Weekends can be hard. We tend to fall out of our regular routines. We may be enjoying time with friends or family who don’t share the same goals in terms of healthy eating or healthy living. We may be partaking in adult beverages that diminish our ability to make good choices.
Monday morning rolls around and you’re determined to put the weekend behind you and get back on track. Here are three important tips to help you make your Monday morning commitment more than just lip service:
1. Have a plan
Willpower is a finite resource. If you try to rely on it entirely to help you make healthy choices for every meal, snack and drink during the day, as well as getting you out to move your body, you’re going to fail. You simply don’t have that much willpower (no one does).
People who succeed at consistently making healthy choices have a plan. Decision making takes more willpower than anything else. Will I eat a salad for dinner? Pasta? Leftovers? Take out? Which is better? Which is worse? It’s exhausting, and when our brains feel exhausted, worst possible choice usually wins.
People who are able to stay on track know before they go to bed the night before what they’re going to eat the next day. They know when, where and how they’re going to get some exercise in. They plan it all out either the night before, or even days before (Sunday is a great time for planning your healthy week ahead) and then, when they’re busy, stressed or tired later on, they don’t have to rely on willpower so much. Yes, it requires some willpower to stick to the plan, but not nearly as much as analyzing the myriad choices, making the right one, and following through.
Make it easier on yourself and plan ahead! On Sunday, sit down and plan your meals and snacks for the week, batch cook as much as you can, clean and chop whatever ingredients you can for the meals you’ve planned. Also plan out when, where and how you’re going to move your body. Will you be going to the gym on Monday and Wednesday after work? Yoga class on Saturday morning? Long walk with the dog on Thursday? Make a (realistic) plan that will work for your week and then you’ll only require enough willpower to follow the plan.
2. Visualize what success looks like for you
When it comes to our health, we tend to put a lot of focus on what we don’t want. We don’t want to weight this much, we don’t want to be tired all the time, we don’t want to crave the junk, etc. But, here’s the thing, it’s very difficult to get somewhere if you don’t know where you’re going. For this reason, you need to know more than just what you don’t want – you need to very clearly know what you do want.
What do you really want? How do you want to feel? What would success look like for you? Go beyond just, “losing 15 pounds,” or “having more energy.” Ask yourself WHY? Why do you want to lose 15 pounds or have more energy? What would losing 15 pounds or having more energy mean for you? How would your life change as a result? [I go into this practice in more detail in this free video series]
It’s important to know these things, not just so you can set clear goals, but because the brain’s power of visualization is amazing. Our brains create what we believe to be already true. Quite literally, thoughts become things. So, simply by defining what success would look and feel like for you, and spending just three to five minutes a day visualizing that, you will subconsciously begin to feel more naturally drawn to the healthy choices and behaviors that support that vision.
3. Remember that motivation isn’t coming to save you
Your brain is wired to avoid change and discomfort. To your brain, change and discomfort mean danger. Your brain is always going to encourage you to stay on the couch, zone out on Netflix, and eat lots of sugar, salt and fat. This equation feels familiar and safe to your brain, and for that reason, it’s going to continue to make that feel like the best choice for you.
Motivation to eat differently or work out may come in little bursts here and there after you watch a documentary, read a book, or see a friend looking fantastic, but those little bursts will fade quickly. Your brain’s prehistoric survival programming will kick back in and you’ll find yourself back on the couch in front of the TV eating potato chips.
The way we get around this is to start changing the way we think about cravings and the uncomfortable feelings that often accompany making healthier choices (usually just for the first few weeks). Instead of letting your brain instinctively see the discomfort as something bad to avoid, welcome it as evidence that you’re on exactly the right track. Welcome the craving and the twinge of anxiety you feel at the idea of not giving in to it. See it, not as a sign of weakness, failure, or fear (what’s the point of living without potato chips!?!?!), but as a sign that true, deep transformation is already taking place.
Learn more about how you can begin to reprogram and rewire your old habits and behaviors around food in my free 3-part video series on ending emotional eating and beating even the toughest cravings. Get instant access right here.