A friend asked me the other day, how I motivate myself to go for a run when all I want to do is sit on the couch! I'd just posted on Facebook that I was good at motivating myself to do things, but not so good at stopping myself from ..well, eating !
It made me realise that if I could understand how I motivate myself to run, I should then be able to apply the same principles to being a bit more controlled with my eating habits!
I brainstormed the key things that I think help me in my motivation to exercise - looked at why they are important, and how I can transfer this to better eating habits!
A Clear Purpose / Goal
With my exercise and running, I have races that I've entered and times that I have achieved in the past. I want to improve on those times and my placements in the races too. These are measurable goals - running a particular distance in a particular time. I also know I feel and look better when I'm exercising more. My muscles and tummy are more toned and I am slimmer. I have photos of myself at two points in my life on my pinboard. One is from when I was 26 years old and travelling. I was about 60kg and fit. The other photo is from when I was 31 years old, just after having our first baby. I was 80kg and not fit at all! I look at and think about these pictures when I need motivation of what I want to look like and what I don't want to look like!
My purpose and goal in healthy eating is to lose weight and feel healthier. Although I'm not overweight, I am at the upper end of my 'ideal weight' scale, and have a stubborn 7kg to lose to get down to what I'd like to be again - 60kg. I'd then fit into all of my clothes (those I've kept but not been able to wear for years), I know I would run faster, with 7kg less to carry, and I would feel so much better in myself. Having exercised a lot over the past couple of years and lost a little weight, I know it's not the answer to losing weight. I recently read this interesting article which explains how important what you eat rather than your exercise is in terms of losing weight. It also points out that although when you exercise you burn lots of calories, it is a relatively small amount compared to what you burn just living day to day. It's what I'm eating that needs to change. I'm already happy and good with the exercise! I just need to remember this and focus on my goals when I'm thinking about eating - not just when I'm motivating myself to exercise!
Have a Plan / Progamme
With my exercise, I found that my gains were much greater when I followed a fixed plan or programme. I used to just run when I felt like it and how far and fast I went just depended on my mood. As you can guess, sometimes I really didn't feel like exercising...so I didn't! So what kind of programmes or plans?
I have downloaded free running training programmes from the internet, and also followed the Insanity and Asylum video exercise programmes. I find it helps when I have my workouts mapped out for me each day. I can check them off on my calendar and plan in advance how to fit them into my daily schedule. The first few days are usually the hardest - both physically and mentally, but once I'm into the swing of it, and can see all those days ticked off, it's easier to keep going!
So with eating - how can I use this to help? I don't want to plan out what I eat each day. But I can have some planned healthy snacks or meals in my head (or in the fridge) that I can turn to when the hunger pangs hit - rather than the too convenient chocolate biscuits, chocolate milk, chips and cookies! I've started drinking fizzed water with ice cubes and slices of lemon in it - this looks nice, tastes good and fills me up a little. I have also started to have non-sugary snacks made up in the fridge, this week I had homemade hommus with carrot sticks; and next I want to try making some Bliss balls that a friend recommended to me. I found a whole heap of recipes here to try!
Visual Progress and Momentum
To be able to see some kind of progress is a huge motivator. Whether it's a faster running time, feeling stronger in a particular workout, or just noticing clothes being a little looser; any noticeable difference helps keep motivation up and spurs me on to do more. I now keep a calendar diary of all my exercise.
Seeing all the days fill up with runs, cycles and other workouts makes me feel good about what I've done and want to keep on filling that calendar up. I feel guilty when I see too many blank days and find that motivates me to get up and go!
So with my eating, this should work just the same. The longer I can stick at sensible snacks, portion size and avoiding too much sugar, the more I should start to notice a difference on the scales, with my clothes fitting better and hopefully feeling healthier. I just have to get through the initial few days and weeks for a noticeable change and so build up that momentum.
Pain and Pleasure
I like to listen to Anthony Robbins motivation CDs. He speaks about how we are all motivated by what gives us pleasure and what causes us pain. I agree with this completely, and that it's just a matter of choosing what to focus on.
In terms of exercising, this means that when I don't feel like going for a run, I try to focus on how I'll feel after my run, rather than how I feel now. I know I always feel better after exercising - more awake, happier in myself and satisfied that I actually did it! When I feel like I don't have time to run. I try to focus on how much more productive I will be once I've been.
I have also worked hard on getting up early in the mornings (which I have disliked most of my life) and running then. It has taken a long time (maybe a year) but I now enjoy getting up early, and to run first things sets me up for the day - and I don't have the pain of motivating myself to run later in the day, but I do have the pleasure of knowing I've already done my workout before a lot of people are even out of bed!
So how does this apply to food? Pleasure is definitely a big motivator for me to eat all those lovely tasty cakes, cookies and chocolates. It's easy to focus on that instant pleasure. But I need to instead try to focus on the longer term pleasure of the weight loss and healthy feeling that I will have by avoiding too many 'bad' foods. I think I really need to work on what I'm focussing on - and think ahead more to how I will feel later, rather than instant gratification resulting in guilt and pain later on!
I think the answer for motivating myself to NOT eat sugary snacks, have smaller portions and generally eat better is my focus. I have to focus on how I will feel and look later - rather than just the here and now of what I do and don't want to eat. This is what I have done in terms of motivating myself to exercise lots and regularly, so now I will be trying to apply the same principal to my eating habits; changing them for the long term for a fitter and healthier me!