Everyone wants to do what feels good in the moment rather than what will bring us closer to our long term goals. We can harness that power if we eat more healthy foods that taste delicious or choose movement that we love. Eating right or exercise becomes a gift we give ourselves rather than a chore if we focus on how good they make us feel. It’s hard to believe, but losing weight can be enjoyable. This is #1 in The 15 Shifts to Become a Real Loser series.
Things get pretty exciting in the mornings around my house for 4 to 5 weeks out of the year. My daughter’s elementary school thinks it’s really fun to have theme weeks where kids dress up every day in special outfits.
We never seem to remember until my daughter is already dressed, and it's five minutes before the bus comes. A mad dash ensues with her running up the stairs and throwing clothes all around her room while I frantically click through my emails to find the one with the instructions for the day.
Sometimes the kids are supposed to dress up by color— today is blue day, tomorrow is green day, Wednesday is camo day, and so on. Yes, in Alabama camo is a color.
Another regular on the dress up day/ drive Mom crazy rotation is Opposite Day. This is where the kids have to be uncomfortable all day long and wear their clothes backwards. Clothes are not made to be worn backwards. Usually my kids go to the bathroom in the middle of the day and just switch them around.
The first mind shift in the Become a Real Loser series is like Opposite Day. When it comes to weight loss, most of us think hard work and deprivation. But what if we could do the opposite?
Instead of the discomfort that comes with making yourself do hard things, we could harness the power of enjoying ourselves and having fun to make changes that just flow.
But unlike Opposite Day, you won’t have any trouble keeping these habits on because they will truly feel comfortable to you. No awkward fit. You’ll truly enjoy them.
Move Towards the Positive
So how do you do that? How do you make a habit that is based on Enjoying Yourself More instead of making it hard work? Great question. Glad you asked;-).
I found a great example of how to set up your habits when reading a blog post by one of my favorite habit gurus, Gretchen Rubin. Gretchen was interviewing Michelle Gielan, a national CBS News anchor who has switched gears to be a positive psychologist. Michelle explained to Gretchen how she made a new habit and had harnessed the power of Enjoying Herself More. She used that idea to make an exercise habit that worked for her.
“I recently wanted to exercise more, and instead of trying to remind myself about all the health benefits and designing an effective (but boring) workout routine, I thought of the moments in my life when getting a workout has been the most fun.
For me, I love dancing! So I signed up for an aerobics style dance jam class, and I’ve never had more fun! And wouldn’t you know it—I am there twice-a-week (religiously!) anytime I’m not traveling for work. Fun can be a great motivator, and positive reasons like that help me stick to a new habit.”
Michelle explained this concept beautifully as, “Instead of running from the negative, I’ve started running towards the positive.”
I think it all comes down to how we set up the habit to begin with. We need to think from the onset about how we can make the habit positive, make it enjoyable, and make it something we want to do, instead of something we make ourselves do. When we set up our habit in a positive way, it feels like we are running forward instead of dragging ourselves toward it.
Enjoy Exercise? It's possible.
The simple but powerful concept of Enjoying Yourself More applies to all areas of your life. But, I think exercise is a particularly good place to talk about this concept. We have so many negative associations with exercise.
In her book, No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness, Michelle Segar, PhD reveals how to make an exercise habit that lasts. She says that choosing the right motivation and activity can make exercise go from a “should do” or a chore into a “want to do” or a gift we give ourselves.
When we try to make ourselves exercise in a way that doesn’t feel joyful, it feels like a chore like washing the dishes or sweeping the floor. One more thing to add to the to-do list. But, if it’s movement that we love to do, then it becomes a treat, something to look forward to, or as Michelle describes it, "A gift we give ourselves.”
It’s amazing how Michelle's simple reframe of exercise from “a chore” to a “gift you give yourself” has changed many of my clients' lives. They have found by enjoying how they move their body, they have been able to do their essential roles in life better. They have more energy and more positivity and just function better as mothers, wives, or professionals. But, they had to set up the activity habit right in order for this to happen.
But I Hate to Exercise!
As I said, many women have very negative associations with exercise. Many of my female clients will tell me that they don’t like to exercise. Exercise is like a four letter word that happens to be spelled with eight.
Most of the time I don’t even use the word “exercise.” I usually call it “activity” or “movement.” But even so, many women are still resistant to the idea of moving more. This is where I employ the power of Enjoying Yourself More. I ask my clients a simple, but powerful question.
This question gives women permission to think about physical activity in a whole new way-- because it actually isn’t new to them after all.
When they were 10, they just liked to move. They didn’t do it to tone their inner thighs, or because their doctor told them to, or to lose ten pounds. They just did it for fun. They enjoyed themselves.
Many of my clients realize that they do like to move their bodies. They just have to think back and remember loving to jump on the trampoline, ride their bikes, or dance.
For me, it’s all about roller skating. I get positively gleeful when my daughter has a birthday party to go to at the local roller rink. I will leave all the other moms to talk rink side. I’m out there with my skates on, lapping all the girls, wind whipping my hair, and pretending to chaperone.
So, if you want to make an exercise habit that you love, I ask you,
“What did you do for fun to move your body when you were 10 years old?”
Download the Enjoy Activity Action Guide if you would like help finding ways to move more and love it.
Research on Enjoy Yourself More
In a classic study, Dr. Daniel Wegner, supports the idea of Enjoy Yourself More. In his experiment, he showed that trying to not think of something can backfire. He told one research group to not think of a white bear. Of course, they couldn't help but think of a white bear.
What made this research so fascinating, is that the subjects who were told not to think of a white bear initially, ended up thinking about a white bear even more later than people who were instructed to think of a white bear initially.
This idea is called the Ironic Process Theory. The idea behind the theory is that when you try to suppress a thought, you may be able to do it initially, but you will eventually rebound and think of it even more often later.
Enjoying Yourself More is so effective because instead of focusing on the negative and trying to suppress thoughts of delicious, fattening foods (like chocolate truffles), you start focusing on eating more delicious healthy foods (like triple berry yogurt parfait).
In my blog post Eat What You Love, I talk about making sure to eat lots of healthy foods that you love. Because when it comes down to it, that's what you will end up eating.
It's important to include the Enjoy Yourself More mentality in both the way you approach food and activity when it comes to weight loss.
Making a Plan
It's the beginning of January. I love the promise of a big, wide open year in front of me. I love the season of New Year’s resolutions and goals. It’s a time where anything seems possible. I love dreaming big dreams and moving towards them.
I know I am not alone in this. There are 323,999,999 other Americans making weight loss and fitness resolutions this time of year. (Yes, that leaves one American who has it all figured out. We won’t hate. We won’t hate--Just keep repeating that.)
For those of you who worry about your follow-through on your weight loss resolution, Enjoying Yourself More can make all the difference in achieving your goal.
Remember to set up your goals so that you “run towards the postive” rather than forcing yourself to do them. Use the Action Guide below, and this year you may finally achieve your exercise resolution.
Until next time,
get the Guide to Losing Weight without Dieting!
What are the secrets of the most successful losers? After coaching hundreds of people, I found these 15 habits and mind shifts in my clients who lose weight and keep it off. Now I'm sharing the guide to losing weight without dieting with you. Get the guide here...
Hi, I’m Treva, your weight loss coach! I'm a dietitian, personal trainer, and health coach who helps women who want to lose weight, but are done with the deprivation and disappointment of traditional dieting. I help you develop a weight loss habit plan that is personalized for your body, your preferences, and your lifestyle. Want Help Losing Weight?