Why is change so hard for so many of us? I’m talking specifically about the change needed for long-term sustained weight loss. I read a book recently (actually it was the kindle sample of the book!) that gave me an aha! moment in regards to this problem.

The book was Switch, How to Change Things When Change is Hard, and it was recommended by Cammy in her recent blog post. What she said intrigued me enough that I went to Amazon and ordered the sample to my kindle that day.

And here’s what it said, essentially. If your life is filled on a daily basis with many decisions requiring some kind of emotional input, it becomes virtually impossible to make any more decisions.

Could that be the answer to why and when some people are able to make “the switch” and others just can’t quite do it? I wonder, if we were to examine and analyze the lives of people who have “made the switch” and those who just keep “wanting to switch,” would we find that those who were successful just happened to be at a more peaceful, less stressful or activity-filled time of life?

When I think about my most recent time of ‘trying’ to switch back to weight loss mode, I know that it was during a very stressful three year period of my life. And the month I was successful in “making the switch?” Was it just coincident that that was the month that I finished up the work on the trust of my father’s estate?

Cammy did such a good job of reviewing this book a few years ago that I don’t feel the need to go over the main points. What was an “aha moment” for me in that little sample I read was that self control is an exhaustible resource. When you have too many decisions that require a little “will-power” it is draining. Ah. So that’s what happens to so many of us.

The kindle book sample stopped at that point, and so being the thrifty person that I (sometimes) am, I ordered the book from the library. They have lots of examples of making small specific changes that relate to our food/diet/exercise conundrum. Examples like: Instead of saying “eat healthier,” say “drink 1% milk.” A whole town lost a LOT of weight using just this one specific instruction.

But my biggest takeaway was their explanation of why it is so difficult for so many people to change. Here in America, of our own choosing, our lives are frenetic and filled with more activity, choices, and events than was ever meant to be the way to live. If we choose to slow the pace down, we often feel guilty (speaking personally here,) or even slovenly–that we are not accomplishing all that we could. Its no wonder we can’t make that next decision to eat romaine lettuce instead of wonder bread.

16 thoughts on “Change

  1. You may have hit on something there, with the change/peaceful life thing…I was able to lose my weight (aka flip the switch) when my youngest graduated from high school and left for college. Life certainly got a lot more calm for me at that point, and I was able to focus on myself, my eating, and making better choices. Very interesting point!

    And yeah, I agree with you that people DO take on too much. Which is why I am a rude mean person and say no to a lot of things…and also, why I’m feeling a little crazed at the moment because of what I did recently take on. Ack.

  2. I recently read that Habit book and it talked about the same thing with self control being a limited resource and how easily our body goes back to old ingrained patterns, even when we have made new patterns.

    • I seem to be following you on the book trail, Lori! I’ve been on the wait list for ‘Habit’ for a while now, and it came in last week, which is why i was at the library and saw the book you mentioned in your post. LOL

  3. I have also experienced this. What is working for me is the following: I get a “Bountiful Basket” order of fruit and vegetables. Pick up is on Saturday early. If I volunteer, it is a double win cause I get exercise too. With the starting point of what I received in my basket, I plan my menu for the next week. On weight watchers, I literally pre-track my points. No decisions need to be made during the week when I am more stressed. I also schedule exercise. Now every week does not go as planned because things do come up, but more weeks go as planned than not. I am down 58 pounds and have that many more to go. I am on my way with my routine.

    • That is great–congratulations! You hit on another point I am planning to mention–menu planning vs. meal planning. I think the whole menu thing works better–like you said, less decisions to be made when you might be stressed.

  4. I think there may be some truth to that… My ability to finally lose weight coincided with more calm and acceptance in my life. Seeking counseling was a big part of it, even though the counseling didn’t always focus on weight loss. It makes sense that the more decisions we have to make, the less enthusiasm we might feel for making the healthiest one!

  5. That is true for me. I can lose weight and stick to a diet…..until….SOMETHING HAPPENS–an accident, surgery–then it all falls apart. I have gone through several of those over the past 2 years so I gained 35 lbs. Over the past 2 1/2 months, I’ve lost 25 lbs. and I have at least another 35 to go. I hope I can keep focus.

  6. Thanks for the mention. I need to re-read this book, plus I saw that the Heaths have another new book about making better decisions. I could use that one too. I could, in fact, use ALL the books. 🙂

    I read Switch after I’d lost my weight, but it helped me to understand some of the psychology of why things worked out better for me this time and to adopt ‘work arounds’ for if a time comes when things don’t work so well.

  7. Thanks for a new book recommendation – just ordered this from the library! Can anyone elaborate on the Habit book mentioned in Cammy’s comment? Author?

  8. All true. I feel very fortunate that my husband has facilitated a sane life. As an attorney, that’s particularly rare. Attorneys often continually one-up one another and everyone else, but my husband is able to keep it to the courtroom, so when I asked if I could go 3/4 time in my work, we downsized our lives — got a smaller house. That was when I was able to make the switch.

    In addition to the requisite exercise and food management, I also sleep eight hours a night, but I rarely share that piece of info. Either I’ll be laughed at in an attempt to make me feel guilty or slovenly, as you point out, or I’ll make someone else feel weird. Being moderately paced is counter cultural. It is better to model it than to talk about it. But, since we’re talkin’ . . .

    Most of the world brags about how horribly busy they are. I used to have “friend” who claimed to work 90 hours a week. If we don’t play the “busy” game, we’re challenging others’ ideas about what makes life meaningful, what it means to be “accomplishing.” But here’s the fact: in 150 years, the busy folks will be as dead and gone as the unbusy folks, the “work product” they gave to their bosses will be long forgot, their belongings spread to the winds, their real estate no longer in the family, and (with rare exceptions) no one will know much about them. Did their frenetic lives allow them to spread more joy in the world than less busy people? Did they raise better children? Did they make a difference in the lives of orphans, animals, artists or whatever? We need to start with defining what is meaningful, personally, and then dig in our heels with regard to other kinds of busyness that doesn’t contribute. If we don’t define meaningful for ourselves, a boss is happy to do so, or some product marketer or some other “trend setter.” Meaningful is not a trend. Meaningful is individual.

    Weight loss maintenance, once again, is metaphor. We have to define it for ourselves and dig in our heels. How many times has some (often kind-hearted but naïve) know-it-all told us how it’s done? “Yah gotta mix it up with your exercise.” (No, I gotta do what I know I need to do for my body.) “Everyone needs treats. It’s just a matter of portion control.” (No, it’s more complex and individual than you apparently understand, and today I cannot have a treat if I want to stay my course.)

    Thanks for helping me think and allowing me to pontificate, Debby.

    • Debra!! I am so happy to hear from you! Please pontificate any time the mood strikes –its always great to hear your thoughts.

  9. I will have to look at that book. I have read so many books about change, I am at the age if If I am going to change I need to do it now because I am not 20 anymore. Change has always been so hard for me. I wake up every morning with the desire to work on changes some I do, some I don’t but I rarely make much headway. At least not like you AIM girls. That is why I read blogs like your’s Debby for inspiration.

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