5 Things You Need To Do To Achieve a Healthy Body Weight, And Keep It Permanently
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
My childhood was somewhat nomadic. My mom (Kate) was a single parent and the sole breadwinner. She was a classically trained actress so we moved around depending on where she was performing. My mom is truly an inspiration — such grit and resilience. She taught me that “there is always a solution”. I am getting ahead of myself, more on her “solution focused mindset” in a bit!
Growing up I was more nerdy than active. I didn’t have that many friends. I was awkward. I could quote Shakespeare but couldn’t connect with my peers. I was taller and larger than everyone — including all the boys. I hated my body and had microscopic self-esteem. I often cried or faked being sick to get to go home. I snuck food. I used to tell my mom I wanted to walk home from school to get fresh air when, really, I just wanted to stop and buy fries at the chip wagon. Not my proudest moments.
When I was about 16, my mom got me a membership to the YMCA and my entire life changed. Becoming active emboldened me, it helped me feel empowered and energized. I feel like I found myself at the Y. Well, maybe more accurately, I was given the opportunity and tools to “create myself’.
I cannot imagine who I would be if I had not started to move my body. I am so grateful to my mom. Receiving the YMCA membership was my “top domino”. I am passionate about my career because I want to be that top domino for others. I want everyone to know that motivation is not something you are born with; it is something you cultivate. I want people to know that change is possible, to know that feeling empowered and energized is possible, to know transformation IS possible!!
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I am a very lucky person. I had, and still have, so many inspiring and supportive humans in my life. That said, no one really inspired me to pursue this specific career. I am not even sure I knew that personal training was a career when I was growing up.
Honestly, I didn’t choose this life …. It kind of chose me.
I always thought I would be a lawyer. I wanted to be an international human rights lawyer; I wanted to save the world. When I started working as a trainer it was just a way to make some extra money to help me through school. I thought I would do kinesiology in my undergrad and then go to law school. When I finished undergrad, I wasn’t ready to give up the “fitness life,” so I did a year of Pilates training, thinking, “Next year, law.” At the end of my year of Pilates training it hit me: “I like this world!” So, I decided to ditch law and get a Master’s in exercise science. I realized I wanted to help others find that “grrrrr”feeling that comes with feeling strong and alive!
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
My life truly did begin to change when my mom bought me that YMCA membership. The experience was really the nascence of the cornerstone of my fitness philosophy and the premise behind my first book, Finding Your Fit. “You have to frame daily motion as a non-negotiable and know that how you are active is up to you. Match your health plan to your personality and life realities,” I say in the book.
My mom chose a membership to the YMCA because it matched my personality and my life realities. How? I hated being active with my peers, but the demographic at the YMCA was mostly people under 5 and over 40, so I felt comfortable enough to at least go and walk on the treadmill. Walking snowballed into weights and running, which snowballed into exercise classes, which snowballed into teaching fitness classes, which snowballed into part-time personal training, which snowballed into full-time personal training and a desire to make health and wellness a life passion and career.
The moral of my story is, you don’t have to be born loving fitness to be active, and you don’t have to know where your story will end to start living!
As I tell clients “just START. you don’t have to be great to start, but you do have to start to get great. The only moment you have control over is THIS MOMENT!”
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
I have made many, many mistakes, but I think a certain number of mistakes are essential. They demonstrate that you are taking chances and upgrading skills. I just try to “fail upwards”, i.e. learn from everything and remember that NO ONE is good at anything when they first start. Cultivating any skill takes time. (Carol Dweck’s concept of a “Growth Mindset” is one of my guiding philosophies).
Hands down, what causes me the greatest number of sleepless nights are live TV segments. The ironic part is I think out of everything I do in my work, those segments are my favorite. Maybe that is always the way — the things you care about the most have the most potential for heartache. Anyway, live segments make me nervous because no matter how much you plan…anything can happen!! You just can’t anticipate everything and thus you must think on your feet, do your best and let go of the rest.
I was reminded of this during a segment for Breakfast Television Toronto. The topic was “how to turn a dog walk into a workout”. I was recording it over ZOOM with my dog Olive. I was so nervous that Olive wouldn’t behave on camera…she has endless energy. I made numerous contingency plans for her being hyperactive, including asking my partner James to stay home from work so he could be on deck to calm her down if needed. In the end the opposite problem occurred. Since I am on headphones (and thus the dog could not hear the hosts talking to her) and the camera is just my computer Olive had NO interest in interacting with the segment. She didn’t want to play along for the segment, she just wanted to go in the other room and chill by herself. The joy of live TV!!
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
Thoughts are not facts. Thoughts are not acts. Thoughts are just thoughts.
Just because you think it, doesn’t make it true. Just because you think it, doesn’t mean you HAVE to follow through.
The skill of stepping back and questioning a thought, of pausing before you act is CRITICAL for all aspects of life including work, personal relationships and health. You will never achieve a healthier lifestyle if you believe your “negative brain propaganda” and give into cravings.
We all have cravings. We all sometimes want to skip workouts, but that doesn’t make the craving and the skip unavoidable. We are all human. Desires are an inherent part of our humanity. It is how we manage our desires and our negative brain propaganda that matters.
You have to train yourself to ask “what will my future self think of this decision”? You have to train your brain to say, ‘My future self will be happier if I don’t give in to this craving, if I do my workout etc”. (More on the “say no” muscle in an upcoming answer).
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
Every Monday I release a “Monday Moves” video on all my platforms. People often give me the feedback that although the videos are great one off moves, they don’t understand how to combine the moves into an effective program. I am currently working on an 8 week “reset” program that uses all the Monday Moves videos. I am also ramping up to launch another of my online group coaching programs, January 2022. I love my coaching programs because it allows me to work with a larger number of individuals, as I usually work with clients one-on-one.
For the benefit of our readers, can you briefly let us know why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field?
I have been a personal trainer, writer, nutrition coach and health media personality for over twenty years. I live and breathe everything and anything wellness related. I have written two books: Finding Your Fit. A Compassionate Trainer’s Guide to Making Fitness a Lifelong Habit and Your Fittest Future Self. Making Choices Today for a Happier, Healthier, Fitter Future You. (I joke with my mom that she might not have grandchildren, but she has two grand books. See, even my humor is fitness related!)
I have a Master’s degree in Exercise Science from the University of Toronto and a nutrition diploma from the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. I have my Level 3 Life Coach certification and I am a Level 2 Precision Nutrition coach. Other certifications include GLAD, C.H.E.K. Level 3, Level 2 Fascial Stretch Therapist, Level 2 ELDOA practitioner, FRC and Pilates Equipment Specialist.
I own my own boutique fitness studio in downtown Toronto where I train and coach clients in person and over ZOOM. Outside of my one-on-one coaching, I present as a motivational speaker, make frequent media appearances on television shows including Rogers Ottawa, Breakfast Television, CTV Ottawa, and CHCH Hamilton, as well as podcasts such as Fit Chicks Chat, Her Best F*cking Life with Sarah Ordo, The Health Fix, Summit For Wellness, and High Energy Girl. I spent more than eight years writing for The Globe and Mailand Huffington Post. Have been on the cover of Inspire Health, has been quoted in large-scale distributed magazines such as Shape, and has written for a myriad of other publications including SHARP magazine, CanFItPro, Impact Magazine, ParticipACTION, Canadian Running, Today’s Parent, Chatelaine, and Glow.
I love my job. I feel so grateful. I get to work with such amazing people every day! I work with everyone from athletes to people recovering from hip and knee replacements to people living with Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Currently, I see people in-person and over Zoom. I love the convenience of Zoom and how it connects people. Some of my clients have relocated (to Nova Scotia, Chicago, Washington, etc.), and through Zoom, I get to continue to work with them. Plus, families and friends can train together. For example, I have a client here in Toronto who “Zooms in” her sister in NY and her brother in Montreal. Very cool!
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about achieving a healthy body weight. Let’s begin with a basic definition of terms so that all of us are on the same page. How do you define a “Healthy Body Weight”?
Full system equilibrium, homeostasis.
A healthy body sleeps well, has balanced hormones, can digests and absorbs food without pain or distension, can recover appropriately from both physical and emotional stress, is energetic and “connected” to their life.
Our bodies tell us — through blood work, hormone levels, sleep patterns, energy levels, our ability to digest and absorb food etc.– how healthy we are.
The number on the scale is one of the variables that should be used when assessing overall health, but it is only one variable. When working with a client I am concerned with a myriad of indicators including their bone density, their sleeping patterns, their waist circumference, their activity level, their muscle mass, their hormone profile, their inflammatory markers, their energy, their functional strength, their balance etc.
How can an individual learn what is a healthy body weight for them? How can we discern what is “too overweight” or what is “too underweight”?
There are several calculations health practitioners use to indicate if an individual is within their appropriate healthy weight zone. These include calculating BMI and/or their waist/hip circumference and looking at stats such as resting heart rate. BMI, mostly because it is easy, is very often the calculation used. To get your BMI you divide your height by your weight. Under 18.5 BMI is considered underweight. (Note, being underweight has critical negative health implications). Over 25 is considered overweight. There are many problems associated with BMI, mainly that it doesn’t differentiate muscle from fat. Talk to your doctor or another medical practitioner to discuss which calculation method is right for you.
Again, I emphasize that when assessing overall health, things like weight and BMI should be considered in conjunction with other health variables. Take a bird’s eye view. Weight is only one indication of health. I have been a weight that looked great and was technically within a healthy zone but was too low for me. I was lethargic and lost my period. (A dysregulated period is a sure-fire way to know a female’s body is not healthy or happy). Every “body” is unique. I have also been a weight at the higher end of my healthy zone, still technically “healthy”, where I still felt lethargic and foggy. In both examples I was within my weight zone, but I was not my healthy best self. I know when I am a healthy weight. I feel good. I sleep well. I feel strong. I digest food well. I get a regular period. I am sure — when you are being honest with yourself — that you also know when you are at a healthy weight.
This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to expressly articulate this. Can you please share a few reasons why being over your healthy body weight, or under your healthy body weight, can be harmful to your health?
Maintaining a healthy weight is correlated with lower risks of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and high blood pressure. It can also lower the risk of many different cancers. As I mentioned above, contrary to many of the images in the media, thinner is not necessarily healthier. When you are below your healthy zone you risk malnutrition, hormonal dysregulation, vitamin deficiencies, anemia and osteoporosis.
Again, I want to stress that my goal for clients, readers, myself etc is overall health. Think mental and physical wellbeing. Think functional strength. Think “zest for life”. Think self-esteem. It is very hard to live a fulfilled life if you have brain fog from not sleeping or eating well, if you don’t feel fit enough to have active adventures with your family, if you don’t have the strength to play the sports you love, if you can’t climb the stairs without getting winded.
With clients I often add to our discussion a goal of “healthy blood work zones”. I want clients to strive for healthy cholesterol markers, a healthy resting A1C (think blood glucose levels), appropriate inflammatory markers, healthy hormones etc.
In contrast, can you help articulate a few examples of how a person who achieves and maintains a healthy body weight will feel better and perform better in many areas of life?
I can tell you that adopting a healthier lifestyle changed my outlook on myself and the world. It helps me manage my depression and anxiety, changed my perspective on challenge and adversity, and allows me to be fit and strong enough to fully experience life. There is nothing I love more than a long hike with my partner James and our puppy Olive. I always know that I am only one workout away from a better mood. When I feel anxious, I have clear data that “I can do hard things”. When my inner critic comes to visit, I just tell myself “Kathleen, you got this. You completed an Ironman. You can do this”. I am not alone in these experiences. I have witnesses so many clients transform their physical and mental mindset through adopting a healthier lifestyle.
I am not saying that going for a walk and eating your daily greens will change the world, or even change your world. Life is always going to include challenge. I am a big consumer of Buddhist philosophy and one of the tenets of Buddhism is that life will always include sukha and dukkha (roughly translated, the good and the bad). There is no getting around the vicissitudes of life.
What I am saying is, the healthier you are, the “softer” life’s challenges often become. Feeling healthier in body and mind will help you manage and navigate adversity. Having a healthy lifestyle is one way you can give yourself a leg up, set yourself up for success. Plus, adopting a healthier lifestyle gives one a sense of control, a sense of agency. Agency is critical in this crazy world. There are SO many things we cannot control in life, but we CAN control if we get up and go for a walk or lift some weights. We all need to feel agency, to feel that are actions have positive consequences. Working out and eating well is one clear way we can give ourselves that agency!
Ok, fantastic. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share your “5 Things You Need To Do To Achieve a Healthy Body Weight And Keep It Permanently?”. If you can, please share a story or an example for each.
1.You need to foster the ability to course correct ASAP!
When you fall off your fitness horse (we all do — we are all human), you need to get back on as quickly as possible. Don’t let one unhealthy choice snowball into multiple unhealthy choices. Don’t shame spiral. Don’t fall into the “well I have already done X so I might as well do Y” self-sabotaging mindset.
2. You need to foster a growth mindset
After you course correct, get back on your horse a more informed rider. Instead of shaming or berating yourself for choices that you are not proud of, learn from the experience. Everything is simply “data”.
Understand your health process as a giant feedback loop. For example, when I sleep in rather than workout, I take a moment to reflect. Was sleeping beneficial? Did I need it more than a workout? If so, great. No guilt. If my future self would have been happier if I had worked then I ask myself why I made that less-than-ideal choice. Did I skip the workout because I stayed up too late the night before? Did I not have a clear plan for my work out? Once I know the answers, I use them to figure out how to set myself up for success next time. Maybe I need to move my alarm clock across the room or get a fitness buddy. Basically, “lean in” to learning and growing — always. For more information on how to foster a growth-oriented mindset check out the work of Carol Dwek.
3. Strengthen your “pause” button. Work on creating space between your “desires” and your actions!
Stop letting the desires of the moment derail you from your goals for the future. Just because you have a thought or a craving (I am too busy, I am too tired, I want chocolate) does not make it accurate AND does not mean you have to act. You can feel you “deserve” a cookie and still say NO to having it.
You are not your cravings. Until you learn (through practice and repetition) the skill of stepping back and observing thoughts, behaviors, etc., you will continue to have a disconnect between how you state you want to live (weight loss, etc.) and your lived reality.
I teach my clients the NOT protocol for impulse control.
N stands for note and no. When having a craving, make yourself first note the unhealthy urge (noting it inherently means you become mindful of your behavior). Then say, “NO, I will not do X. I am not my unhealthy thought. The craving or urge is not what I do, who I am, or who I want my future self to be.”
O stands for being open to change. Work to understand what is driving the craving — are you sad, bored, tired? Then work to change that why. For example, if you are eating for an energy boost because a lack of sleep has left you exhausted, you have to be open to modifying your priorities so you can sleep. You have to be open to actually changing, not just talking about changing. Ask yourself, “Where has my current thinking got me thus far?” If you are not happy with the answer, then ACT to solve. Take small steps if needed, but take steps. Don’t just “wish” for better health. Make a plan. Health is an active process!
T stands for time. Make yourself hit the “pause button” on your craving. Distract yourself. Break free of your destructive thought. Play a game, go for a walk, get involved in a fun conversation, or put together a puzzle. Anything that disconnects you from the thought.
Also, when possible, don’t put yourself into situations where you need to use the NOT protocol. For example, don’t keep crap in the house. That way you can’t overindulge when depressed. Keep a healthy snack in your purse so you don’t “need” an unhealthy snack when you get “hangry” out doing errands
4. Have a plan…and then have a backup plan! Create a schedule.
Workouts never “just happen”. Life is busy. Be intentional. Have a plan.
Schedule in your workouts! Block off time. Decide — in advance — the WWWH of your workouts. What will you do? Dance around your living room? Run your condo stairs? When will you do it? Morning? At lunch? Where will you do it? Do you have a home gym in the garage? Can you follow online workouts on your computer? How will you make it happen? What accommodations do you need to make? Does your spouse have to watch the kids? Do you need to block yourself out of Zoom meetings?
If you don’t consciously create a plan of action and schedule in your workouts, chances are you will take the path of least resistance — a path too often filled with Netflix and wine!
5. Embrace that ACTION is key — you must “ACT. Yourself into the person you want to be”!
We have established that you can’t just wish your way to a healthier you, that a plan is key. You can’t stop at the planning stage. You must ACT. Action is key and the only moment you have direct control over is this moment. Stop putting off for tomorrow what you can do today!
Want to feel fit? Go for a walk. Want to feel strong? Lift some weights. Act in THIS moment in ways that will create the future you that you want.
Then…rinse and repeat tomorrow.
The emphasis of this series is how to maintain an ideal weight for the long term, and how to avoid yo-yo dieting. Specifically, how does a person who loses weight maintain that permanently and sustainably?
You maintain your weight by making your “pendulum swings” smaller, by eliminating intense “boom and busts” such as yo-yo dieting and yo-yo exercising. Consistency is key.
I am not arguing that today should be a carbon copy of yesterday, that your health habits should be totally standardized, that every day of your life should be “health perfect.” I have days where I am more on my horse than others. I vacillate in my level of awareness. I am human. You will have days where you are more aware. You are human.
We are all human, and with being human comes a constant need to recalibrate, to find our balance.
The trick is to make your good days better and more frequent and to make your bad days less bad and more infrequent; to make your pendulum swings smaller — to trend positive so that you are vacillating in a healthier paradigm.
Sure, I swing, but my pendulum doesn’t swing as aggressively as it once did. What current Kathleen considers an “awesome health day” is different than what past Kathleen would define as an A+ day. What I consider a less-than-ideal day is different. My “boom” is more consistent and exists at a higher level on the health continuum. My “busts” are softer and more controlled. I work out 4–6 days per week vs 1–3 days per week. I have treats 1–3 days per week vs daily.
We all toggle slightly. Aim for your swings to be smaller and in a different paradigm.
Basically, stop with the “perfect” and work to be consistently good, or consistently better.
Need added incentive to ditch the extreme diets? Hear this. Unrealistic and extreme diets and exercise regimes can be detrimental for your hormones, weight, metabolism and mindset. Let me give you an example. Consuming too few carbs, especially if you are female and active, can negatively impact thyroid hormones, disrupt the HPA (hypothalamus/pituitary/adrenal) axis, metabolism and reproductive hormones. The short version is “bad news bears”! For a more detailed explanation on carbs and metabolism, I suggest this article from Precision Nutrition.
The takeaway here is this: life is long, and your choices today impact your metabolism of the future. Everything you consume — as well as the foods you skip — will impact your hormones. We often frame food as “calories”, but every food is SO much more than its caloric number. What we eat effects our microbiome, our energy, our sleep etc. Food is the building block of hormones and neurotransmitters etc.
The question becomes “how can one escape this ‘boom and bust’ cycle?”
Set realistic goals. Have a long-term view. Create an individualized plan. Aim for consistency.
Fork “perfect”! Be realistic. The boom-and-bust cycle is typically a byproduct of unrealistic, unsustainable goals — goals based on other people’s realities and social media expectations. Remember, what you see on social media is not the “truth.” You are comparing other people’s done-up, “makeup-ed” face to your internal critic. Know you. Create goals based on your body and your life. Create your goals based on your financial, energy, and time realities.
Create an individualized plan. There is no one perfect way of eating or moving — there is only what works for YOU. Sure, there are principles one should follow, but the key is to tailor the principles to your life realities, your genetics, your exercise and injury history, and your goals.
Your mission is to find what you can do daily “ish” for the rest of your life; make your pendulum swing smaller and within a higher paradigm of health!!
Make sure to create a health recipe that complements your personality, habits, generics, food preferences, etc.
Let me give you an example.
My mom is more moderate in everything she does. As a result, my mom would NOT follow a diet that says, “You can have X but not Y.” Her way of eating flows out of her personality. She has shortbread in the house (her “love it”) because she can have a bite every few days. Having it in the house gives her comfort; she knows she “can” so she doesn’t “rebel” and have millions of cookies. She lives by a more “Mediterranean” diet — all things in moderation with a focus on healthy fats and vegetables.
I require a slightly more hard-nosed approach to my health. I like more hard rules. No chocolate in the house. No soda pop or other sugary drinks. No fried foods. When I have something I love in my house I eat ALL OF IT. So I don’t keep my “love it” food in the house. I love frozen fudge bars and chocolate so when I want some James and I go on a date. That way I get an outing and a healthy portion of what I love. and I get a small amount!
Neither of the above ways of eating are inherently right or wrong; they work relative to our unique personalities. Thrive in your own lane. Find what works for you!
What are a few of the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they try to lose weight? What errors cause people to just snap back to their old unhealthy selves? What can they do to avoid those mistakes?
First, people assume that just because they are motivated when they set their goals that they will always be motivated. FALSE.
Motivation is an emotion. Emotions come and go — they come in waves.
Motivation and willpower are fickle friends; they show-up when we are already motivated or well-rested, properly nourished, and not emotionally triggered. How unhelpful. These are not the times when any of us need help staying on our health horse. We need friends who show up when we are about to fall off the horse — friends that catch us. Sure, you might make the healthier choice when you are newly motivated (say, Monday), or in the morning before life gets crazy, but as you get tired, angry, overwhelmed, depressed, etc., you are more likely to make less- than-ideal choices.
The key to health is establishing systems that keep your future self on track. More on that in the next section.
Second, people try to get fancy with their health goals before they master the basics.
Most of us don’t need complexity. Most of us need to learn how to follow the basics consistently.
Your workout plan doesn’t need to have a perfectly balanced chest vs arms vs legs day for you to get started. Just go for a walk. Then go for a walk tomorrow.
Another way to frame it would be, stop trying to “optimize the margins before you create a strong base.” Learn the basics of nutrition. Drink water. Eat vegetables. Cut out sugar. Do those consistently first. Learn the basics of movement. Walk daily. Stretch. Breathe.
A quick client story on the problems inherent to optimizing your health margins before you have optimized your base. I will call the client Mary.
Mary came in one day concerned about how she was cooking her carrots. She thought she should always eat carrots raw because cooking them increased their score on the glycemic index. The problem was, eating cooked rather than raw carrots was not why Mary had gained weight. She had gained weight from French fries, large portions, and wine.
The conclusion we came to was that she needed to worry about the fries, portion sizes, and wine before she wasted too much energy on the carrots.
Don’t “mow the lawn when the house is on fire.” Don’t get focused on the stuff that does not matter.
Get the basics down before you add complexity!!
Master the “captain obvious” elements of health. Drink water. Eat vegetables. Cut out sugar. Do those consistently first. Learn the basics of movement. Walk daily. Stretch. Breathe.
How do we take all this information and integrate it into our actual lives? The truth is that we all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
We all have a unique “recipe” of self-sabotage — no two people derail their progress in exactly the same way.
- Common ingredients include the following:
Unrealistic expectations — most of us want change yesterday.
- A lack of clear goals or a concrete meaningful “why.”
- Unrealistic — or non-existent — planning; if you don’t take the time to “set yourself up for success” you are setting yourself up for failure. (I am sure you have heard “a failure to plan is a plan to fail.” Well, when it comes to your health this adage is absolutely true.)
- Perfectionism. Perfectionism is the opposite of getting sh*t done, a poison capable of eroding any goal. Too many of us buy into the mindset of “If I can’t do a perfect workout or eat a perfect diet, I might as well not even try.” Wrong, something is ALWAYS better than nothing. A 20-minute workout is better than no workout. One cookie is not the same as five cookies and wine.
My tagline to sum up waning motivation and derailed progress is that typically we “make fitness wishes not fitness goals.”
The road to success is paved with realistic, meaningful goals. Sure, start with a “fitness wish,” but turn the wish into a reality by establishing realistic, safe, meaningful, and sustainable long- and short-term goals. Then, create systems IN ADVANCE that will ensure you follow-through on your goals. (More info on this in my next question).
It is your job to step back and analyze your past health history, your current life realistic etc. and figure out where you derail your own progress. Be honest with yourself. Consider keeping a food, time or habits journal. Most of us underestimate our healthy habits and overestimate our healthier habits.
On the flip side, how can we prevent these ideas from just being trapped in a rarified, theoretical ideal that never gets put into practice? What specific habits can we develop to take these intellectual ideas and integrate them into our normal routine?
Motivation and willpower are not reliable. You must create systems that save yourself from your future tired, frustrated, “screw this goal” self. Once you use that system enough times it becomes a healthy habit!
Consider the Greek myth of Odysseus and the Sirens.
Odysseus orders his first mate to tie him up so that when his vessel passes the tempting Sirens, he is unable to submit to the Siren’s enticing calls. He knew his willpower would not be strong enough, so he set himself up for success.
Think of Odysseus as you, and the Sirens as your health and fitness temptations — the workout you want vs. the cookies in the kitchen cupboard.
Systems tie the future you to your goal so that you don’t mindlessly swipe almonds or unconsciously nibble cookies while watching late-night Netflix.
Set up systems so that your less-disciplined self has no choice but to follow through. Examples include:
- Not having food in the house that you don’t want your future self to eat.
- Piggybacking workouts onto something you already do, such as turning your dog walk into an intense cardio workout or taking conference calls as you walk.
Eating from smaller plates and drinking from smaller glasses.
- Portioning out your snacks, especially when watching TV.
- Sleeping in your exercise clothes to ensure your morning workout is as convenient as possible.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
A movement where we all work to “hold onto” the good; hold onto the good things people say to us, pockets of joy, moments of tenderness between loved ones. Most of us have a way of letting negative moments, comments, feelings etc stick to our psyche like in a non-productive way. Feeling of perpetual gloom and negativity doesn’t inspire anyone to eat their veggies, go for a walk and/or have some water. One of my daily missions is to improve my ability to “note” positives and feel gratitude…of letting the positives inspire my perspective.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
Brene Brown, hands down. I respect and follow many thought leaders including Tim Ferris, Carol Dwek, Kristen Kneff, and Rick Hanson but Brené Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection may have changed my life.
That book inspired me to embrace my vulnerability, to find glee in new situations, and thus to be lucky enough to experience the “beginner’s mind,” to be okay with being wrong, to be “all in” in life, and to be the best partner and person I can be.
One of my “main take-aways” from Brené is “tell your shame story. Speak your shame.” Why? Because in her language, silence breeds shame; when one doesn’t “speak” a shame story, the unresolved feelings of shame will fester and shape everything one does — all choices, including food choices. For me, this means, create a world of people you trust — individuals who will not simply shame you further — and talk. For me, that is my therapist, my partner, James, or my mom.
Another take-away being, “joy is not something you look forward after work … or when you retire … or when EVERYTHING else in life has been accomplished”. Too often people — the old Kathleen included — understand fun and joy as the opposite of adult obligations like working out and working; this polarization sets one up for failure. Brené Brown says, “The opposite of play is not rest, the opposite of play is depression.” In Kathleen-speak that equates to “fun and joy don’t happen only after chores — fun and joy are like breathing; they exist knitted into the fabric of everything.” The more pockets of joy you can find, both at work and while working out, the happier, more energized, and more fulfilled you will be — and the more likely you will be to make healthy choices.
A final take-away being, “being “too busy” is not a badge of honour”. Being too busy means you are out of balance. Yes, exercise and work and eating well are all important, but so is recovery, sleep, and stillness. Find balance, not perfectionism.