Saturday, September 10, 2016

How to change your life: Talking to myself

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One of the tools I have used as I made some long-overdue lifestyle changes over the past year has been talking to myself, or what I like to call "the script in my head." Sort of like Stuart Smalley and his "Daily Affirmations" from Saturday Night Live.

When you're trying to break bad habits, every day is a series of decision points. And at every point, you have a choice: You can make a good decision that moves you closer to your goals, or a worse decision that doesn't.

During the first few months of trying to break my bad habits, I found it helpful to have a prepared "script" in my head as I met each decision point. 

Actors have scripts that (mostly) have beginnings, middles and ends. They know where the story is going. They know how they're supposed to react when other actors say their lines or do something. They rehearse their lines so that when they speak them on camera it sounds natural. 

So I figured if I had lines, a script, that I could go back to and practice, eventually that script would feel natural. The words, but more important the feelings and actions, would start to come naturally.

Here some of my internal conversations:

When I look in the mirror and get frustrated with my size and shape

  • It took a long time for your body to get this way. It's changing because you're making good decisions and taking care of yourself. It won't be perfect overnight, or maybe ever, That's okay.
  • If your health is getting better, it doesn't matter what your stomach looks like.
  • Grandma Rose always had a belly, and she was the most beautiful woman in the world. (A fact.)
My Grandma Rose and me, c. 1989. Isn't she gorgeous?

When someone offers me food that doesn't fit my current eating preferences

  • Just because they're asking doesn't mean you need to say yes.
  • Is that food going to make you healthier or sicker?
  • Are you actually hungry? Physically hungry?
  • You don't have to eat that to know what it tastes like.
  • You don't have to eat that just because everyone else is eating it.

When I have a craving for food that doesn't fit my current eating preferences

  • Don't think about how it looks or smells. Think about how it will make you feel.
  • You think you want it, but is it going to make you healthier or sicker?
  • Will taking one bite make you want more or will it be enough to satisfy you? Be honest now.
  • What can you eat that will hit the same flavor notes but fits within your current preferences? (That's how I created my low-carb eggplant parmesan casserole - I was craving pizza.)

When I don't feel like exercising

  • Would you rather get on the elliptical / go for a walk / ride your bike or take another pill?
  • You'll feel better five minutes after you start.
  • Exercise is a non-negotiable part of your day.
  • Put on your exercise clothes and sneakers, then decide. (Once I'm dressed, I figure I might as well.)
  • Exercising will lower your blood pressure and blood sugar instantly. Skipping it is stupid.

Notice that none of these scripts is about losing weight. Not one. For me, this journey toward better health has not been about losing weight. It's about getting healthy, and that's it. After a few months I realized that I wasn't hearing these voices in my head as often because I needed them less. 

Have you ever tried to change your habits by talking to yourself? How did it work for you?

1 comment:

Sharon Graves said...

I love the one where you put on the exercise clothes and then decide! Great post.

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