Why do people struggle to turn healthy lifestyle intentions into action?
It’s a question that I studied for numerous years doing my Masters thesis. And I have an answer for you! Behaviour-change research consistently reports that for women especially, three main factors impact on their resolve to change their lifestyle routines and behaviours:
- Lack of energy
- Lack of time
- Lack of motivation
It was the same for Zelinda from Melbourne, Australia. When she posted this post in the coaching community for MyMT™ recently, I kindly asked her to share it with you. I know that many of you may have felt the same.
“When I began with Wendy at MyMT™ I was sleeping poorly from sweating at night and feeling more anxious than usual. The aches in my joints were accelerating and I felt tired, sluggish, and a good 6 kg overweight – despite eating what I believed to be a good diet and exercising well.
My journey has been a marathon and not a sprint. Despite everything in Wendy’s programme making so much sense, there were times when I asked myself why I was bothering to persist if I wasn’t going to do what she suggested? I slipped, regressed and felt frustration and despair. I also felt jealous whenever I saw the seemingly instant success of others posted on the coaching community.
But asking myself that question was the best thing that I did. Because it made me understand that even if I didn’t see much change in my progress I still KNEW, in the face of all evidence in this arena, that the MyMT™ changes would more likely lead me towards being as healthy as was possible for me as I aged.
I realised that I didn’t want the alternative outcome … the one in which if I continued as I was, would almost certainly lead to me feeling WORSE over time.
After listening to the Behaviour Change module in the Circuit Breaker programme, I shifted my mindset. I became curious (without any judgement of myself or others) as to why I didn’t feel like making the changes that I knew I needed to make. Why did it feel so hard. Why was making these lifestyle changes so hard for me?
But here’s what I realised – basically I didn’t want to stop doing what I wanted to do NOW in order to offset FUTURE problems, that in reality, I didn’t know the full force of yet.
Teenage thinking really.
So instead of waiting for sustained motivation I decided to set up/change up my mind and environment for success to do what Wendy was suggesting that we do. I knew that when my motivation waned (it always has in the past), I would then have structural systems, physically and psychologically, in place to support me.
With an attitude of curiosity and continual support in Wendy’s coaching community, I explored and identified the personal barriers to change, that I perceived were in my way. I consciously acknowledged those challenges, extended myself compassion and MOST IMPORTANTLY asked myself how I wanted to behave in the face of these challenges.
Who would I like to be and how would I like to behave in the face of these challenges?
This shift in mindset allowed me to feel more empowered as my values began to guide my behaviour rather than ‘falling into’ self defeating reactive unhelpful ways that were not in line with my personal values and goals.
This took time and continued realignment and support which I got from this programme.
The barriers to change for me basically fell into a combination of biological/ physical, psychological and social. They were both internal and external.
The external barriers were these:
- Others around me were not that supportive of my efforts. At best they were uninterested and at worst I was overtly undermined.
- I was time poor. You know all the usuals: Busy working life, sandwiched between the never ending needs of teenagers and increasing needs of ever ageing parents and in laws (Social barrier).
- Covid completely curtailed my usual exercise routine (social barrier)
- My family didn’t like my change in diet that I needed for me during menopause. (Social barrier)
- I used my knee injury as an excuse not to exercise (Physical barrier)
- I also had a dodgy back (Physical barrier)
Then there were the INTERNAL barriers that got in the way of my behaving in line with the MyMT™ principles.
- Defeating thoughts and behaviours; “can’t be bothered, too hard, poor me, no one helps me, it’s not fair” too tired, I’ll start afresh tomorrow…” etc.
- I ruminated on resentments that others could “get away with eating empty carbs and crap”, “bloody covid lockdowns prevent me from exercising in ways I liked and yet others are still able to exercise the ways they wish” etc. etc. blah blah blah.
- I noticed I became anxious when going out with certain people and this influenced my ability to behave in line with what I was learning on MyMT™
- I also noticed in that state I found it harder to identify and /or be creative about what I could do differently for exercise/ eating when I was ruminating about all my excuses!
In short I was staring so long at the closed doors and broken bridges that I couldn’t turn around and either open another door or even find my way to BUNNINGS to build myself a new door to a new room or a new bridge to another place.
I had become my own worst enemy.
This was my ‘transformational realisation’!.
So, I decided that I couldn’t go on, not feeling like ‘me’! As part of this new mindset, I read some self-help books and applied this learning to all the areas for MyMT.
I overcame a dislike of walking (instead a running which I’d loved but I couldn’t do any more because of my dodgy knee) by arranging to walk with a different friend 3 times a week.
One friend I really liked and another two I didn’t know that well but put it out there anyway. Each walk we’d combine it with a takeaway coffee/fresh veggies juice. This really helped in the long Melbourne lockdown both physically, socially and psychologically.
It also led to my starting an outdoor yoga class twice a week with one of the ladies I walked with that I didn’t know that well through lockdown that I am still doing and I LOVE it. This, along with Wendy’s programme advice, has really helped with my knee and achy joints.
The habits I focused on that set ME up for success as far as eating: meal prep, shopping online for pantry/household and local butcher and green grocer phone orders for foods that Wendy suggests in her programme, to collect.
I piggybacked this online ordering habit with another newly embedded habit – ensuring I spent time to plan and order then collect everything on the way home from my daughter’s sport.
I identified healthy low carb nutritious snacks that were in line with the MyMT™ Food Guide and came to like these. With the advice from the programme, I also weaned myself off eating after dinner (a massive one for me). I developed a different habit I came to enjoy over time in front of tv: crochet/wordle as it involved my mind and hands.
I became very mindful about why I was eating something and learned from it for next time …. this reappraisal, redirect and reset took time.
I did not accomplish it by shaming myself. I identified I was eating to soothe/deal with feelings (boredom, anxiety, tiredness etc.) and learned to identify and use other helpful ways to respond.
I accepted I had to get creative about eating alongside my family in ways that were still in with program but meant minimal extra prep but I did not eat what they were eating really, but it was adapted to be in line with program 85% of time. Over time I have come to genuinely prefer my choices …this took time.
I could go on… but how I feel and function now at almost 55 years is an amazing difference.
I feel healthy, flexible, fit strong.
I have sound mental health and I sleep well.
Although losing weight was not a primary goal I am really thrilled to have lost 6 kg and am now wearing again a favourite top I bought 25 years ago (pictured).
I have had a yoyo life of weight loss/gain within a 6kg range as well being on/off wagon with what I thought was healthy eating for so long. I am so so pleased and THRILLED to have now developed sustainable changes and habits that are embedded and really feel second nature now.
My weight loss although not the primary goal has now been maintained at the desired weight for over a year now, something (yoyo’ing) I did not think I could stop at the outset.
Best wishes to you all with your own journeys and thank you all and Wendy from the bottom of my heart for developing this incredible, world-class lifestyle-change programme.”
Zelinda, Melbourne, Australia