How do you help someone not ready for help?

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Dealing with a physical ailment or limitation can be really difficult. Some people quickly get an “I’m going to kick this!” attitude and they’re very easy to help. You provide them emotional support and hold up and celebrate their successes. Working with them to create a vision of a healthy future creates that positive mindset needed to power through tough times. Not to mention the impact that has on the mind-body connection and the body’s ability to repair itself.

Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t start out with a great attitude. There are several stages we all go through when we’re trying to make a change to our lifestyle. Once someone realizes they have to do something (lose weight, quit smoking, exercise or finally start a course of treatment) they often get stuck. Stage 2 of behavioral change is contemplation; they acknowledge that change needs to occur and they think about solving it but there is no commitment. Many get stuck here in the “I will someday” mindset. They are waiting for absolute certainty or a “magic bullet” to ensure success. They’re simply afraid to try anything because of the possibility of failure or disappointment.

The only way you can help at this point is to help them see all of their options and to create a vision of a healthy future. You want them to have so many images of success available that the idea of failure is minimized. You can also establish a helping relationship. Let them know you’ll be there when they decide to move forward. Pushing someone at this stage, before they’re ready to commit to action, will almost ensure failure and could even damage your relationship.

If you know someone in this position, don’t push. The idea of “tough love” sometimes comes to mind but this isn’t the point to muscle someone into change. (Sometimes taking a hard stance will be useful once they’ve made up their mind to act and they need energy or encouragement to follow through on their plan.) Instead, just be there for that person and talk—a lot. Talk about what they hope for themselves, what are all of the options they could be trying, what are the advantages of trying and what are the minuscule risks to trying. Once they see they have options and have control over their course of action, then they might be ready to make some plans.

Photo credit: Hilary Sian / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

If you’re going to go, may as well go STRONG!

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Every once in a while, I come across an individual that exemplifies taking control and moving their life forward. Brian S. is such an individual.

Following a popular weight loss program, Brian has shed 59 pounds in about a year. When asked what he thought was the most important part of the program, he said it was “food moderation.” That is, watching your portions and being aware of what you’re eating. He also mentioned it was important to plan for special occasions and parties. He uses ActiveLink to monitor his activity level both at the gym and for everyday tasks like walking the dog. Tracking both food intake and calorie expenditure is the best way to focus on weight reduction when you have more than a few pounds to lose.

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I asked Brian if he had ever considered “giving up.” “This time around, NO.” he said. But “four years ago, I think I gave up after I lost ten pounds; which was a few months. This time, I’m going STRONG after a year.” He attributed his new found success to weekly or monthly updates on social media like Facebook. The “likes” and words of encouragement were gratifying and provided the additional support and accountability that Brian needed to reach his goals. (Brian also gives credit to his leaders, Andrea and Maria.)

Brian’s progress is incredible and is something worthy of pride and admiration. Too often, we get stuck in “I can’t” or “it’s too hard” but there’s always a way to move forward towards your goals. One thing I often recommend is for individuals to think about why they want to get healthy in the first place. Imagine what it would be like to be at your ideal weight or to be rid of the cigarettes or off some of your medications because you’ve adopted a healthier diet. Accountability is also a powerful tool. Like Brian, find an individual or community that will hold you accountable. Sometimes we find it easier doing something for others than we do for just ourselves. If you think this might work for you, connect with a friend or someone you trust and tell them your goals. Ask them to give you a nudge if you get stuck or are off track. You’ll get to your goal and you will have a cheering section waiting for you at the finish line!

What goals do you have right now for which you’d like to be held accountable? Who can you ask to keep you in line?

Strength: Photo credit: dancingtarot / Foter / CC BY
Brian S. photo used with permission

Just Jump!

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Sometimes you have to take a chance and accept some risk for a potential payoff. This isn’t just true in business but in your personal life too.

Let’s say you’re looking for the perfect partner. Staying at home and wishing for the best isn’t going to magically bring that special someone around. You have to sometimes place yourself in uncomfortable situations to move your dating life forward. Maybe you’d like to advance your career but you’re stalling because of the required interview or promotion process. Or you’d like to return to school but you don’t want to be the oldest person in the class. You get the idea and you can probably think of a dozen other examples on your own. How do you get past your natural human instinct to avoid risk or danger? Just jump!

Sometimes we over-think things. That gives our brains too much time to create all of the false perceptions (FEAR-false evidence appearing real) that feed our gremlins and prevent us from making any progress. Outsmart your own brain by acting before it has a chance to think too much. Now, I’m not saying to pursue your entire life with thoughtless and reckless abandon. (Though some people do live their lives that way and it works for them.) Instead, look at the potential outcome of your decision and quickly compare it to the REAL risk. If the payoff outweighs the risk, then go for it.

Here’s a personal example. In addition to being a performance coach, I’m also a Beachbody coach. That gives me the opportunity to coach people wanting to get fit and healthy; a passion of mine. When talking with folks about my own weight loss, they often ask to see before and after photos. Honestly, I’ve been putting off putting these together. I’m not embarrassed by how I look but, instead, had built a false perception that people simply wouldn’t find them “impressive” enough. I had visions of people saying “that’s it?” After talking to some other coaches though, I realized the payoff outweighed the risk. If, by chance, the photos did provide some motivation to a single person to try and get fit then the gremlin self-doubt was worth it. I quit worrying about what others might be thinking about my photos and just began sharing them.

You likely have similar situations you’re dealing with right now. If you’re having a difficult time weighing the risk and benefit, talk with friends or someone you trust. Once you see that the risk is small or non-existent, just jump!

Photo credit: Powderruns / Foter / CC BY

The Roadblock Called Perfection

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A good portion of my coaching is around health and wellness. There are a lot of people that know they need to regain their health but they either can’t seem to get started or they keep getting stuck shortly afterward. One of the most common roadblocks to success is perfection.

Here’s a paraphrased typical conversation I have with clients. We’ll call this one Jen.

Jen: I can’t seem to get started on any real exercise program.
Me: What do you think is stopping you?
Jen: Well, what if I start and don’t finish?
Me: Jen, who has control over whether or not you finish?
Jen: Well, I guess I do.
Me: So, what else?
Jen: What if I miss a day?
Me: How would missing a single day impact your overall success?
Jen: Not much, I guess I’d just make it up the next day. As long as I don’t make it a habit. <smirk>
Me: What else is holding you back?
Jen: Well, I’ve tried doing a video workout and I’m not as good as the people in the video.
Me: Hmmm, I wonder why they were selected to do the video. What do you think?
Jen: OK, yeah. They’re pros and I’m not. But if I’m going to do a program, I need to do it right.
Me: What do you mean by “right?”
Jen: Well, I have to be perfect!

No!! Making a positive impact on your health has nothing to do with reaching some state that someone else has defined to be “perfect.” People often find themselves in the trap of shooting for an “ideal” weight or body measurements or an unblemished record of adherence to a course of action. Change isn’t perfect. It’s messy and complicated and full of spirals and twists. When you’re working towards better health, your goal needs to be meeting personal bests and developing a healthier version of you on your own terms, using your own strengths and talents.

You’ll have forward motion but the road taken and the time to travel it will be different for everyone. Detours and roadblocks happen but you still get where you’re going. Don’t let the idea of it not being a “perfect sunday drive” prevent you from leaving the garage.

What has you stuck? What’s keeping you from creating the healthy life you deserve?

Photo credit: te.esce / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

How to Turn Your Commitment to Change into Action

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Last week I wrote about how you decide to make a change. Once you’ve acknowledged the need to change a behavior and have made a commitment, you need to move from planning to some action.

Your life will be no better than the plans you make and the action you take. You are the architect and builder of your own life, fortune, destiny. —Alfred A. Montapert

When taking steps to bring about some desired change, you need to look at what has or has not worked for you in the past. You also need to be open to new ideas and be willing to change your course of action as you try new approaches. There is no right or wrong way to succeed in your goal; you need to discover through trial and error what works best for you.

One of the classic examples is losing weight. There are hundreds of diet and exercise plans and by combining these into a plan of action, there are likely millions of ways for someone to decrease their body weight to get to a comfortable number on the scale. Keep in mind that once you reach your goal, you also need to maintain the behavior. Maintaining your desired weight will likely require that you continue some or all of these activities for an extended period of time so you need to find options that are sustainable for you. For example, you might use a strict meal-plan system where all of the food is provided for you to drop some pounds. However, how likely is it that you’ll want to remain on that diet for the rest of your life? It probably wouldn’t be very enjoyable and would be expensive too.

For lasting change, consider the long-term maintenance of your desired behavior when creating a plan of action. Try to change your mindset to get to the root of the issue instead of using a quick fix that won’t last. There are two practices recommended by Prochaska that I pass along to coaching clients that can help bring about this mental shift; countering and environmental controls. Countering is replacing the undesired behavior with a healthy, more desirable one and environmental control means manipulating your setting or avoiding a location to prevent the behavior. Including either or both of these in your action plan will be helpful.

For example, let’s say you’re prone to snacking through the day. You can consciously replace that activity with another. For me, I started doing push-ups whenever I wanted a snack. This countering helped in two ways. I burned some extra calories and the activity usually made me forget the urge to snack. Over time, I began to crave physical activity when I was bored or restless and that has served me well. I also worked at a company that had a cafeteria that served cheap but gourmet quality meals. It was easy to overeat. I could have avoided the cafeteria but I would have also missed out on the social interactions that took place there. Instead, I simply started bringing my lunch. As everyone was in line getting their food, I’d eat my lunch. By the time they got to the table with the gourmet meal, I’d already be half done and fairly full. Once the conversation started, I was no longer tempted to get more food.

Once you have your steps in mind, I recommend the following:

  1. Write your plan down.
  2. Share your plan and goals with someone that will hold you accountable.
  3. Review your plan DAILY and note how you’ve done.
  4. Review your progress WEEKLY to see if your actions are working. If not, try something new.
  5. Finally, don’t give up. You’ll reach your goal over time.

There’s no single “magic bullet” that anyone can provide you to create the change you desire. All change has to come from within and you are the only person that can make it happen. Be strong, ask for help and stick with it. You’ll get there!

Photo credit: waynesutton12 / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Deciding to Make a Change

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Over the past week, I’ve had a number of friends commit to regaining their health by eating better or joining a gym. I applaud them!

Coaches help people get from point-A to point-B in their life but unless someone knows they want to make that trip, it’s a difficult road to travel. So, how do you decide that it’s time to change?

There are dozens of behavioral change models but I use Prochaska’s Transtheoretical Model of Behavioral Change. The first three stages are: Pre-contemplation when an individual can’t see or accept a problem or behavior and they resist change, Contemplation where a person acknowledges that change needs to occur and Preparation where they begin planning to take action. My friends are all in this planning phase.

Until someone accepts that a change needs to take place, (they reach that contemplation phase) there’s little that anyone else can do for them. You can try to educate, lead by example and even beg and plead but, until they see that there’s a problem, they are more likely to think that you’re the problem. What is effective is being there for them and listening. As soon as you have a hint that they are beginning to take responsibility for their behavior and have recognized the issue, then you can help them start moving forward.

Once someone is contemplating a change, they need support. People often get stuck in “I will someday” and a list of excuses here. One of the most effective tools described by Prochaska is “emotional arousal.” Expose this person to as many different experiences as possible that will reinforce the positive nature of them changing their habits. One popular example is the TV show Biggest Loser. Personal opinions aside, the show can be a great motivator. Someone watching the show that doesn’t think they have a weight issue will see it in a different light than someone that has just come to terms with the fact that they could be a contestant. Seeing others succeed gives them the encouragement that they could do the same and this might be just enough energy to stop thinking and actually start making plans for themselves.

Once you’re ready to make that change, you start planning on how to make that happen. Options here are limitless and vary depending on the behavior you’re trying to modify. The important part of this phase is that you keep moving and don’t get stuck in a cycle of “almost ready.” This is where a coach or other professional can provide great value. To see results, you need to eventually be done planning and start acting.

If you’ve recently made some change in your life, what was it that made you decide you needed to act? Once you reached that point, how long was it before you began making preparations to do something about it?

Image courtesy of Surachai at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Are You Setting a Healthy Example?

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We often see celebrities say that they shouldn’t be looked up to as role models when they’re caught doing something wrong. They claim it’s not their responsibility to “raise your kids” or that it is unfair that they are held to a higher standard because they are in the spotlight. Their actions, however, do have the potential to impact more people because of that exposure. Do you realize that you have that same power of influence within your own circle? Is the example you set for others important?

Yesterday, I was at a hospital visiting someone. I had to wait a bit so I sat in the hospital’s cafe. A group of nurses came in (I could see their RN badges) and they each ordered a “serious (large) double-caramel chocolate macchiato with extra whip cream.” Each of these nurses was overweight to obese. To make matters worse, this particular building housed the cardiac care unit. These were the same nurses that would be going back to talk to their overweight patients about the need to lose weight to prevent another coronary event.

How much impact do you think those conversations will have? We lead by example whether we like it or not. “Do as I say, not as I do” didn’t work when we were kids and it definitely doesn’t fly as an adult. If you’re in a healthcare position and you’re trying to persuade others to take better care of themselves, shouldn’t you do the same for yourself? If you’re overweight and talking about nutrition or smell of cigarette smoke and talking to a cancer patient, there is a disconnect that simply won’t allow you to be effective in delivering your message.

The parent-child relationship holds even more importance. If you have kids, are you setting them up to succeed and to be as healthy as possible? Are you keeping healthy food in the house or buying processed garbage because it’s just easier? Are you encouraging activity by playing with your kids and staying active yourself or do you plop in front of the TV for four hours every night? Children aren’t in a position to make well-thought decisions so they rely on your wisdom. They also watch everything you do. Yes, they may “want” the sugary cereal with the prize in the box but who is actually bringing that into the house? More kids are gaining weight and developing health problems at a young age. How can you turn this around? By setting a good example and taking responsibility for your own health.

I work with both men and women on this exact topic. I know it’s not easy. Some have tried to get their eating under control for years and they want to be more active but can’t seem to stick with a program. One of the most powerful motivators I’ve found is when they discover the impact they’re having on the health of others. It seems obvious, but for some it’s not real until someone holds a picture up in front of them. In one instance, I mean this quite literally. One father couldn’t stay committed to getting back in shape. He said he wanted to do it for his young son but just couldn’t make the connection between his actions and desires. We came up with the idea to put a picture of his son on the refrigerator and all of the cabinets. He even put a small one on his lunch bag and in his wallet. This made a huge difference. It forced him to reconsider his food choices and realign them with his goal to set a better example for his son. He’s doing quite well now.

Setting a positive example isn’t just related to health. Look at the way you treat yourself in all regards and compare that to what you tell others; particularly children. Does your message match your deeds or are you being somewhat hypocritical? What can you do right now to be a better example to those that you guide? Maybe you can even be an inspiration?

Photo credit: mikebaird / Foter.com / CC BY

Ask for Help When You Need It

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I was recently working with someone through some dietary issues. Through a few questions, I became fairly certain that knowledge wasn’t the reason why this individual was having a hard time eating a healthy diet. They often replied that they simply didn’t know how to shop but I was sensing something was missing so I had to challenge them. They eventually opened up. I learned that they were embarrassment to say they didn’t know how to shop within their budget. Now that the real issue was brought to light, it was something we could work on together.

I briefly switched into teaching mode and supplied some information on how to eat well within a budget. I’ve included that for you below. For the rest of the session, I had gained their permission to explore their thoughts around asking for help when they need it. In this instance, and others I’ve encountered, this hindrance was rooted in the same sense of shame or embarrassment that causes so many esteem issues. We’re afraid of the judgements others will make in light of our lack of complete perfection. For this individual, we walked through the scenarios of them asking or not asking for help. Not asking for help would have lead to further health issues while their eventual opening up and reaching out resolved the issue.

What they learned is that everyone needs help at points in their life. More important is that no one can help you if you don’t ask.

If you need help with something in your life right now, you have two options. Are you going to stay the course, afraid of the perceived sense of shame in asking for help, or will you be just a little brave and maybe quickly and easily solve the problem?

Photo credit: Gwendal_ / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA (derivative)

Here are a few resources on how to eat healthy on a budget.
http://greatist.com/health/44-healthy-foods-under-1
http://www.choosemyplate.gov/healthy-eating-on-budget.html
http://www.mensfitness.com/ian-cohen/cheap-sources-of-healthy-protein

There’s No Need for Dieting

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Dieting stinks. In some cases, you have a list of foods you can’t eat or a limited list of things you can eat. There are others that require you to track everything that goes into your mouth and record calories or points or units or exchanges. Others require you to eat pre-packaged foods or starve yourself by only eating a meal replacement instead of real food. Regardless of the method, dieting simply isn’t fun. It also isn’t sustainable because that’s not how we were built to eat.

I work with a lot of people that feel they need someone to tell them what they should and shouldn’t eat. What I’ve discovered is that most people are naturally healthy eaters and can intuitively decide what is right for them to eat. I’ll admit that there is a percentage of the population that simply does not understand good nutrition. However, once they have the knowledge, they have all the tools they need to succeed in reaching a healthy weight. When asked, I’m guessing that most people would agree that 32 ounces of regular soda every day isn’t a good food choice. They know about shopping around the edge of the grocery store and they understand that processed foods aren’t a good choice. So why is eating right so difficult and we need to “go on a diet?”

For many, dieting can become a crutch. If you don’t eat right, you can blame the diet. It’s too hard to stick to, it’s too restrictive, the food doesn’t taste good. Ultimately, what you put in your mouth is your choice. If you eat too much fast food, eat more real food. If you eat too many sweets, cut them back or out completely. If you simply eat too much, decrease your portion sizes. It’s in our biology to know how to eat intuitively; you just need to start trusting yourself.

To eat intuitively, just keep these few questions in mind:

Are you really hungry right now? (You could be under stress, bored, thirsty or in an environment where you’ve been conditioned to eat.)
If you’re hungry, is what you’re about to eat a good choice? (Use your own knowledge and wisdom here.)
If you’re hungry and you’ve made a good choice, then are you taking too much food? (Would you be embarrassed to have someone else look at your plate right now?)

Now, everyone’s body is different. No one can really say “This is the best diet for you and will help you lose X pounds.” There’s simply too many variables. Some of us don’t tolerate some foods well, for example, and we should eliminate those from our diet. Other than taking an expensive blood test, really the only way to know what’s right for you is to experiment and listen to your body. If wheat products tend to give you stomach problems, then cut them out for 30 days to see if they improve. If they do, then don’t start eating wheat again. Want to build lean mass? Then eat more protein but NOT milk if you’re lactose intolerant. Find something else that works well for you.

It takes a little time but learning what foods are best for you and eating in a pattern that’s right for you will allow you to have a much happier and healthy relationship with food. You’ll no longer fear it and dread meal times but, instead, enjoy eating as it was meant to be.

Photo credit: Patrick Feller / Foter.com / CC BY

How We Treat Ourselves

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Coaching is about asking questions and listening. You help people bring out their own wisdom to move forward in their life. Often, the coach learns a lot by being exposed to others’ knowledge.

During a recent session, a client made a values statement that really struck me. They said “Whenever I hear someone say ‘I don’t have time’ I always tell them to tack on the words ‘for you’ because that’s what you really mean when you say ‘I don’t have time’….’I don’t have time for you.’ ” I had never really thought of it that way before but it rings true. That was completely accurate for this person. They always make time for others. What’s interesting is that this may also be at the root of personal care issues because the statement “I don’t have time for myself” seems to be acceptable to this individual.

We often treat ourselves differently from how we treat others. I’ve worked with some of the most kind, generous and caring people that were harsh and ruthless towards themselves. In theory, we’re not supposed to be able to love and care for others more than we do ourselves. I don’t think these individuals dislike who are what they are. Instead they have a misplaced sense of guilt. They feel like they shouldn’t like themselves or feel worthy because false perceptions tell them that others don’t.

To get out of this trap, do away with the external judgements. Others likely don’t know what a great person you are and their opinion really doesn’t matter anyway. Acknowledge your strengths and gifts and celebrate successes publicly. You may be surprised by how many are celebrating with you. Also, take time to care for yourself. If you have the attitude of “I don’t care about myself” then you’re showing the people that love and depend on you that “I don’t care about myself…or you.”

Are there inconsistencies between how you treat yourself and others? How might you bring those more in line?

Photo credit: Stephen Poff / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND