Behavior change is all about the WHY. Why change? What is the point? Why does it matter? Does it even matter?
Why are you doing this? Why put yourself through the pain and sacrifice? Change is hard. If it was easy, everyone would do it!
You know this is true, because 90% of the world will continue to take the easy road of minimal physical activity, of eating whatever they feel like whenever they want, of not thinking about the hard questions like “where will this road take me?” This is the easy road, the road of comfort and convenience.
But you have been down that road and you found out that it didn’t take you where you wanted to go. That is why you are reading these words right now, because you have realized that the easy path of seeking out comfort and convenience in our present-day society typically leads to obesity, feeling sluggish and unhealthy, and (if you do it long enough) a whole bunch of chronic diseases.
Change is the opposite of comfort. To change is to invite discomfort into your life, with hopes that the end result justifies the sacrifice.
So let’s get back to your reason why…
Here are the reasons that usually come up when someone is trying to make a major healthy lifestyle change. Do any of these sound familiar?
- I want to feel healthy. I don’t want to feel sick anymore. I always feel tired, bloated, lethargic and can’t stand it anymore. I have been down that dead-end path of doctor’s appointments and tests for everything and no one can figure out what is wrong with me. Deep down I know what is wrong with me: I am overweight, have high blood sugar, and I don’t exercise. I didn’t feel like this when I finished high school, why do I feel like this now?
- I don’t want this disease to get any worse. I am on two medicines for my blood pressure and one for my cholesterol, and I am only 42 years old. My blood sugar is in the borderline diabetic range and my doctor says I have fatty liver. My dad died of a heart attack. My doctor wants me to go for a stress test next week. And then what, more medications? Am I just going to let this happen to me, like a bystander helplessly watching my own life unfold?
- I want to come off some of my medications. I can’t believe that I am taking four different medications including insulin injections, and every time I visit my doctor she wants to increase the dose! My blood sugar rarely comes down below 190, and my last hemoglobin A1c was 9.2%. I know I am not really following the right diet, but I am trying to eat less. I feel like I am trapped in a cycle of medication and I’m spiraling to the bottom.
- I want to look better. I am not happy when I look in the mirror. I’m always thinking about my weight and what people might be saying about me behind my back. I don’t need to be skinny, but losing 30 pounds sure would make me feel better about myself. I was never like this and can’t seem to figure out what to do. I am just sick of my weight being part of my identity and the first thing people think of when they see me.
- I want to be around for my kids. At this rate, I will be lucky to make it to sixty. I feel worse every year and keep piling on the weight and the medications. My family history is not looking too good for me either. My two kids need me still and I want to be around to see them get married. I want to be a grandparent and do grandparent stuff with my grandkids. At the rate I am going now, I’m not sure this will happen.
- I want to be able to do normal things again. I used to be able to do work in my yard for two hours without even thinking twice about it. Now I can barely muster the energy to go to the store without taking a nap afterwards. I feel weak and achey and just don’t have the energy for what I used to be able to do. Our friends invited us out last weekend for dinner, but I didn’t even feel like going…it’s just too much effort. Taking a nap on the couch has become my favorite hobby nowadays…is this my life now?
These might be extreme examples, or they may be tame compared to your reality right now. The point is that people desire to change for many different reasons. The most important thing you can do right now is to define your reason.
Think hard about why you want to change. Write it down and then come back to it in a day or two. Is this really the reason that you want to change? Look at your reason why from all the different angles you can think of. Is this reason strong enough to keep you going down the path that you need to take to get there?
The reasons that truly have the power to take you where you want to go must come from within. You must want to make the change! You need a good reason why to produce strong internal motivation.
Superficial reasons or reasons that are imposed on you by others (for example, your spouse nagging you to lose weight) can keep you going for a short while but never really hold up in the end. After all, this is your journey–you are doing all the work! Outside reasons (external motivation) will eventually fizzle out. If you don’t have strong internal motivation, when the going gets tough and you need to rely on yourself to keep grinding, you will simply stop. It is as predictable as the sun rising tomorrow.
So think, and define your reason why very carefully. Refine your reason, keep it written down somewhere, and refer to it every so often when you need to remember why you started.
On your journey to better health and fitness, there will be a hundred reasons why you will want to stop, but all you need to be successful is one good reason to keep going!