need someone to remind you how far you’ve come–especially when you hit those inevitable “bumps in the road” and your mind overlooks all the progress you’ve made.
IV. [Bonus!] It can be really lonely to try to do everything yourself–so you give up too soon.
Again, making major changes in your life can feel like an isolating pursuit. For most of us the radical changes we make in our diets don’t also include those closest in our lives–such as your spouse, children, friends or even colleagues.
Having to navigate not only the “rules” of dietary change, but also the practical implementation day-to-day can feel overwhelming, especially when there isn’t someone else in your life who really understands what you’re going through.
If you have a supportive spouse and/or friends, that’s a wonderful place to start. I was really lucky that my hubby was totally open to eating all of my food, and simply supplemented it with his own when he wanted to (by the way, this is a really easy way to accommodate your spouse and family).
Still, while the hubs was sympathetic and supportive, he didn’t have to eat the way I do, so he wasn’t always open to spending hours talking about food substitutes, where to eat, or how I was feeling about my change in diet.
For that, again, a coach is invaluable. She can support you while also understanding the difficulties associated with the changes you are making, keep you accountable, and even guide you along the way.
Some closing thoughts. . .
If we take into account our brain’s propensity to keep us “safe” by keeping us the same–plus the many reasons we tend to give up on change too soon–it can be daunting to think about how to change your diet for good.
But it doesn’t have to be that way!
Think about the last time you made a major change in your life. What prompted the change? Was it something you chose to do–and them simply did it? How long did the change last?
As you can probably tell from the reasons above, I really believe that success so often eludes us because we simply stop too soon.
Staying the course and working through all the ups and downs associated with permanent change is the way to really make a lasting difference in your life–one that brings you to the outcome you seek.
For most of us, this kind of long-term, permanent change isn’t something that can happen in isolation. When I chat about coaching with friends or colleagues, I often hear, “I think I’ll try it by myself for a while” before committing to working with someone else. And for some people, that works.
But if you’re one of the throngs of people still having trouble sticking to the changes you want in your life, it’s worth asking yourself: If you could do it on your own, wouldn’t you have done it by now?
Maybe it’s time for a change.
If you think you’d benefit from more support on your journey to change your diet and health, coaching with Ricki might be right for you. Click here to schedule a free clarity call where we’ll talk about your challenges, what you can do to reach your goals, and whether we’d be a good fit to work together.
If I could radically change my diet to remove sugar, gluten, eggs and dairy–and stick with it now for over 20 years–I know YOU can make the changes you need to improve your health, too! Click here to book a call.
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