It takes a lot of effort for people to keep themselves motivated – it’s not an easy task. You take up an activity to reduce weight like dieting, exercising, etc but aren’t able to persist at it.
Why can’t we start a new weight loss activity?
In my opinion, the number one reason why we cannot start a new activity is procrastination. There are other reasons as well like limiting beliefs but we will take a look at that in the next article.
When I work with clients on weight loss or developing a steady habit to exercise– the most frequent reason I have come across is procrastination. The reasons for procrastination can be varied.
For example one client delayed taking up an activity because she tried losing weight in the past and it didn’t give the result she wanted and so she decided that it’s of no use – so why try at all, hence the procrastination.
Another client thought that he had to be perfect in the activity and since it takes time to do a perfect push up or a run – he procrastinated.
What makes it difficult for people to persist in an activity?
Some of the reasons are:
1. “All- or-nothing” thinkingstyle -In Cognitive Behaviour Therapy we call itthinking in black and white instead of shades of gray. It’s dichotomous thinking. It’s a ‘common mistake that people make in thinking.’ Judith Beck defines it as “You view a situation in only two categories instead of on a continuum.”(Beck, 1995)
Let me give an example of ‘All -or-Nothing’ Thinking. You have been dieting for a month and one day you decide to take some sweets, and then you feel like a complete failure. You get disappointed and give up entirely on the diet plan.And to top it you eat 10 more cookies because you think “what’s the point?”
In essence, ‘all-or-nothing’ thinking is all about what we do after we’ve hit a few bumps along the way. Do we give up on our dieting and workout plans or do we think, “It’s okay, I still want to continue?” Do we decide that we are a failure or do we allow minor mishaps and continue to work on our plans?
2. Perfectionism – You feel that whatever you do has to be done perfectly. You cannot allow any small transgressions and this ties in with the all ornothing thinking as well. In your endeavour to be perfect, you lose out on the main goal and either procrastinate or quit.
3. Low pain tolerance – When you begin a new activity, your body will take time to get used to it. For example, when you start running or start a workout for the first time, your body will be sore and hurting. If you keep thinking of that and cannot tolerate it, you may decide to quit. On the other hand if you stick with the daily running or workout, the pain and the soreness will ease and it will become easier to run or exercise.
How to overcome procrastination and persist at an activity?
The key is to change your thinking.Your body is capable of almost anything if you put your mind to it.
1. Overcome “All or Nothing thinking” – It is okay to take an occasional day off from running, or give in to temptation and eat chocolates one day – you still have the choice of going back to the weight loss regimen. Remember that you followed the routine for a week and it’s just one day when you didn’t, that doesn’t undo your one week’s efforts.
2. Sinking in the Positive and Increasing Pain Tolerance – We are so obsessed with our goal of losing weight that we forget to give ourselves credit for the work we do on ourselves. So take a minute, sit down, breathe deeply and take 10 to 20 seconds to think and appreciate about what you have been doing to achieve the target weight. Our brain is hardwired for negativity because it is always looking for danger in order to stay cautious to survive. Due to this the positive experiences do not stick with us. Rick Hansen in his book “Hardwired for Happiness”, says that negative is like Velcro for the brain (example – you will remember all the times you didn’t workout) and positive stuff is like Teflon ( example – you won’t remember all the hours you put into the workout).
This will also increase your pain tolerance as you will be thinking of your good experiences rather than the difficult ones, which in turn will increase your motivation to persist.
3. Work on your perfectionism mindset – Set a balanced target and be compassionate towards yourself even at times when you cave in.
Conclusion : It all comes down to your thinking style and how you handle your feelings. If you adapt more flexibility in your thinking style, your weight loss regimen will be much easier to manage and you will be able to persist at it.