Change Is Hard. Here’s Where To Begin

Part of my job as a coach, both in fitness and nutrition, is to help people find the best way to get from where they are to where they aspire to be, to support the changes needed for their transformation, and to help them live the goals they have set for themselves.

But change is hard: it’s a cliché but it’s true. And change is often met with resistance.

So, where to begin?

Framing the Journey: It’s not All or Nothing

In American culture, we can have an all-or-nothing approach to change, a black-and-white pattern of thought that places us in the category of “good” or “bad”, success or a failure, etc. This kind of thinking is notorious in nutrition, with some foods being labeled as “healthy” and others as “junk” when the truth is much more complex. Perfectionism isn’t helpful here either, as it suggests that we SHOULD be doing better, which sends the subconscious message that it’s not okay to be exactly where we are.

All-or-nothing thinking looks like this: You say, “I need to exercise every day for an hour!” or “I need to only eat ‘healthy’ and not have any sweets or “junk” food EVER!” and then you feel badly or quit your program when you eat a “bad” food or fail to exercise for the full allotted time.

This framing of our thoughts can stop us before we even get started. So, how do we move from all-or-nothing closer to the truth, that change almost always places us somewhere in the middle?

A Quick Exploration of My Own Resistance

Even though I coach folks on making change, that doesn’t mean I have it all figured out in my own life. Just this weekend I was speaking with my nutritionist (I am working through some food intolerances) and they suggested that adding variety to my diet would be best for me in the long term. My logical brain understood this, but wow, did the rest of me throw an internal tantrum! (Quick aside: I love the work I’m doing with my nutritionist!)

After the call I thought about it. I may have even ranted about it. Okay I definitely ranted about this out loud. I proclaimed: “I LIKE the way I eat! I don’t CARE that it’s literally the same meals week after week, month after month! I KNOW this way of eating. It’s GOOD! My stomach doesn’t seem to get in knots. It’s seems like all wins to me. WHY change?!”

My biggest resisting thoughts were:

  • “I just don’t have the time, the brain space or even the love for being in the kitchen to want to work on changing this.”
  • “What I do now takes a known amount of time. Changing would require me to plan more-and when I work almost 80 hours a week, I just don’t have that luxury.”
  • “I have to create SO MANY new meals!”

These thoughts came with a sense of overwhelm and stress, major resistance. Did you spot my all-or-nothing thinking, that change would mean throwing out everything I liked about my current nutritional program and replacing with endless hassle?

After my rant, I took a moment to sit and say to myself, “Self, how would you approach this with one of your clients?” I was able to recognize that I was jumping to the end goal, of a whole new regimen of varied, planned, meals, which was overwhelming. I would tell a client that they don’t need to jump right to that end goal – especially if such changes caused stress or overwhelm.

So how am I coaching myself?

Let the Journey Begin

Start Small

As evidenced by my rant above, one of the biggest mistakes people make is trying to change everything all at once. Change all at once is so overwhelming, you’re likely to walk away before you even begin. Instead, start small and focus on one thing at a time. Once you’ve mastered that, you can then move on to making another change.

So, in following my own advice, my first step was soliciting my social media friend list for their favorite vegetarian lunch and dinner recipes for someone who hates being in the kitchen.

Find Your Motivation

Have you asked yourself what is motivating you to make this change? You may have to ask more than once to get to the truth. If your first response is something like to feel better, that’s not specific enough. Dig deeper, keep asking until you find the spark of your true motivation. When you find it, use it to push yourself forward toward your goals. Write it down, put it on your fridge, or keep it in your phone so you can see it every day.

My motivation is to heal the microbiome in my digestive tract so that one day I can reintroduce some foods I love, but currently can’t eat. When I feel cranky about making dietary changes, I remember this goal and then I’m able to access more motivation.

Surround Yourself With Support

It’s hard to make a change by yourself— it’s so important to surround yourself with people who know about the changes you’re attempting, and are supportive of you reaching your goals. This can be friends, family, or a health coach to hold you accountable and encourage you along the way.

That’s why I’ve got my nutritionist in my corner!

Celebrate Your Wins

This is something I do, something we all do at Reimagym: we celebrate your and our wins. No matter how big or small they are, celebrate your victories! Whether it’s finishing a workout or, heck, even showing up for your workout, drinking that additional glass of water a day, or eating a meal with two palms of protein, acknowledge and reward yourself. This will keep you motivated and on track, and will help you stay clear or all-or-nothing, perfectionistic thinking.

Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself

Change is hard and there will be days when you slip up. Don’t beat yourself up. Instead, acknowledge the slip-up, learn from it, and move on. Here at Reimagym we have what we call the “clean slate policy.” We can have a clean slate at any time: just because we forgot that water with lunch, doesn’t mean the whole day is ruined. Let’s start anew at the next meal or the next moment. This is a gentler approach, and leaves no room for all-or-nothing thinking. Progress is progress, no matter how small it is.

Making a change is hard, but it’s not impossible. Be patient with yourself and keep pushing forward. You got this! And if you need some additional assistance, reach out to us; We’re here to help — it’s our specialty.

Looking for guidance for your fitness journey? Schedule your FREE fitness consultation strategy session with one of our coaches. In this 30-minute session (Zoom or in-studio), we can discuss your fitness past, present, and hopes and dreams for your fitness future!