The What If Experience

Explore a new "What If..." question about life each week with some thoughts, some answers and some action steps. Share my journey of personal growth and living in possibility.
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Feb 25, 2018

A few months ago, we talked about developing a "5 commandment" list for yourself - five statements that if you lived by them each day and made decisions by them, you’d be living a life centered around the values you want your life to be marked by. I’ve edited my list since then; I changed one statement. Here are my five commandments:

  • Love God.
  • Prioritize people.
  • Choose health.
  • Spend intentionally.
  • Create consistently.

You can check out episode 62 if you want to understand what those mean to me or more about why or how to create that list.

Since that episode, we’ve been talking about tools and tactics we need to make lasting change in our lives. This is the last episode in that series and I wanted to summarize it all for you today by showing you an example of how all the pieces could work together.

When I compare how I'm actually living with how I want to be living, there is a definite gap in two of those commandments. I’m not doing a good job of choosing health or creating consistently. Actually, I’m writing very consistently, but I’ve not been in the art studio in months. And I have some deadlines coming up for some pieces that need to be finished. I need to find a way to work that into my schedule.

The bigger problem is my health. In the last year, I’ve gone from being in the best shape of my adult life to terrible shape. I’m neither eating right nor exercising. That has to change, I feel terrible and it keeps me from doing things I want to do and living the way I want to live.

Today I’m going to walk you through how I can use all the tactics we’ve talked about to get my eating back on track. I’m going to go through the steps in the order I presented them in the January and February episodes.

Game Plan for Eating Healthier

A few things to remember as we dig into making a plan…

  • Change is a process.
  • Treat the process as a research scientist would.

Identify the following people in your life: Mentor, Cheerleader, Partner

There are different types of relationships that can help you succeed. Mentors can be people you know and meet with or people you learn from online, in books or by media like this podcast. This one I’m going to have to think about. If I do another round of Whole 30, then Melissa Hartwig, (creator of Whole 30) would be considered a mentor. If I do a four to six-week stint of vegan eating, then I’d count Forks Over Knives as a mentor, as well as a handful of friends who are vegan. But, I’m leaning towards doing a more sustainable, long-term plan, so I’m going to have to work on this one after I decide what exactly I'm doing.

Cheerleaders are another personal resource. These are people who encourage you along the way. I have a friend I meet with weekly and I’ll recruit her specifically to be a cheerleader as well as a long-distance friend who’s changed her eating habits dramatically over the last few years.

Partners are people walking the same road at the same time. My family will be partnering in this to some extent, but they may not be entirely enthusiastic partners. I’d also love if you partnered with me. You don’t need to do the same thing I’m doing, but if you’d be interested in participating in a 30 day Healthier You challenge alongside me, sign up here and I’ll send you some info about how to get started and open up a private facebook group as well.

Identify unhealthy relationships that would sabotage your change-making.

I’m going to have to think further about this one, I can’t think of any unhealthy relationships off the top of my head (I've weeded out many of them already). This might include people who encourage overindulging, or who I only get together to eat ice cream with or people who don’t have a focus on a healthy lifestyle.


Put yourself in your default future.

My default future if I continue down this path is that I’ll most likely be on medication for weight and diet-related disease. This could be heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or any number of other issues. I won’t be able to enjoy life as much or play with my grandkids. Things that I love to do will be much more difficult and so I probably won’t do them. Things like hiking, kayaking, and beach-walking. I don’t want those days to be over. I don’t want to spend my time in a hospital. I don’t want to be constantly dealing with medications and doctors. I don’t want the constant pain and inflammation I’m feeling now. I don’t want the second half of my life to be lived on the sidelines from a recliner. I want to be active. If I keep on like this, that won’t happen.

Face the whole truth.

The whole truth right now is that I’m an overweight, middle-aged mom. I’m hampered by my weight gain and by my body’s reaction to the foods I’m eating. I’m uncomfortable, but not doing anything about it. There is nothing good on this path except immediate, momentary satisfaction that only lasts until the next cookie. And, I’m being a terrible role model for my son. I’m not acting like I value health right now.

Obsess over the why.

Because I want to feel good. I want to be functionally fit. I want to be able to move and react easily and freely. I want to be able to run, dance, jump, walk, and skip, just for the joy of movement. I want to play on the floor with my grandkids (assuming I ever have grandkids). There is too much world left to explore to be unhealthy.

Gamify it: Limited time, Small Actions, Scoring

I’m going to work on healthy eating for the rest of the year, but I’m going to work in 30-day increments to keep the time frame smaller and more immediate. I'll start this plan on March 1st. For this month I’m going to use an incentive to gamify the process and I’ll talk about that in a few minutes. And I’ll track each successful day in my journal. I’m going to use a long-term incentive too. I’m going to consider a month successful If I’ve made all good choices for 25 days out of the month. When I reach 10 successful months, I’ll treat myself to something I’ve wanted for a long time, a stand-up paddleboard. I’m going to cut a photo of one up in 10 pieces and begin to put it back together again as I complete each successful month.

Create a personal vision statement.

This is a statement that I will repeat to myself before I eat anything. I'm going to start by trying:   I make healthy choices so that I can hike, travel and play with my grandkids.

Identify skills you need to make the change.

I need to make a decision on how I’m going to eat and I need to carve out time for planning meals.

How can you acquire these skills?

I’ll make a decision on what to eat and create a meal plan before March 1. Mostly, that’s not acquiring skills, but spending time pulling recipes together. And I think it’s going to be slightly different than anything I’ve done before, so I may need to do some online research.

How can you practice willpower in small steps? List three steps you can take in the order of increasing difficulty.

Step one: good choices at home for snacks
Step two: good choices at my Tuesday and Wednesday meetings where there’s food present
Step three: good choices when I’m surrounded by bad food all day on Sundays

Who can you recruit to help you manage the harder challenges?

The women in my groups and on my Sunday ministry team


What positive incentives can you add to your plan? (small rewards, reward actions, not results)

I’m going to put $1 a day in a jar each day I make good choices all day. After a month I can spend that or keep adding to it.

What negative incentives can you add to your plan?

That $1 a day? If I don’t make good choices, it’s going in another jar and I’ll donate it to a charity I totally disagree with.

Build personal boundaries.

For the next month, I’ll order groceries online once a week. This keeps me from making bad choices when I’m there and limits my options for making bad choices at home.

Distance yourself from trouble.

I’ll eliminate the junk and tempting things from the kitchen. I’ll move anything remaining to the back of the pantry where I tend to forget it…or the other end of the house. Or, I’ll throw it away if that doesn’t work.

Create behavior prompts.

I’m putting some photos of travel, hiking, and kayaking inside my kitchen cabinets. Maybe do some art pieces or put some posters up too that will remind me subconsciously of who I am.

Harness your inner lazy.

I need a meal plan. If I have a 30-day meal plan, I’ll follow it. I tend to fall off the wagon far more easily when I work without a plan. When I have a meal plan in place, I have to make an effort to break it, and if I do, I know I waste time, food and money, which I don’t like.

Use tools.

I’m going to track food and water for a month. I’ve done this before and it really helps with awareness and accountability.

That’s it! Remember, these tactics are about how you’re going to support yourself as you make changes and not what you’re changing. Also, parts of this might not work. I’ll try it for a month and see. I’m sure there are other things along the way I’ll think of and I’ll add them in as I go along.

This process isn’t limited to making changes in how you eat. You can use it for any change you want to make. What do you need to change? You’ll be far more likely to be successful if you make a plan.

If you do want to come along with me on a Healthier You challenge in March, click here and join in. I’m actually doing exercising alongside healthier eating, so I’ll probably be talking a bit about that as well. You don’t need to be doing what I’m doing, but we can help partner in making good choices and sticking to our own plans. Let’s see what we can start to accomplish in the next 30 days!

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