Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
18 Apr

How Small Wins Can Lead to Big Success

possibleattainable 1They say it’s the little things, and maybe it is. When we think of health goals (among other objectives), our minds often gravitate toward the dramatic, the transformational. Go big or go home, some even say. While that last point might be pushing it (all positive change is positive), I tend toward the big and bold myself. I believe in the possibility of transformation (the titles of my books are obvious evidence of that). Yet, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Unfortunately, too many people get psyched out by the size of the enterprise itself. They focus on the large expanse between where they are now and where they want to be. That’s exactly where they shouldn’t be placing their attention. Success isn’t built by daily yearning for a distant goal. It’s in creating and celebrating the small wins we can plot along the way.

Inherent to this idea of small wins lead to bigger successes is what Teresa Amabile, author and Professor at the Harvard Business School, calls the “progress principle.” Amabile and her associates studied employees’ daily diaries that her team designed. They found the efforts of tracking small achievements each day (as well as reflecting on challenges) enhanced workers’ motivation as well as creativity. The chance to consider and record one’s progress, she explains, helps us appreciate our “small wins” and boosts our sense of competence. We can then “leverage” that confidence (as well as lessons learned from the reflection) toward subsequent, larger successes. Amabile stresses there’s always some progress to recognize in a day, even on the most challenging or discouraging days.

That notion alone is pivotal. I’ve met a lot of people up against major health challenges or weight loss issues. Among the key things that got them through (while others tended to give up) was the ability to appreciate small changes and celebrate where they were throughout the arc of their progress. They brought awareness to their full journey and focused on the positive every step of the way. Sure, they had difficult days like everyone else, but they recognized a temporary mood and let it pass. They didn’t let it define the future or whole endeavor. Applying Amabile’s suggestion, we can – and should – acknowledge the small physical and mental shifts we experience regardless of how far we may be from our eventual health objectives.

Yet, too often we downplay our progress or even talk ourselves out of it for the sake of guilt, unworthiness, or misguided modesty. Why? We’re taking the wind out of our own sails instead of leveraging, as Amabile suggests, our daily successes toward continuing motivation. Charles Duhigg, author of acclaimed book The Power of Habit explains the durable impact of these small achievements: “A huge body of research has shown that small wins have enormous power, and influence disproportionate to the accomplishments of the victories themselves.” In other words, it makes no difference how minute our day’s achievement is because – when we allow ourselves to recognize the wins and leverage these “tiny advantages,” as Duhigg calls them – the power we absorb from each small win will always be more substantial than the original event. Progress takes on a life of it’s own – like motivation gone viral within our brain.

This viral principle, however, isn’t limited to the day’s post-mortem assessment. Our day’s routine in and of itself is ripe for subtle but strategic revolution. Duhigg writes about the power of “keystone habits,” those habits that, while seemingly modest and self-contained, have inordinate sway over other choices we make and actions we take throughout the day. Adopting a single new habit, if it’s of a pivotal keystone variety, can enact widespread change in our lifestyle. Among the examples Duhigg highlights is food journaling. In an NIH study of some 1600 obese people, those who were asked to write down a day’s food intake one day a week ended up losing twice the weight as other groups. The request was enough to get many of the participants to extend the habit into other days of the week and, as Duhigg explains, “created a structure that helped other habits to flourish.”

The key here is to discern what habits can become “keystone habits” for your health journey. As the principle suggests, it’s unnecessary to overload yourself with a laundry list of changes to your routine. That’s the principle behind the “keystone” approach: you don’t need to upend your life or turn yourself inside out working toward change. You just need to be strategic about what to shift. Ultimately, it’s about letting these few changes build momentum in your life and then fueling that momentum with the energy of celebrating each small win. It’s the snowball effect at its multidimensional best.  The end result can be achieving that ultimate goal you set as well as successes you may have never envisioned.

Intriguing concepts, I’d say. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Next week I’ll apply them to living Primally with a sizable list of PB inspired small wins and keystone habits. For those of your just getting started in your Primal journey, I hope they’ll serve as a good jumping off point. For others further along in applying the PB, they can perhaps spur you toward tackling new dimensions or refocusing your efforts.

Thanks for reading everyone. Have a great end to the week.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I have started today and have stopped eating wheat. Wish me luck!!!

    Michelle wrote on April 18th, 2013
    • Well done Michelle, I still eat a little wheat now and then but haven’t made the mental commitment to cut it out 100% yet.

      I applaud your good work!

      Primal V wrote on April 18th, 2013
    • Good wishes to you! You won’t believe how different you will feel in just a few weeks.

      Allison wrote on April 18th, 2013
    • Good luck! Proud of you!

      hedgie wrote on April 18th, 2013
    • Good luck to you Michelle. Everyone says,”But I could never give up my bread,” and I used to think the same You will be surprised at how you won’t miss grains once you are into eating and enjoying real foods.

      Annakay wrote on April 18th, 2013
      • I was amazed at how much *better* a cheeseburger at my local restaurant tasted *without* the bun, and substituting veggies sautéed in butter with onions and garlic in place of the nasty fries – fantastic. The heck with the bread.

        Paul wrote on April 18th, 2013
    • Make sure you cut out other grains now too. I don’t think I would have noticed the difference as much if I hadn’t given up corn as well. If you do eat some (which I still do on rare occassions) pay attention to how you feel later. I quickly realized that while I have little gastrointestinal distress after eating wheat products, corn is an entirely different matter all together. Though it seems that most people here have the oposite reaction.

      b2curious wrote on April 18th, 2013
      • I was just reading about corn today as we have it as part of our veggie plate very often or in salads. Was gutted to see that corn isn’t primal. :(

        Helen wrote on April 19th, 2013
    • The first weeks, maybe a couple of months, it is difficult. The bread, pasta, biscuits seem to speak to you… “eat meeee…” :)

      I have been primal for more than one year now, and trust me: I do not think of bread as food anymore. I can pass in front of a brioche or a cake and do not even think this stuff is edible.
      Sometimes I wonder if this is normal, I ate them all my life. Then I think again and say to myself that probably the strange thoughts were those I had before, when I was like a drug addicted that “could not say no to another piece of cake”.

      My suggestion: eat macadamias when you feel you want some bread. They make for an excellent psychological replacement.

      primal_alex wrote on April 18th, 2013
    • Great job, Michelle! That’s how I started. :-)

      Alison Golden wrote on April 18th, 2013
    • That’s great, Michelle; good luck! Just like the quote “you don’t have to see the whole staircase; just take the first step,’ I do believe you are doing just great and I wish everybody would give the same “yes” for every good attempt to a healthy lifestyle. Besides, what an inspiration you’ll be if you achieved your goal!

      Julia Mathew wrote on April 20th, 2013
  2. No luck needed Michelle… Your decision is the most important first step….

    Maurice wrote on April 18th, 2013
  3. Going to the gym is definitely my keystone. The diet decisions fall into place pretty easily when I am consistently working out. Putting in the physical effort motivates me to fuel my body properly…the flipside is that when if I break the gym habit, I do the ‘all or nothing’ and make poor diet decisions.

    Danny wrote on April 18th, 2013
    • I’m the exact same way. After I go for a long run or hard workout my thought process follows the line, “Do I want to waste that on crappy carbs and hydrogenated fat?”

      Evan Pavan wrote on April 18th, 2013
  4. I work in organizational change – so helping businesses make large changes (implementing systems, structural changes, responding to market demands, etc.) We always stress the importance of celebrating early wins to our clients. In our research, this has proven to be CRITICAL in ensuring the change keeps progressing.

    In my own life, I don’t do a great job of this. I’m writing a blog right now actually about implementing new health-driven changes every month. I’ve made some great progress, but I haven’t really celebrated it along the way. I just move on to the next month’s changes (except for April, which I am currently taking to reinforce my habits.) Maybe I should take some time to celebrate them too! I can easily get stuck in the “oh my gosh I can’t believe I ate that much dark chocolate, I’m a failure” mode. But then I think back and realized that after a lifetime of eating bread, I have so much so given it up that it never even OCCURS to me to go get a sandwich for lunch. That IS progress and should be celebrated!

    Susie wrote on April 18th, 2013
    • Loved this post! It just reiterated what I am doing at the moment. Inspired by Susie’s blog (thanks Susie!!) I have started implementing one change a month rather than trying to do the whole shebang in one hit! Last month was going to bed at a regular, decent hour. This month is about removing sugar from my otherwise pretty primal diet.So while they are small manageable changes, they are definitely keystone for me. I have found by reminding myself how I was able to make that first change, its given me a stronger resolve for the second change. Also – although its totally kindergartenish, drawing a little star in my diary every day I do I stick with my goal is great!!

      Nelly wrote on April 19th, 2013
  5. That sounds like this book by Jeff Olson called ‘The Slight Edge’.

    tom wrote on April 18th, 2013
  6. I think this is all fine and good, but most people have a habit of not making a big enough committment, so consistently have minor fails. Over and over and over. At what point do they need to buck up, commit 95-100% to better health choices, and hold themselves accountable to sticking to it? I think that’s why most people yo-yo. Or can’t maintain a weight loss, long term.

    Gwen wrote on April 18th, 2013
    • I think that when you are doing something so drastic as to change the way you eat forever, some people (me) have to start somewhere. I’ve been trying to stick to the Paleo way of eating now for nearly a year and have failed; so this is my chance, by cutting out wheat, to begin with small steps and hopefully the rest will fall into place. Peace.

      Michelle wrote on April 18th, 2013
      • Interesting difference of viewpoint here– I think it’s a question of FULLY committing to a SMALL change rather than PARTIALLY committing to a huge one. Which is the greater commitment? Which forms a firmer foundation for further progress? In my experience the first works better, but I’m not saying that’s true for everyone.

        Paleo-curious wrote on April 18th, 2013
        • @paleocurious. this is a brilliant slant on the ‘small changes first philosophy’, thank you, I really hadn’t thought of it this way until now :)

          Michelle wrote on April 19th, 2013
        • I hope it helps, Michelle! I’ve totally cut out wheat for years & it has really transformed my health, but I continue to tweak my diet as I go. Always learning & trying!

          Paleo-curious wrote on April 20th, 2013
    • I agree, but I would add that people can yo-yo because they don’t have support as well. In my own experience, I KNOW that my success depends on my wife’s commitment as well. We are both each others’ greatest supporter and greatest enabler. To go it alone without your significant other or spouse is a major uphill battle…

      Mike P wrote on April 18th, 2013
      • Mike
        I think the support cast is huge, and it’s surprising how often its not there from the people we would expect it from. Personal training and I’ve had clients whose friends constantly enable them, “come on you know you want pizza” “I don’t want you to not go out drinking with us” things that are within complete opposition to what they’re trying to accomplish.

        For some reason we don’t demand the level of support we need. I like to pretend we are opening a new business.
        Your friends or wife wouldn’t dare tempt you to “ahh just skip work today” “closing an extra day won’t hurt sales.” They would have a huge level of support and if they didnt we would quickly call them out on it! Well friends maybe, a wife might be a different story :)

        So I tell clients approach your health and fitness like you’re opening a business. And let others know its serious business!

        Luke wrote on April 18th, 2013
        • “Opening a business” … I love that analogy!

          Emily wrote on April 18th, 2013
    • it’s a lot easier to break a commitment when you think it isn’t generating any results. When you’re aware of your progress, you want to stick with it! Celebrating small wins IS reinforcing commitment.

      Julie wrote on April 18th, 2013
  7. There’s truth in the comment that progress takes on a life of its own. Years ago, when I decided to stop smoking, it became more important to me not to break the string of days I had gone without smoking than it was to have a cigarette. This bit of psychology works for anything and, of course, involves will power. But if you keep in mind how lousy you will feel about yourself if you cave, it’s an excellent motivator.

    Shary wrote on April 18th, 2013
    • For some reason that reminds me of the story of how my step-mother quit smoking. (It was a huge surprise to me that she EVER smoked.) Shortly after they began seeing each other, my dad gave her a hug and said something to the effect of “Ew, yuck, your hair smells like cigarette smoke.” She never smoked another cigarette again. My dad’s approval was more important than the desire to smoke.

      b2curious wrote on April 18th, 2013
  8. I got paid today so I’ll celebrate my progress toward becoming a millionaire :)

    Groktimus Primal wrote on April 18th, 2013
    • oooh, sarcasm….

      Michelle wrote on April 18th, 2013
  9. Great article.

    I have found myself in a new position due to ME/CFS and so my physical abilities have contracted from being able to climb mountains, ride mara-cycles, and generally being able to do everything I set my heart on…. to being incredibly physically limited. (I use a Fitbit and can average only 1000 steps a day.)

    I have found that instead of concentrating on what I can no longer do, I think about ways to do my stuff within my current abilities….

    I need to be inventive and my successes are now measured in terms of how I’ve managed to find alternative means to achieve my fun. I am currently re-training my little dog to run agility courses with me distant from her – and am using my mobility scooter to take her for walks.

    I am eating Paleo and think this is helping – it is certainly easier to regulate my intake without too many carbs and this is important as many folk with this condition find themselves gaining weight.

    Thanks for a great article… ;)

    Sally wrote on April 18th, 2013
    • That’s so cool what you’re doing with your dog! I bet it’s fun for both of you :-)

      KariVery wrote on April 18th, 2013
    • Well done Sally! Celebrate who you are today. I’ve had to live with an auto-immune condition for 28 years, and the worst part is making an enemy of yourself. We don’t always know why these conditions hit us, but we can live with the same gusto we had before – albeit limited in a few more ways.

      Happy to hear you’re recruiting your dog for support and companionship.

      Christine wrote on April 19th, 2013
  10. On of my keystones has been transitioning to barefoot/minimalist footwear. Each time I put on my Soft Star shoes to head to work, I remember that I have made a choice to live differently. Yes, they stand out a little, but so do my choices to not eat wheat and to avoid toxic food additives. I just realized I haven’t worn a pair of traditional shoes in nearly a year! That is something I need to celebrate! I am going to be much more intentional in claiming this.

    Rhonda the Red wrote on April 18th, 2013
  11. Have small wins and meeting short term goals while on the path to a longer term goal is very motivating. From an evolutionary perspective, we are probably not hardwired to think in terms of accomplishing long-term goals. I’m guessing that Grok was more concerned with the day-to-day short term goals of staying alive and finding food. The “luxury” of being able to think in terms of long-term goals is likely a fairly recent phenomenon.

    Jon wrote on April 18th, 2013
  12. To anyone trying to make changes, large or small: Get out of your me-bubble and volunteer your time and skills for a good cause. Find a cause that really moves you, and spend a little (or a lot) of time on it every week, or as often as you can. You will quickly realise how incredibly fortunate you are compared to many others.

    Ironically, people often “fail” in their attempts at self-improvement, because they take a self-centered approach (“because I’m worth it”). Tie in your resolutions to a higher cause (whatever that might be), and you will find it isn’t really that hard after all.

    Helga wrote on April 18th, 2013
  13. Focusing on losing just 2 pounds a week has led to me to lose 35 pounds in 14 weeks.
    We as humans need to celebrate and appreciate small wins because these small wins lead to BIG victories.

    A journey of 1000 miles begins with one step and its important to reflect on your journey every 50-100 miles.

    Hassan wrote on April 18th, 2013
  14. Not that Cracked.com is by any means a bastion of scientific thought, but this article is a hilarious (and pretty accurate) complement to this great post about how we by default fixate on negative rather than positive thoughts:

    http://www.cracked.com/article_20398_5-ways-your-brain-tricking-you-into-being-miserable.html

    And now I can’t get the phrase “humping white bears” out of my mind.

    Selina wrote on April 18th, 2013
    • This article from Cracked is excellent. Very well put, and as you say, funny but actually true.

      Violet wrote on April 19th, 2013
  15. This is so timely! I just started to implement this very idea – I began a “20 days of awesome” and I am keeping a journal for 20 days. I have 10 areas of improvement I am working on, and I just try and make decisions all day long that keep me on track, and take it one day at a time. I write a little about my day and how I think I did, and about all the little things I am doing to support my bigger goals. It’s been three days so far, and I can already tell it is making a difference. When faced with something that might not help me, I think about how much I’d rather write in my journal that I did something positive instead of having to write something negative – and you know what? – it’s very motivating! I can’t wait to see where I am in 20 days.

    KariVery wrote on April 18th, 2013
    • I LOVE this idea!!

      Denise wrote on April 18th, 2013
    • That does sound like a great idea. I think I might do something like this too. :)

      Helen wrote on April 19th, 2013
  16. Excellent overview – so easy to be drowned by the seeming enormity of a task.

    Off to spend 4 days by myself, no digital inputs, just me and a few books and drawing materials; great food for thought, thanks.

    Kelda wrote on April 18th, 2013
  17. Great post. I’m super impatient so it’s hard for me to focus on the small wins on the way there. I want the big win immediately! I like this idea of daily diaries documenting what you’ve accomplished for the day. I think I might start doing something like that.

    Alysia wrote on April 18th, 2013
  18. Ugh, I needed this post today! I definately need to pick out a few “keystone habits” and stop trying to fix everything all at once. It’s exhausting!

    Emily wrote on April 18th, 2013
  19. Ah Teresa Amabile – combining paleo with my MBA curriculum!

    Anyway, I’ve been talking about gradual change on my blog for the last few months (gradually of course). Whilst I mention paleo on my blog, I’ve positioned the changes at a broader level to appeal to more people. My own health journey was gradual (over 10 years) and only finding paleo in the last 12 months.

    My tips include drink more water, add more vegies, exercise the ‘no’ muscle, one meal per day without carbs, embrace the full fat and bring your own lunch to work.
    Looking forward to reading other people’s tips too!

    Madeleine wrote on April 18th, 2013
    • What are the ‘no’ muscles?

      Helen wrote on April 19th, 2013
      • When someone asks you to something you don’t want to do, and you say ‘no’ to doing it, or when you look at the cookie and say ‘no’ to eating it, you are exercising the no muscle.

        (Or so I assume. Correct me if I’m wrong.)

        Violet wrote on April 19th, 2013
        • Exactly right. Strengthen that ‘no’ muscle.

          Madeleine wrote on April 21st, 2013
  20. Loving the journey. When I first started going paleo in January 2013 and was seeing the scale move, I averaged out the weight loss/week and put a reminder on my calendar 4 months out on My birthday in April saying “You should be a X weight, are you there?!” Well, I wasnt there and I didnt care..Ive come so far and being a couple of pounds away from that goal weight was like OK, look how far you’ve come! I’ll be there in good time (and really, no time at all!) So thrilled with my food choices now and the power that going paleo has given me. I especially love the mental shift away from guilt and all that head space dieting consumed and into lovin’ food, life, and my waist.

    Katie C. wrote on April 18th, 2013
  21. I also think its pretty amazing in 4 months the mental change from “Panic, you should be at this weight!” to “You’re doing great, babe!” 4 MONTHS! Paleo is so much more than just food, apparently its therapy :)

    Katie C. wrote on April 18th, 2013
  22. Sincere thanks for the timely post.

    I’ve been primal since February (diet-wise… fitness wise I’m still chronic-cardio training for upcoming half marathons), and it’s been an incredible journey thus far. I’m only just starting to feel the momentum slow down, and the last week or two have been a bit discouraging. I’ve seen fewer results, and I suspect the novelty of feeling amazing all the time is becoming less “amazing” and more “normal”. Which is clearly a good thing.

    I’m in this for the long haul; but I too am super impatient for the ‘big reveal’ of who I will become 2,5,10 years into this Primal Journey. I want to hit those big-goal-milestones of fitness and optimal health, but its seems daunting when they’re so far off. I was in need of the reminder to relish the mini-victories of daily success in order to hold fast when the going get tough.

    The concept of keystone habits was particularely enterprising. I think focusing on building those small but critical habits can be integral in harnessing determination and building self-confidence in the face of discouragement.

    Hayley wrote on April 18th, 2013
    • You don’t need to chronic cardio your way through up coming half marathons. You can run them just as well (probably better) with a Primal approach; Mark has done a number of posts on ‘how to run … ‘

      Kelda wrote on April 19th, 2013
  23. My trainer and SEP mentor always references “The Journey”. It is his reference to the path that everyone goes on to meet their athletic goals. His idea of a journey is the ability to take a step back and look at your goals and whether or not they need to be adjusted.

    Dalton K. wrote on April 18th, 2013
  24. I just read “we have met the Enemy – self control in an Age of excess” by Daniel Akst and it deals with a similar theme. The daily decisions aren’t life or death but the habits they form part of most certainly are. It’s easier to make beneficial decisions in line with your goals if you have your habits in place to support that process. If I can resist going down the centre aisles once a week then I don’t have to resist the junk food daily in my house because it didn’t get there. Also it helps that I see it now as JUNK not FOOD. Keep up the good work and healthy habits and have a great weekend!

    Clare wrote on April 18th, 2013
  25. The fundamental issue is that many refuse to acknowledge that there are no short-cuts. Anything useful and/or meaningful comes out of a significant investment in terms of time, effort and energy.
    Modern industrial economy has made people used to “process efficiency” – more and quicker at lower cost. People overstretch the application into personal domain and get confused when things don’t turn out like they do with gadgets.

    Balaji wrote on April 19th, 2013
    • Yes, yes, yes, this!

      + 1

      Kelda wrote on April 19th, 2013
  26. As a young, unemployed male, whose feeling down on his luck, this post couldn’t have been better timed.. It’s hard to measure success in my life right now when things seems to resemble groundhog day.

    ‘Sure, they had difficult days like everyone else, but they recognized a temporary mood and let it pass. They didn’t let it define the future or whole endeavor.’

    If only it were that easy to change my current thought process in to this one.. Positivity breeds positivity. Easier said than done..

    Jenry Hennings wrote on April 19th, 2013
    • Changing your thought process is one of those things that gets easier with practice, but will never be perfect. In my early teens I stumbled across an article which, in a nutshell, said that we are much harder on ourselves than we are on our friends and when we mess up, we should say the same things to ourselves that we’d say to our friends if they did the same thing. I’ve been practicing this for close to 30 years, and sometimes I am still pretty hard on myself, but overall, I’m much more forgiving of myself than I used to be. The good news is that the change in mindset occurred fairly quickly once I accepted the validity of it. That’s not to say I haven’t been through my share of bad times, when things looked pretty bleak, but I made it through, and I know that you can too. I think my practice of not being too hard on myself allowed me to be more postive about things in general.

      b2curious wrote on April 19th, 2013
      • I can’t help but feel I have too high expectations for myself, but I was also given advantages that I failed to take. For example, I wasted 2 years at College (In Britain) because I thought I’d join the army and it would be the best decision for me. However, things changed, and I ended up leaving after basic training after promising people that it WAS for me, and that I was going to be successful there. Thats just one example. I feel like I let people down and that’s what I’m struggling to forgive myself over. I brought on a huge sense of guilt and shame that I just can’t seem to see past right now. I feel I still need to prove to others that I can live my life successfully and live how I want to.

        Jenry Hennings wrote on April 19th, 2013
        • Well, the first step is to forgive yourself, which is much easier said than done, I know. I’m pretty sure that those you have disappointed already have and wish you would too. I have a 19-year-old daughter, and goodness knows she’s done some things that made me want to shake some sense into her, and quite recently too, but I’ve already forgiven her for them. I’m pretty sure that the people who care about you have too. Acknowledge your mistakes, learn from them as much as you can, and let it go. If need be, apologize to those you feel you have let down, and maybe even seek advice from them. Nothing puts me in a forgiving mood like my daughter asking for advice after she’s screwed up and I’m furious with her. It’s worked pretty well for me too, when I’ve gone to my parents, boss, or whomever, and said “You were right, I was wrong. What do I do now?” If you do ask for advice, listen to it with an open mind. Should the conversation put you on the defensive, take a deep breath and let the feeling go. If you can’t , stop the conversation, let them know you’re feeling defensive, and not able to listen to the advice right now, or analyze the conversation later see if you were feeling defensive because of your own guilt, or if they were using advice as a cover for criticizing you, or a little of both.

          b2curious wrote on April 19th, 2013
        • Don’t beat yourself up for exercising your choice. I’m turning 39 this year, and I used to always beat myself up for making choices that didn’t turn out a “success”. It took a wonderful conversation with my oldest daughter to really put it into perspective.

          She had bought herself a Samsung Tablet with her own money. Her father convinced her to buy the larger model, when she really wanted the smaller one (more within her budget – so like her mum!). She was telling me how she “wished” she bought the smaller one after all. So I said to her, no doubt if you bought the smaller one, you would have been wishing for the larger one – we can be fickle like that sometimes, always lamenting the thing we passed up in “choice”.

          My ever so clever daughter of mine however, turned the tables on me next – as I had always said I wished we’d built a smaller house than the one we had, so we could be in less debt. Well, she said to me: “you’re right mum – I bet if you built the smaller house, you would be wanting the bigger one!”

          So basically what I’m saying is, we all have this tendency to lament the option we didn’t take up. Don’t beat yourself up over it, so that you loose confidence in your future choices. You made a choice, that’s not so bad, and you should look at who you’ve become because of that choice – not what you missed out on.

          Christine wrote on April 19th, 2013
  27. I totally get this. At work I walk down a stairwell at least once a day that has a rail that I can grab onto from the steps. I decided to attempt pull up type progression exercises no the railing every day once when I go down these stairs (quickly and secretly so my colleagues dont think I’m nuts).

    It has now been three weeks and two days ago I did one pull up from a dead hang. I was so proud of that little milestone that it will probably keep me motivated for a week to come.

    Be humble, but celebrate yourself.

    primal_jeff wrote on April 19th, 2013
    • I like that quote ;-)

      KariVery wrote on April 19th, 2013
  28. A very interesting post. There is the perenial problem with most people that they start a dieting campaign, have a bit of success maybe, then fall out of the habit and put on the weight.

    I think the only approach to any health improving course is to hav ethe clear idea installed from the outset that this is a very important and that real long term changes need to be made. A proper long term plan and continual reminders of the goal and comitment need to be implemented. Sonds ver strict and not a lot of fun, but is probably easier in the long run than the continual frustrations and dissapointment incurred with taking the whole process in a too relaxed an undisciplined fashion.

    Al I need to do now is keep to the above!!!!

    Jen wrote on April 19th, 2013
  29. For Michelle and others thinking of eliminating just wheat…

    May I suggest cutting out all grains containing gluten as a first step? Not just wheat? Wheat is in almost everything from soya sauce to salad dressings to pretty well everything. Other grains can often be contaminated with wheat. For example, Quaker Oats will not tell you that their oatmeal does not contain wheat or gluten because they use the same machines to process it.

    Stacey wrote on April 19th, 2013
    • That’s a good point, Stacey. It’s not just the processing either. Oats are grown in rotation with wheat & are often contaminated. I used to buy Bob’s Red Mill gluten – free oats, but I’ve phased them out over time.

      Paleo-curious wrote on April 20th, 2013
  30. Changing my grocery shopping habits was definitely a keystone habit. I actually reorganized and purged my kitchen, I think while I was doing my second Whole30. I was always pretty much a perimeter shopper but by restricting my list of what I am allowed to buy, I eliminate the option of eating badly at home. I don’t get decision fatigue because there’s nothing to decide. I took the Great Depression-style stashes of beans, flours, and grains out of the pantry and the frozen entrees out of the freezer, gave non-refrigerated fruits and veggies the spot on my counter that had previously been used for things like pasta and the sugar jar. Also, weekend cookups are a keystone habit because then I don’t have to take any actions or make any decisions to eat well all week, except which container of deliciousness to grab in the morning.

    Cynthia wrote on April 19th, 2013
    • I did the same when I gave up gluten. It was so hard removing all that food from my pantry as it had once represented security. Only now it represented the potential for bad health, so simply had to go.

      I do actually purchase gluten free flours from a local mill that also grinds gluten flours in the same place. I know it’s a risk and I’m probably getting a degree of gluten in my diet because of it. Yet it’s a compromise I’m prepared to live with. It’s a local mill I want to support so that local farmers can sell their seed.

      I guess if it gave me really bad reactions though, I wouldn’t continue buying it. Though mysteriously, I don’t seem to bake much with the flour. I much prefer a bowl of fresh fruit, veggies, salad, meat and dairy!

      Christine wrote on April 19th, 2013
  31. Well it has been two 2 week to be full Paleo! I feel great and dont crave or even miss grains or corn….I look at grains and sweets say no cuz I choose to feel better….this is my new life for life not to go back to eating when….that has helped me to move on with out it. I have drop about 10 lbs so far and about 7 inches all over. I have been just doing the food change, this next week I will start the working out and hikes.I only have another 30 lbs to go :-) Thanks for feeding us things to think about! Have a fabulous day!!

    Kim wrote on April 19th, 2013
    • Awesome! Good YOU are making the choices. I drift in an out of paleo phases, but always feel better, and better about myself, when I am eating healthfully and working out in a rather primal way. I wish you continued success, and if you get derailed, love yourself anyway, and get back on track :)

      Steve Gardner wrote on April 19th, 2013
      • Thanks! I have dropped off the wagon so many times in the pass cuz I crave so bad but looked at it like just till I drop the weight but this time this it is for life and I feel different about everything…..if Im feeling like I need something I eat cashews mmmmm love them and then Im balanced again. Its easy for me this time to stick to my eating plan. If I do “derail” I know not to kick myself to hurt but just get back on the horse and try again. But Im so like Im going to do it this time no matter what lol
        Happy trails :-)

        Kim wrote on April 19th, 2013
    • Kim, I’m in exactly the same boat! 2 weeks in, 10lbs down with 30 to go, and feeling fantastic! We can do it! :D

      Ellie wrote on April 21st, 2013
  32. Also, Amabile’s name contains the anagram Amiable. How perfect is that?

    Steve Gardner wrote on April 19th, 2013
  33. I’ve been getting into researching the primal lifestyle and am really diggin’ it but haven’t gotten the 21 day book yet. I’m excited about it and am trying to adapt principles I know so far in the meantime. I’m trying not to get discouraged with my weight flux while cutting out more of my grains.

    This post really helped me refocus my energy on the lifting I did yesterday and the run I’ve got planned for today instead of getting bogged down with the increase in the scale today. I haven’t cut all sweets, had some dark chocolate last night and some lightly breaded chicken but I’m doing better than I was.

    Thanks Mark.

    Jessi wrote on April 19th, 2013
  34. Little by little I’ve been cutting out meat and eating vegetables I cut out bread and switched to salt free crackers . I feel great and my blood pressure went down .. small steps to success ..!!!

    john wrote on April 19th, 2013
    • Why would you cut out meat & keep the crackers???? Odd.

      Amy wrote on April 19th, 2013
  35. One principle that keeps me from falling into the “All or Nothing” mindset is “Treat yourself, don’t cheat yourself.” Trite, but resoundingly true. Guilt sucks bad, and a “Cheat Day” or “Cheat Meal” invariably makes you feel guilty, even if only a little. A carefully considered and hard won indulgence, though, that should give you a buzz.

    One caveat for ice cream addicts like me… don’t keep any in the house, under pain of death. Make yourself walk or drive out to a top quality ice cream parlour and get a cone or a cup when you have a craving you can’t ignore.

    This does a few positive things. First off, if you have a general desire that isn’t a real craving (and who doesn’t when ice cream is concerned), you’re far less likely to act on it. In the instances you do have a real craving, it provides some artificial impetus to limit your portion, gets you moving slowly for a while if you walk for it and it just adds to the sense of occasion. A little bit of pomp and circumstance in your daily routine, if you will.

    Even if you’re just walking for five minutes in your board shorts to get your ice cream cone, it feels like a bit of an event, nothing at all like being hunched guiltily over the tub you’ve plundered from the freezer and slurped down in a maddened, feverish binge like a hyena over a carcass.

    Plus the parlour stuff will probably taste better anyway.

    Reventon wrote on April 19th, 2013
  36. Very interesing.
    I have been wondering what it was that opened the floodgates in me. I have been struggling, and failing miserably, with motivating myself into excersizing and move more for three months.
    Nothing worked.
    Then I signed up for a zumbaclass and enjoyed the hell out of it. Within a week I had made, and started following, a training plan which involves not only daily laps in the pool (my only excerzise up to this) zumba, jogging 3 km, yoga and hitting the strengthtraining mashines, each excercize twice a week. I have been quite baffled over myself until now. :-)

    Elena wrote on April 20th, 2013
  37. I tend to not make any changes until I am good and ready and then I go all-in. But to sustain my all-in 100% I have to make lots of small choices and recognize my small progresses.

    For example, when I first changed my diet I pretty much went all-in but to sustain it I had to make deals with myself. I would tell myself I will stop in at the shop for some candy after I walk across campus to run an errand. So that’s one little tiny victory right there. Then on the way back, I would pass the shop and tell myself I’ll stop in for some candy next time I run an errand. I would keep doing that until I didn’t even think about the store having candy in it when I went by. Doing this would make me feel like I won a victory every day.

    I’m at the point now where NOT living a primal lifestyle has more negative consequences than doing so, and living a primal lifestyle is easier than not living one.

    Diane wrote on April 20th, 2013
  38. This makes sense because the typical ups and downs in dieting or in trying to reach any difficult goal is not encouraging if you are just concentrating on the end game. You can’t ever get to the goal without plodding ahead through the daily struggles so each day really is so very important.

    Kari Wilson wrote on April 20th, 2013
  39. Excellent post Mark. This can even be directed towards business. I find that if I focus on a few small things they will then lead to my overall goal. It’s when I try to reach that overall goal from the beginning that issues arise. I get more stressed and frustrated. This post reminded me to focus on the small things that will make a big impact. The tasks are more digestible that way.

    Nate Anglin wrote on April 21st, 2013
  40. I’ve been steadily losing weight since the 1st of the year following a Paleo routine. I don’t eat wheat, rice, sugar or potatoes. I also do not weigh myself anymore so I can’t tell you how much weight I’ve lost, but I have dropped 3 pant sizes. I quit weighing myself so that my focus would be strictly on improving my diet and nutrition. I figure if I take care of that then the weight will take care of itself. Anyway appreciate all you do and the great info you provide.

    Fred C wrote on April 22nd, 2013

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