Ask a Health Coach: Setting Goals, Breaking Bad Habits, and Making the Most of the Quarantine
Hi folks, welcome back for another edition of Ask a Health Coach. Today, Erin discusses how trusting your instincts might just be your best bet during these uncertain times, how finding your ‘why’ can help you stick with long-term goals, and the one thing you need to do to change bad habits for good. Got more questions? Keep them coming in the MDA Facebook Group or down below in the comments.
“I’ve definitely felt the pressure of having more time on my hands lately. Everywhere I turn I’m hearing people say, ‘what will you do during the quarantine?’ And ‘how will you come out of this better?’ What’s your take on all of this?” – Andrea
From my perspective, there are just as many people shouting “MAKE YOURSELF BETTER!” as there are “TAKE IT EASY ON YOURSELF.” Honestly, I’m team DO WHATEVER THE HECK FEELS RIGHT FOR YOU.
We all have a new normal right now, even those of us who are used to doing the work-from-home thing. Your new routine might have you feeling unproductive, fearful, or totally out of it. Or it might have you living your best life 1 enjoying extra hours of glorious sleep, a reinvigorated sense of creativity, or desire to learn.
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I can’t say exactly what camp you’ll be in, because how one person responds to change isn’t the same as the next person. That’s the beauty of humans. We’re all different. And how we cope with uncertain times, new schedules, and strategizing on how to score a 4-pack of toilet paper is different too.
TP jokes aside, I’d check in with yourself to see if you’re using your situation as an excuse or an opportunity. People tend to see themselves as victims 2 or as empowered, which influences everyday behaviors, from what kind of groceries you put in your online shopping cart to how you interpret someone’s comment on Instagram.
If you’re thinking things like, “What if I can’t do it?”, “I’ll never be as good” or “Why bother?”, there’s a good chance you’re in the fear-based victim camp. Asking “What can I learn?”, “What excites me? or “How can this improve my life?” are signs you’re looking at your situation through an empowered, opportunistic lens.
See the difference?
So, if your days are spent lounging on the couch, it could be that you’re afraid of taking action. Or it could be that extra hours of relaxing with a funny movie or a good book you’ve been dying to read for 5 years is exactly what you need.
Only you know which is right. Not your online friends, your real friends, or your family on the other side of the country. You don’t need the pressure of keeping up with the overachievers or self-care advocates of the world who are unintentionally making you feel guilty for all the things you are or aren’t doing.
What you do need is self-compassion and a little clarity.
I don’t want you to look back a few years (or a few months) down the road and remember that you spent way too much time stewing over whether or not you should have taught yourself Spanish during self-isolation, tried to get washboard abs, or perfected a paleo banana bread recipe. It won’t matter. Seriously.
What will matter is the time you spent trusting yourself and not worrying about what other people think. Trust yourself and the rest will follow.
“Whenever I decide I’m ready to make changes to my diet, it never lasts more than a few weeks. Any advice for someone who chronically falls short when it comes to long-term goals?”
Let me ask you this: Do you really want to make changes to your diet? I know you say you do, but saying and believing are two entirely different things. Whenever I start working with a client, we spend significant time uncovering their ‘why’ — their real, deep-down reasons and motivations for wanting to make a change. It’s not just my approach either. Everyone from executives to athletes believes that uncovering your why 3 is one of the key elements of success.
If you haven’t done an exercise like this, I highly recommend it. My go-to method is called Why-By-Five. Basically, it’s an exercise that helps you get in touch with your true motivating factors for change. And all you have to do is ask yourself ‘Why’ five times.
· Why is this change important to you? Think about why you want to lose fat or become more metabolically flexible. What is your current situation preventing you from doing?
· Why does that matter? What would be possible if you made those changes? Would you be less hangry, less achy, or have fewer cravings?
· Why is that important? Maybe you’re sick of feeling that low blood sugar crash or getting lectured by your physician or buying pants in a bigger size. Only you know why this is important to you.
· Why would that be great to achieve? Visualize yourself reaching your goal. Imagine all the things you’d be capable of doing.
· Why? Seriously, why? Is it to prove that you can stick with something once and for all? Or reverse the clock and be a bad ass into your 70’s? There’s no wrong answer as long as it resonates with you.
“I have lots of bad habits around sleep and hitting the snooze button. What’s your number one piece of advice relating to breaking bad habits and developing good ones?” -Eric
I would say pick ONE habit and go from there. Our society is so ‘all-or-nothing’ and frankly, it pisses me off. It’s either sleep ‘til noon followed by a Frappuccino and a fritter…or get up at the crack of dawn for a fasted 6-mile run.
Listen, you’ve probably had these habits for years. And changing them all at the same time is a recipe for disaster. (Just a side note here: some people do really well by changing everything at once, but since you’re struggling, I’m guessing you’re not one of those people. Sorry, Eric. I’m not either, if it makes you feel any better.)
Like I mentioned, instead of focusing on breaking all of your bad habits, the key here is to focus on one thing you want to change. If you’ve ever read the book, Atomic Habits, you know there’s a science to this stuff. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to go to bed earlier or trying to wake up earlier, behavior change requires a strategy. Say your goal is to stop smashing the snooze button. What’s one thing you can do to refrain from doing that?
How about putting your alarm in the next room with the volume up really loud? You’d literally have to get out of bed to shut the damn thing off!
You might also want to work with an accountability partner, which is what I’m doing right now. Truth be told, I’m a snooze button pusher too. At least I was until I decided that having an awesome relaxing morning routine (tea, journaling, reading, staring out the window serenely) was more exciting to me than lazily lounging in bed for far too long. Now my accountability partner and I text each other at 5:15 every morning to make sure we’re up.
For you, I’d see if there’s someone in your circle of friends who has the same goal as you do and partner up. That way you’ll be helping someone else break their bad habit too.
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