Failure! Complete, utter, abysmal failure! That’s what I can say about my lifestyle change experiment thus far.
What happened? I am a senior nutrition and dietetics major, I had the best of intentions and I had a plan. My plan, if you will recall, was to “lose 5-10% of my current body weight over the course of the school year by making positive lifestyle changes. Those changes will include eating more vegetables, drinking more water, cutting back on junk food, alcohol and caffeine and decreasing portion sizes. I will also incorporate weight training and yoga into my fitness routine”. I decided to start by cutting back on junk food. Easy, right? Wrong! I don’t eat a ton of junk food but just making the statement seemed to turn on a switch where I could think of nothing else! I have eaten more cookies in the last 2 months than I have eaten in the last 2 years.
My “plan” wasn’t really a plan. I had some good ideas but I was not specific about how I was going to turn those ideas into action. I chose to cut something out entirely instead of taking a more moderate path. In other words, this was more of a dream than a reality. Result; no pounds or inches lost, no new healthy habits incorporated into my life and no firsthand knowledge of what it means to make lasting lifestyle changes.
So, I begin again. This time I will have some expert advice on my side. First, I will consult the curriculum from the MSU Denver Nutrition and Weight Management course entitled “Creating Your Own Healthy Lifestyle Plan”. Second, I plan to reread portions of “Mindless Eating” by Brian Wansink. Wansink is a Ph.D. from Cornell University who is an expert in eating behavior. His theory is that external cues can cause us to overeat. The size of the plate or container, the proximity of the food and whether or not the food is visible are all external cues that affect how much we eat. More on mindless eating in my next blog.
My focus for the next 60 days will be on creating a tailored lifestyle change plan for me. This is not an exact science but by keeping a journal that will include my lifestyle change goals, my successes and my setbacks I will be able to see what works for me and what doesn’t. I will include the following steps which are taken directly from the Nutrition and Weight Management course curriculum.
1. Buy a full size notebook to record my plan.
2. Write down what a healthy lifestyle looks like for me. Include the following: Menu plan, foods and eating schedule, exercise plan and schedule, physical environment (where are the triggers), social environment (eating out vs eating at home) and finally skills that I have that I can bring to bear to create the desired changes in my lifestyle.
3. Decide which areas to concentrate on first, second, third, etc.
4. Choose 2 or three small goals for week one. Goals should be SMART, that is to say, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.
5. Develop the habit of planning, building and recording. Write about what went well and what didn’t. Write down ideas to overcome obstacles.
6. Develop a reward system. A week on track might mean going to a movie or a museum, a year on track could mean a new wardrobe or a trip.
It is easy to see now that I didn’t really have a plan or any SMART goals. I had a desire to lose 5-10% of my body weight by changing my lifestyle. Desire is important but it takes more than that. It takes hard work. It also takes planning and preparation. And so I begin again. Over the next 2 months I will be creating my own healthy lifestyle plan. It’s going to be a good learning experience AND I get to buy a cool new notebook!