I encourage clients to imagine the many eating habit changes they want to make as bricks in a wall. This has helped many realize that using a ladder (i.e. small, sustainable steps) to climb up that wall is easier than trying to jump over it in one bounding leap.
One analogy that I am currently working on describes one’s potential to manage their weight. This is because everyone has a different potential or ability to change their weight. This potential depends on their current lifestyle (and past weight loss attempts). The many aspects to weight management are exercise, food (portions, type, timing of meals, etc), relationship with food, stress levels and sleep. Many people forget that all of these influence weight and lifestyle choices- it is NOT JUST about food and exercise. The idea that weight loss happens when calories in are lower than calories out is dated, overly simplistic and misleading.
If you find yourself struggling with wanting to change an aspect of your lifestyle but end up doing nothing, it can be useful to step back and look at what can be changed. Wanting to change your routine with exercise, food, stress levels or sleep is well and good. Unfortunately, wanting to change is only one of a few necessary steps. Asking yourself what aspects are at their maximum potential and which ones have room to grow is important.
For instance, a recent client believed that they had to do more exercise. However, she was already struggling to include a 30min walk in everyday. She was frustrated because she felt that her current exercise was not enough but is not able to dedicate more time to exercise. She could continue to feel frustrated about this discrepancy and eventually give into the thought that if she can’t do more, she might as well do nothing. OR she could look at the other aspects of her lifestyle and see if another pillar still has potential to change.
Reaching maximum potential could be either an actual limit or a psychological limit. You may have more time available to dedicate to, say, exercise but are unwilling or unready to dedicate that time to exercise.
The next step is to ask yourself, of the ones that can be improved, which aspect am I ready, willing and able to change? (If you want to read more about being ready, willing and able to make changes, go here).
Although it can feel frustrating that one pillar of your health has reached its maximum potential, it can also feel like a relief for some people. Struggling through frustration and disappointment to make a change that is just not possible at this time is a waste of energy. Rather than continuing to struggle (and get nowhere), move on to another health pillar to improve and revisit that one later. Sometimes my job as a dietitian includes giving my clients permission to maintain their current routines rather than constantly trying to do better. If you’d like to read more about maintaining your weight, read this
Using this analogy of maximizing areas of your health can also be used to increase motivation. Reminding yourself about all the changes you have already done will give you the boost you need to continue improving to reach your potential. A bit of honest cheerleading can do wonders to get the ball rolling.