Ask a Health Coach: Giving Resolutions a Second Thought

Young woman sitting on edge looks out at viewHey everyone! 2021 is on the horizon. And with that, many of you are ready for a change in your health, in your fitness, and in your relationships. But before you get too far down the New Year’s resolution path, check out these strategies from health coach veteran, Erin Power. Got more questions? Head over to the Mark’s Daily Apple Facebook group or post them in the comments below.

Marcy asked:

I’m struggling to get my husband to go paleo with me in January. I know it would benefit him since he’s always complaining about his aches and pains. Plus, we each have about 10-20 pounds to lose. What can I say that will convince him he needs to clean up his diet?

I applaud you for wanting to pay attention to how food — specifically standard American junk food, impacts your body.1 As you already know, all those sugars, refined carbohydrates, and highly processed junk can affect everything from your mood to your energy to the way your joints feel.

But to answer your question, you can’t really convince anyone to do anything they don’t want to do. Even your partner.

As a health coach with decades of experience under my belt, I’ve learned that if people aren’t ready, they aren’t ready. Plain and simple. Let me use the Transtheoretical Model of Behaviour Change to briefly explain.2 This theory is a purely internal process that involves progressing through distinct stages of change over a period of time. The stages include:

  • Precontemplation. It may sound promising, but in reality, in this stage a person isn’t ready for change. Sorry to say, but this is where your husband’s at now.
  • Contemplation. Here, the person is aware of the pros of changing their behavior, but is also keenly aware of the cons.
  • Preparation. This is the stage where action is likely to happen within a month or so. If your husband was onboard with your plan, he’d be right about here.
  • Action. You’ll see specific behaviour changes during this stage. A person might be changing up what they’re eating for breakfast or ditching their late-night ice cream habit.
  • Maintenance. At this stage, a person is working on continuing their new behaviours and trying not relapsing into their old ones.

It sucks to see someone struggling, however you are not responsible for other people or their choices. The only person you’re responsible for is you. Your husband is an adult and when he’s ready to make changes to what he eats, he’ll let you know.

Also, why is it so important that your husband pursue a paleo diet with you? Sure, it could be that you see how much better he could feel by doing it, or maybe it’s because it would make your shopping and cooking plans easier, but somehow I don’t think that’s the main reason. I suspect you’ve got an ulterior motive. One that’s driven by your own insecurities.

When I have a client who’s dead set on having a spouse or a friend embark on a health change with them, it’s typically because they are afraid to do it solo. They lack the self-efficacy to go through it alone. If this is the case with you, I’d suggest you get more clarity on your goal. When you’re crystal clear on your whys, it won’t matter what everyone else is doing. And that includes the “everyone else’s” in your own household.

Best case scenario, your husband will see how dedicated you are and how amazing you feel and join you when the time’s right.

Scott asked:

I’m ready to make a huge change! I’m cutting out all carbs and alcohol, training for a half marathon, and getting to bed by 9pm every night. What’s your best piece of advice?

Is that it? That’s all the changes you’ve got in store for yourself for 2021? Thank goodness because I was worried you’d overloaded yourself there for a sec. Okay, let’s back up.

Whether it’s seemingly simple goals or huge, life-changing ones, the odds are already stacked up against you, seeing as a whopping 80% of people who make New Year’s resolutions drop them by the second week of February.

Most don’t even make it that long. Back in 2019, Strava collected data from more than 800 million user-logged activities and found that, on average, people gave up on their fitness-related goals by January 19, which Strava affectionately calls “Quitter’s Day”.3 Nice, huh?

Listen, creating new habits requires a substantial amount of effort. And the more goals you have, the more new habits you’ll be adding into your routine. Unfortunately, a lot of those goals will end up falling through the cracks because you’ll be spread so thin you won’t have the energy and focus to tackle any of them.

We’re conditioned to believe that the only way to make big changes is to go all out. But the best piece of advice I can give you here is do the complete opposite. Pick one goal and start small.

While that might seem counter-intuitive, let me tell you why it works.

Say you decide to start with your goal of getting to bed by 9pm every night, which by the way is a fantastic goal since sleep is proven to improve everything from immune function to cellular regeneration.

Now, break down your goal into small, manageable steps, which might look something like this:

  • Avoid caffeine later in the day
  • Shut off all electronic devices by 7pm
  • Wear blue blocking glasses after dark
  • Use a dawn simulator alarm clock and when you wake up, get up instead of hitting snooze

Why does it work? Because you’re more apt to be successful at completing those smaller steps. And as your steps become automatic, you’re more likely to stick with them for the long-term.

When you’re ready, follow suit with another goal on your list. Just a reminder, it doesn’t have to coincide with the start of the year…or the start of the week for that matter.

Melody asked:

I can’t wait for 2021 to get here. This past year has been a total fail. I’ve fallen off the wagon with my exercise routine, I have zero willpower for eating healthy, and nothing I’m doing seems to be working. I’m so over 2020. Help!

Let’s get a show of hands for all the people who “can’t wait for 2020 to be over!!”

Awesome. Now tell me, how exactly 2021 is going to be better? What’s going to happen that will make next year significantly better than this one?

I’ll get a little more granular so you can see my point. What specifically, for you, will be “better” in 2021? And what are you doing right now to begin to take the steps toward those better outcomes?

I don’t think a simple flip of the calendar is going to make things magically happen. But I do think you can take back your power so you can make them happen for yourself – regardless of what year it is.

Personally, I like feeling more in charge of my life. If you do too, I invite you to get very clear on what needs to change in order for 2021 to be “better.”

  • Do you need to stop buying junk food to comfort yourself?
  • Do you need to start shifting your mindset and believe that anything is possible?
  • Do you need to swap your leisure activity of scrolling social media for 30 minutes of heart-pumping physical activity?

If you want things to change, you have to switch your outlook from “things are happening to me” to “things are happening for me.” Then get specific. What does a solid exercise routine look like for you? What does eating healthy look like? And why are those things important? It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you feel like the whole year’s been a bust, but there’s never been a better time to take back your power than right now.

Now it’s your turn. What changes are you dedicated to making in 2021?

TAGS:  goals, resolutions

About the Author

Erin Power is an NBHWC board-certified health coach and the Coaching and Curriculum Director for Primal Health Coach Institute. She’s also the co-host of Health Coach Radio, the podcast by health coaches, for health coaches. Erin lives outside of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, on a hobby farm in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

If you have a passion for health and wellness and a desire to help people like Erin does, consider becoming a certified health coach yourself. Learn the 3 simple steps to building a successful health coaching business in 6 months or less in this special info session hosted by Primal Health Coach Institute co-founder Mark Sisson.

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