Living the fitness lifestyle requires a monotonous schedule. We almost crave to have exactly the same things going on day after day in order to help us to stay on track with our goals. We don’t want any meetings, parties, vacations, or other distractions because that requires cognitive effort and a possible slip up with our plan.
This is one of the biggest challenges my clients deal with when going from contest dieting to everyday healthy eating. How do we make sure to set ourselves up for success when there are birthday parties, vacations, weddings and all day workshops or meetings with no breaks? These little life intrusions are the ones that my clients seem to find most difficult because it gets them off track of the normal routine of the eating pattern and the workout pattern as well.
This month I want to talk about a behavior modification strategy that will be helpful for these annoying intrusions on your otherwise perfect schedule. We can’t really avoid the all-day work meeting or our best friend’s birthday party, but what we can do is set up a strategy for success that will allow us to be more flexible when circumstances vary from our set schedule.
Behavior Modification Strategy:
One of the best ways to modify our behavior is to set up a system in advance for a future behavior. One such method is known as implementation intentions. Don’t get freaked out by the name, you are probably already practicing implementation intentions in some areas of your life. For example when you go to a company party you make an agreement with yourself: If I go to the company party- then- I won’t drink. This is a wise strategy for company parties, we all know since drinking around your fellow co-workers can sometimes be disastrous. Another example is, if I drive- then- I won’t drink. Implementation intentions as you can see are a form of goal setting that has to do with the way you will chose to behave in a particular situation. By setting up your behavior in advance it frees up your mind when you actually encounter the situation because you have already decided in advance what your behavior will be. So for example let’s say that your boss often brings donuts to work and leaves them sitting in the office. You can have an implementation intention that goes like this. If my boss brings donuts to work-then- I will not eat them. It sounds simple, it is simple.
Now, try it for yourself. Think of a future situation where you will want to have a specific behavior. Maybe you have a party to go to this weekend and want to eat healthy. You can set up the intention to be something like this: If I go out to dinner with friends-then- I will order a chicken salad with dressing on the side. Now every time you go to dinner with friends, you go to your new default strategy and don’t have to think about choices that are presented to you when you arrive at the restaurant.
Here is the simple format: If x happens, then I will do y.
Try this technique this month and let me know how you like it.