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Joan L Kortbein
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Joan L Kortbein

Why is changing our behaviors so difficult? So often when I am working with people they tell me that they know what they need to do, but they just don't do it. So why isn't knowing we need to change enough for us to actually do it?

Here are some of the things to remember when making changes in our lifestyle:

  • Should vs. want. We all have a long list of things that we "should" do and things we "want" to do. Of course it is easier for us to do the things we want to do before the things we should do. So when you are looking at changing a behavior—like being more active—consider what you would want to do. Don't make a goal to run if you don't like running. You may think it will get you into shape faster than walking or hiking, but if you don't enjoy it, you are less likely to do it. As a result, you feel like you failed and are less likely to try again in the future.
  • Don't let what you can't do keep you from doing what you can do. Ten years ago you may have walked six miles a day and felt great. Since then, you have had some foot problems and a job change that limits your activity, and now it is hard to even walk two miles. Instead of feeling out of shape because you can't do what you used to, accept what you can do and set the goal to be the best you can be today.
  • Don't set a goal to lose weight. Yes, you read that right. So often I see people making great changes in their lifestyle. They are exercising and eating healthy, but then if their weight doesn't go down as fast, or as much, as they think it should, they get frustrated and quit. Instead, focus on taking care of yourself and let the weight loss be a bonus.
  • Don't bully or guilt yourself into changing. Feeling down on yourself and angry at your state of health is not necessarily going to motivate you to do something about it. Instead, think about how your overall quality of life is affected by your current habits. Then, consider where you'd rather be instead. Are you feeling the effects of excess weight on your joints which keeps you from doing activities with your family? Have you always pictured yourself to be a world-traveler, but due to size or health concerns you're unable to travel comfortably? Do you simply want to be able to wake up in the morning and not have to take so many medications? Look at what you want to change, make a plan and set small, realistic goals that will help you get there.
  • Be your biggest fan. When studies have been done on people who have lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off, researchers have not been able to find any similarities in what they ate or how much they exercised. The common thing in these people was the belief in themselves that they could change. We need encouragement, praise and understanding as we are trying to figure it out—especially from ourselves. As Henry Ford once said, "Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right."


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