How to psych yourself up for success
"We have met the enemy, and he is us." -- Pogo
although it may be tempting to skip this chapter, don't do it. You may be thinking, "Get on with it. I want to lose twenty pounds. Just tell me how, and I'll do it." Trouble is, that's not how you lose 20 pounds--and keep it off. That's not how you quit smoking--and stay a nonsmoker. Instead, that quick-fix attitude is the recipe for failure, so stick with us here. This chapter is about the inner you, the single greatest key to changing your life.Attitude Adjustment
The opening quote from Pogo reflects the heart of the problem. When it comes to getting what you want in life, you are your own worst enemy. Sure, others can help sabotage your efforts, and they often will, but your own double-mindedness is what allows that to happen. You are the captain of your fate--thinking anything else is sheer delusion.
Ralph is a perfect example. He was overweight as a child and obese as an adult. A therapist pointed out how as a child Ralph became a compulsive eater, and he embraced that idea at once. He grabbed at this truth, seeing it as the reason he was hopelessly fat. He decided that his overweight condition was fundamentally unchangeable--that it was his fate.
"I was miserable. Whenever I tried to lose weight, I failed. I thought nothing I could do would help, and sure enough, it never did," Ralph said. "I can see now that, in a sense, my attitude made me comfortable. The idea that I was powerless to change took the responsibility off my shoulders."
Ralph's comfort level hit the skids when he bumped into a buddy from his old weight-loss group. The man had lost 64 pounds and toned up well at the gym. Ralph almost didn't recognize him.
"This guy had a background similar to mine," said Ralph. "I realized that if he could do it, I could too. And, frankly, I wanted that kind of body. So all of a sudden, I realized there's no such thing as unchangeable fate--not when it comes to body weight. I had already proved that I could increase my body weight by any amount. Now I was determined to prove that I could decrease it by any amount."
Ralph asked for his buddy's eating plan and joined a gym. It took almost a year of trial and error, but Ralph went from 240 pounds to 175. After he lost the weight, he never went back to his old eating habits. He stuck with his weight-loss eating plan but added enough calories to keep his new weight stable.
"I have this pair of pants from my old days at 240," said Ralph. "I keep them because they remind me of something really important: I--and I alone--am responsible for my size. I determine my own fate."How Badly Do You Want This?
Sure, you want to quit smoking. Who wouldn't? Your friends barely put up with it. Strangers are disgusted by it. You have about a million burn marks on your clothes, car, and furniture. And just buying the cigarettes costs enough to finance a yearly trip to Tahiti. Even so, you don't quit. Secretly, you may feel that you're just weak and you have no willpower. A lack of willpower is not the problem. You have all the willpower in the world. We believe that you're not really ready to quit. Deep down, you just don't want to do it.
That's okay. However, if you've picked up this book, we suspect that you're at least thinking about making a change. The book may nudge you in the right direction by giving you new information that will influence you to change. Or it may furnish you with tips on small changes that can ease you into a new course of action.
After reading the pertinent chapter, if you don't really want to lose weight, get more exercise, or quit smoking, put this book down until you do. If you're not ready, you'll be spinning your wheels and getting nowhere.
The first order of business is to determine whether you really want to make a change. Fortunately, that's easy. Everyone moves naturally through five stages on the way to lifestyle changes.
To find out which stage you're in, take the following Stages of Change Test
. It will show where you are.Stages of change test
Circle the number that applies to your status.
1. I am currently smoking, and I do not intend to quit in the next six months.
2. I am currently smoking, but I intend to quit in the next six months.
3. I am currently smoking, but I intend to quit in the next month.
4. I have not smoked for the past six months.
5. I quit smoking more than six months ago.
6. I have never smoked, and I am confident that I never will.
b. heart-healthy diet*
1. I am not eating a heart-healthy diet, and I do not intend to adopt one in the next six months.
2. I am not eating a heart-healthy diet, but I intend to adopt one in the next six months.
3. I am not eating a heart-healthy diet, but I intend to adopt one in the next month.
4. I have been eating a heart-healthy diet for less than six months.
5. I have been eating a heart-healthy diet for more than six months.
6. I have been eating a heart-healthy diet for more than six months, and I am confident that I will continue this diet no matter what roadblocks come up.
c. physical activity**
1. I am not physically active, and I do not intend to become active in the next six months.
2. I am not physically active, but I intend to become more active in the next six months.
3. I am not physically active, but I intend to become more active in the next month.
4. I have been physically active for less than the past six months.
5. I have been physically active for more than the past six months.
6. I have been physically active for more than six months and I am confident that I can continue no matter what roadblocks come up.
Find the number you circled for each of the behaviors listed above.
b. Heart-Healthy Diet
c. Physical Activity
Using the following key, rank your stage of change for each of the areas described above.
stages of change
1. You're not even thinking about it. You haven't considered taking any steps to change the way you're eating, start exercising, or quit smoking.
2. You're thinking about it. You're considering making some changes but still haven't done anything.
3. You're getting ready. You're intent on changing, and you've even started to make a few inroads. You may have asked your friends about eating plans or called a quit-smoking clinic for information. You may have purchased some walking shoes, but they're still sitting in your closet.
4. You take action. You've begun the new eating plan. You've enrolled in the quit-smoking program. You've laced up your shoes and started walking.
5. You embrace maintenance. You've been incorporating these lifestyle changes into your life successfully for a while, and you're starting to feel comfortable with them.
6. You've been living a healthful lifestyle for at least six months. Now you can't imagine your life any other way.
You cannot will yourself to move from one stage to another. But if you're stuck at one stage and wish you could move up a notch, there are some things you can try.
Perhaps you don't really understand the risks of your current behavior or the benefits of changing it, so you're stuck in Stage 2. If so, seek information about those risks and benefits. This book will help (see specifically the section you need to work on, and check out "Information Highway" on page 229).
You might be trapped at Stage 3 because you lack the confidence that you can make the needed changes. This book can help you gain that confidence by breaking the changes down into small steps that you can try. Once you try a step and succeed, you can move on to the next step. If you still need an extra boost, try working with a personal trainer, a registered dietitian, or a stop-smoking counselor. These professionals may be able to help give you the confidence you need.
Another aid to change is social support. Get a walking buddy or join a class. Sometimes seeing a friend take action helps you realize that you can do it too.From the Paperback edition.
Excerpted from American Heart Association To Your Health! by American Heart Association. Copyright © 2001 by American Heart Association. Excerpted by permission of Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.