How are your New Year's Resolutions going? Having a problem keeping up the motivation?
Let me tell you about a little project I did at the end of 2016, a 100 day project during which I did not eat cakes, biscuits, sweets or chocolate.
It all began with the frustration that I had put on a bit of weight and my waistbands were getting a bit snug. For my meals, I eat sensibly enough - sensible portions, few carbs, lots of vegetables, etc. The problem was the stuff I ate between meals. This was either out with friends (I was always up for afternoon tea!) or, even worse when working from home, popping into the open all hours shop next door for a pint of milk and coming out with a packet of biscuits, a bar of chocolate or an ice cream in summer. Most of the time, I didn’t even really want what I had bought, it was just habit. So I decided to take it from that point of view - instead of it being about losing weight (which, let’s face it, is a fairly depressing way to approach anything and as we know, diets don't work long term anyway), I would look at how I could change a lifelong habit.
I decided that as from that particular day to Christmas Eve was 100 days, I would give myself that long to see if I could make the change to my habit and, more importantly, my mindset. It wasn’t as though I was saying, “this is it FOREVER”!
I got a calendar and fixed it on the fridge so I could tick the days off.
Then I added an incentive, a tangible way of measuring my progress which didn't rely on measuring weight, because that would take it back to being a diet. For each day I went without cakes, biscuits, sweets or chocolate, I put £1 in a jar and by the end of the project, I had saved £100.
For the first few days, I hadn’t decided what the money would go towards - a nice handbag? A rampage through Cass Arts for art supplies? But then I was talking with a friend, who is a great fan of day trips via Eurostar - starting out early in the morning, spending the day in Paris or Lille, then taking a late train home. All the fun of going to the continent with none of the hassle of hotels and luggage. I have only been to Paris once, when I was organising a conference. I saw the inside of the venue and a few sights from the bus to and from the airport. Suddenly, it was just so obvious that my £100 would pay my return Eurostar ticket to go to Paris in April with my friend.
Day by day, the calendar got ticked and the money grew. There was great delight as I changed 10 pound coins for a £10 note, then two £10s for a £20. And finally, there was £100 (which has now been converted into a Eurostar ticket, plus some walking around money.)
Of course, I expect you want to hear how I coped with this serious sugar deprivation - and what happened on day 101!
Well, I lost 8lbs by doing absolutely nothing else; I feel less sluggish; I am not having sugar highs followed by exhausting sugar lows; I am not feeling bloated at the end of a meal through eating too much just because I couldn’t resist dessert …..
“Yeah, yeah, yeah”, you say, “but how are you really feeling? After all, we are talking major league sugar addiction here, with barely a day going by without at least a Bourbon biscuit or a Galaxy bar. Have there been late night calls to Chocoholics Anonymous? Mugging little children in the streets for a Kinder Surprise?"
You know what? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I am writing almost a month after the 100 days and to my utter surprise, I have not missed surgery treats one bit. And this isn’t because I am deliberately avoiding them - how can you when there are sweet shops, cake shops etc., everywhere? I had a couple of mince pies over Christmas (well, it isn't Christmas without one!), and as much as I enjoyed them, I didn't fancy anything else. My sweet tooth has all but disappeared, which just shows how much my cake eating was down to habit rather than desire. Someone said to me the other day, “what if I told you that you could never eat cake or chocolate again?” and I genuinely thought, “you know what? That would be okay”.
The process itself is simple:
Set yourself a timeline - in this case 100 days
Set yourself a measure - in this case, a £1 in a jar everyday I didn't have cakes, etc.
Set yourself a reward - in this case, a trip to Paris
Then, to change your mindset, you have to get the wording right in your mind, so that you are motivated and positive about your goal.
For example, I would probably have failed if I had said:
“I am not going to eat sugar for 100 days”
It would have left my mind open to thinking a) I am depriving myself and b) on day 101, I will eat my body weight in meringues (I know this is true because I have done it before - not the meringues, but the deprivation idea.)
So I changed my mindset to, “I am going to take 100 days to stop a habit of eating sugar”.
In retrospect, I see that the key to the whole exercise has been about giving me back choice. When I am out with friends for a cup of tea, I can choose whether to have cake, have something savoury or nothing at all, based on how I feel rather than on a knee jerk reaction of "this is what I always do".
So, do you have a habit you want to stop, adapt or adopt? Play with this framework and see if it can help you succeed.
If this has struck a chord with you and you want to find out if coaching will support you, book for a Light the Blue Touchpaper session.