Whenever we think of change, we tend to think of something dramatic that’s potentially going to thrust our lives into a period of uncertainty.
Just the word "change" has the power to generate a feeling of anxiety or insecurity and when you put the word "lifestyle" in front of it, people often feel that they are confronted by a seemingly insurmountable task.
Simply, knowing that it would be in your best interests to lose weight and get fitter, doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to act upon it, because it can feel like you are standing at the bottom of the mountain looking up at the summit. The journey seems long and arduous and you get the sense that if you start it, you would bite off far more than you could chew!
Of course, it’s good to have an idea about your targets, but that doesn’t mean you have to make the entire journey in one go. Change is frequently more palatable and far more achievable when it is taken in bite-sized pieces.
A myriad of small-scale changes that require minor adjustments to your life, can collectively work to effect much bigger change overall. Change doesn’t have to be something you’re always going to start, it’s something you can start right now.
For example, say you allow yourself one can of soda a day. It doesn’t sound a lot does it? But over a year that one can of soda adds up to you consuming over 60,000 calories and over 2000 teaspoons of sugar. Cut out that one can a day and replace it with a bottle of water, something which is far more beneficial to your health, and over the course of the year you could effectively lose 8 kilos. Yes initially, you might miss it, but it’s doable.
The thing about achieving success with one small change is that it empowers you to carry on and do more.
Add in taking the stairs as opposed to the elevator everyday and you’ve started your own mini-fitness regime! Five flights of stairs taken one at a time at a brisk pace five times a week can burn up to 300 calories according to the University of Roehampton. Over a year that’s 15,600 calories or the equivalent of burning away over 2 kilos.
And there’s an even bigger bonus; the health benefits of short bursts of exercise like this are huge. It builds and tones your muscles giving your greater skeletal strength and protection against joint deterioration in later life and most importantly it improves your cardiovascular health.
The key to making small changes stick is to literally start off small!
Deciding you’re going to change ten things at once will give you far too much to think about in a day and that’s the complete opposite of what this idea stands for.
The whole point is that you don’t feel the change too much, because the minute you start to feel you’re denying yourself is the minute your brain will tell you to rebel and reinstate the old habit.
So start by identifying one small new habit you can adopt. It might be forgoing the whole milk café mocha that you grab in the morning on the way to work and switching it to a simple cappuccino made with skimmed milk.
It’s worth noting that some of the more extravagant drinks on sale in chain coffee shops can contain up to 18 teaspoons of sugar! Trading down and going for a simple coffee can mean massive savings to your pocket, and massive gains for your health.
Once you’ve identified your small change, stick with it for a month. This gives your mind time to forge new links with the new habit and you will find that it becomes a normal part of your daily routine. Then add in something else and continue the process.
Of course, this approach does take time. It’s not a quick fix, but in my experience there is no such thing as a quick fix that works in the long-term.
Losing weight and gaining health for good is all about making a change to your mind. That’s the control centre for everything and if your mind is not bombarded with too much change all in one go, it can assimilate and embed new habits far more effectively.
Small change creates a chain reaction. It makes you feel successful, it makes you believe in yourself and there will come the moment when you realise you’re actually halfway up the mountain looking back at how far you’ve come!
About the writer
Russell Hemmings is a renowned cognitive