5 Ways to Create Your Fittest Future Self
Guest post by Kathleen Trotter
Too many of us have an evil roommate in our heads — an unhelpful, perfectionist, shame-based inner critic who sets us up for failure. These evil roommates are not only belittling and cruel, they are unproductive. Shame-based criticism sets the stage for negative spirals — think one cookie turning into a binge. Since “perfect” is an unattainable goal, a perfectionist mindset allows one to justify giving up after any health wobble or even leads one to never actually try.
You don’t have to metaphorically flog yourself to create change.
Five productive and positive ways to create a fittest future self
1. Identify your “bright spots” — moments from the past and present where you’ve been successful. Work to reproduce them
Instead of focusing on your negatives, find your positives. Let’s say you are finding it hard to follow through on your goal of “eating fewer treats.” Find your bright spots — the moments where you don’t indulge. Even if you eat multiple treats a day, you still have moments where you don’t. Pinpoint these. Do you forget about food when you are busy? Involved in something you care about? When food is not easily accessible? Next, find ways to replicate the bright spots.
2. Parent yourself
Most of us are excellent at “parenting” others — taking care of children, spouses, and elderly parents — but find it hard to apply that “parenting” skill to ourselves.
Take the time to set yourself up for health success, as you would for a loved one. For example, schedule activity into your calendar and make healthy food convenient. Carry almonds in your purse or car. Pre-wash vegetables for your fridge. Batch-cook healthy food to store in the freezer. Make extra dinner and bring it as your healthy lunch. You wouldn’t expect your kids (or someone else you care about) to eat food off of your plate, nibble while cooking, or mindlessly grab a chocolate bar at 3 PM, so treat yourself with the same respect.
3. Learn to say NO — a yes to someone else’s priority is a NO to yours
You can do anything, but not everything. Adopting a healthier lifestyle isn’t simply about saying yes to healthy foods, exercise, water, etc. It requires you to prioritize what you think is important and to say no to the people, thoughts, and behaviors that are not serving you.
Decide what matters to you. Live life in a way that makes sense for YOU and your family. Say no to what doesn’t work for you.
4. Learn to manage “the fall” — create (in advance) the your “not on my diet” plan
Most of us focus on the habits we aspire to when on our health horse — obviously important — but one also needs to manage the wobbles. Don’t just have a diet and exercise plan for your “healthy self”; create your “not on my diet” plan. How will you course correct?
We all wobble. The healthier you become, the faster you will course correct — the better you will manage the fall off your health horse. One day away from the gym and one bowl of ice-cream is different than a month away and 10 nights of junk. Length counts. Portions count.
Pinpoint what is “upstream” of your fall. Were you tired, sad, ill-prepared? Create alternative ways to manage those situations and emotions — maybe phone a friend, prioritize sleep. Next, create systems that get you back on your health plan as quickly as possible — perhaps join a group that keeps you accountable, write a letter that your “in the fall” self can read that explains why course correcting is critical.
5. Get buy-in from BOTH your elephant and rider
The elephant and rider — a metaphor originally from the poet Remi, made popular by books such as The Happiness Hypothesis and Switch — represent the constant tug-of-war inside all of us between our emotional brain (our elephant) and our rational brain (our rider).
To actually create change — vs think about creating change — you need both your elephant and your rider on board. Reaching a health goal requires consistency, but too often the rider can’t keep the elephant on track long enough to reach the destination — one never completely consistently makes healthier choices.
Make sure you are emotionally connected to the goal (find your health why) and create systems to save yourself from your future exhausted, sad, frustrated elephant self. Embrace that just because you are motivated when you set your goal doesn’t mean you will always feel motivated. Create environments where your rational side can outsmart your emotional side. For example, don’t keep crap in the house that your emotional elephant can indulge in at 11 PM, meal prep so healthy food is as convenient as unhealthy food, and read restaurant menus online and decide what you will eat before you arrive.
Ditch “perfect” and embrace progress. Consistency beats perfection. Stop unproductively comparing yourself to others. Drop the belittling, shame-based inner dialogue. Thrive in your own lane. Do you. Be you.
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