It’s Motivational Monday. Posted on a Monday not a Tuesday. See I’m getting better.
Today we are going to continue our conversation about how to stay motivated. I blogged a few weeks ago how I’ve discovered that my motivation for eating healthy and exercising tends to go up and down. And I’m guessing since I keep seeing images like this one on Pinterest, it happens to others as well.
Well guys this week I’m promising myself it’s time to get back to step 1. I’m going to exercise. I’m going to get healthy. And I’m going to do it consistently without stopping. But this time I’m going to do it with some help.
A couple of months ago I finished a book called Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath. I originally checked it out from the library last spring but liked it so much I bought my own copy (mostly so I could underline passages).
The basic theory of the book is that in order to change (either something in yourself or in others) you have to motivate both your rational mind and your emotional mind – “The rational mind wants a beach body; the emotional mind wants that Oreo cookie.” The metaphor that the book gives is the emotional mind is an elephant and the rational mind is the rider.
The elephant is strong and it wants instant gratification. If you’re on a diet and you aren’t losing weight, the elephant will be quick to throw in the towel. But if you use the elephant’s strength correctly, it will push you forward towards your goals.
The rider guides the elephant. It’s the one that makes the plan, whether it’s following a certain diet or exercise plan. Telling yourself that you will go to the gym on Mondays, Wednesday, and Friday is the rider talking. But the rider can also overanalyze. I spent weeks researching different exercise plans online (and not going to the gym) before I picked one. And during that time Jake kept yelling at me to just get to the gym and stop overthinking.
If you have the time, I highly recommend reading the book. Like I said, I originally got mine from the library. But you can also get used copies really cheaply from Amazon.
If you don’t have the time, here are the cliff notes. And how I’m planning on following them for the next few months.
1. Direct the Rider
The biggest problem with the rider is he can overanalyze. So if you’re trying to change something, make a plan and stick with it. Don’t think big picture (I’m going to get healthy!), thinking specific (I’m going to the gym every Monday, Wednesday and Friday).
For me this means following an online exercise plan I bought at the beginning of September. Kayla Itsines is an Australian fitness instructor that put together a 12 week fitness plan she sells online. Yes, you do have to pay for it. It took me about month before I decided the money would be worth it. Check out her instagram and hashtags #bikinibodyguide and #BBG for real reviews of people who are currently doing the program. I also am planning on reviewing the plan on my blog for those who are interested.
What I like about this plan is that it’s got a clear schedule that I know works for me. Three days of HIIT intervals (that are no joke) and three days of low intensity cardio (like walking). There is no room to overanalyze. I’ve got it planned out on my calendar. Plus after years of exercising I’ve finally realized that my body responds best to HIIT. I love weight lifting but it just wasn’t giving me the results I wanted.
2. Motivate the Elephant
The elephant is all about emotion. Have you ever looked at photos of yourself and thought “Damn it. I need to get in shape.” That’s motivating your elephant. The problem is that type of motivation will only get you so far. Basically until your elephant gets frustrated and gives up. According to a study in the book, positive motivation will always be stronger and last longer than negative motivation. That’s why when you’re exercising and lose 5 pounds, it’s easier to continue exercising.
So what am I going to do? I’m going to fixate on the positives. I typically eat lunch at the cafeteria at work. And many times I’ll catch myself staring at the burgers and fries, chocolate chip cookies, and the many other tasty but not so great lunch options. Instead of telling myself that “I can’t have those because I’m on a diet,” I will repeat in my head “I’m eating healthy because it makes me feel good. I’m taking care of my body. And that means lots and lots of vegetables.”
Another suggestion the book gives is to “shrink the change.” If your goal is to lose 20 pounds and the scale doesn’t budge after two weeks, your elephant is going to get pissed. So instead give yourself smaller goals. Ones you know you can’t fail. For example, if you’re new to exercising, tell yourself you have to go to the gym twice per week. That’s it. Doesn’t have to be for long. Just go.
Or if eating healthy is your problem, tell yourself you will give up soda for one week. Eat normal with everything else but no soda. At the end of the week, harness that feeling of completing your goal and keep going.
3. Tweak the Environment
The final suggestion the book gives is to change your environment. This is one I’ve mentioned on my blog before. It’s a lot easier to eat healthy if you don’t keep unhealthy foods in your kitchen. I do all of the grocery shopping for Jake and I. And I never buy bread, cookies, chocolate, chips, frozen meals, processed foods etc. Ever. If we want to eat something that we shouldn’t be eating, we have to leave the apartment and go get it. Which makes it a lot harder, especially during Chicago’s awful winters.
If you have a problem with mindlessly eating snacks (another problem of mine) then don’t keep snacks in your house. Or only buy healthy snacks like fruit, nuts, and vegetables.
For me, I’ve learned that the cafeteria at the office can be a temptation minefield. So to help, I can bring my own lunch to work. If I don’t go to the cafeteria I don’t have anything to tempt me. I’ve tweaked the environment.
Another suggestion is to make the change a habit. Think about brushing your teeth. You probably (hopefully) do it every morning when you wake up. You don’t even really think about it. It’s just a habit – wake up, brush your teeth. The book calls this an action trigger. So why not try it with exercise.
For me, my action trigger is get home, go straight to the gym. I do not sit down on the couch or check my computer or even talk to Jake. I grab my gym back and go.
And so far that’s worked for me. But now I just have to make it stick.
So for the next few weeks (hopefully few months) you will see me post a lot on twitter and instagram. I’ll be sharing my healthy meals as well as checking in with my workouts. Follow along with me. I don’t have any particular hashtag, this is just friends keeping each other motivated. Feel free to just leave a comment below with your twitter/instagram name and I’ll follow you back.