Procrastination

I loved this coffee shop in Edinburgh. What a great name! When I am procrastinating one of the first things I do is go make myself a cuppa! In fact, I think procrastination is one of the top reasons why people eat and drink when they are not hungry!

I was talking to a friend of mine about procrastination and she sent me a really interesting article on why we procrastinate. It is not just laziness. It is not just lack of will power or discipline. There is a lot more to procrastination.

When we want to eat better or get out family mealtimes better or improve our habits, it is the same things that get in the way. So I applied some of the article to changing eating habits. Maybe you find it helpful?

“Procrastination is more likely when we have abstract goals.”

“I am on a health kick” “I am going to eat more fruit and veg” or “we are going to eat less junk” “I am eating clean” “We are going on a healthy diet”

These comments are vague and non-specific. What does ‘healthy” or “clean” look like? What actual clear things do you need to do to make those things happen – is there even a clear definition that you can act upon? Even the comment to eat more fruit and veg, the clearest of them all is not defined actions. So it is easy for them to not happen.

Firstly terms like healthy, clean, real, natural etc do not have clear definitions. Healthy can look like lots of different things and depends on the individual. Clean, real and natural do not have definitions that result in healthier diets necessarily and their definitions vary a lot. Even the word healthy is very flexible as healthy needs context – what is healthy for a child can look very different to what their grandparents need.

We know as health professionals that most people could do well to eat more fruit, veg, fibre and pulses. Of all the examples this was the best one but simply saying “we are going to eat more” is vague. You need to look at what you do now and see where you could make that happen.

Here are some specific goals that are much easier to make happen:

“We will have some fruit with breakfast”

“We will have 3 different veg at dinner”

“We will look at our breakfast cereals and swap to higher fibre versions”

“We will have one or two vegetarian meals a week.”

Warning note – if those specific goals are highly improbable or you have too many of them we are more likely to procrastinate. So the key is to make change step by step, you don’t have to do these things everyday, rather aim to make these things the norm, the default. Try to make them habit. If we have too many goals at one time or are trying to change everything at once we are likely to lose motivation and then it is harder to start as we always feel like we fail.

Moral – be realistic with those goals, be honest with yourself and start with small achievable steps based on where you are now. This is going to be more sustainable and successful.

People often procrastinate on tasks which are associated with rewards that they will only receive in the future” and “people often engage in activities which reward in the short term at the expense of the longer term”.

Eating well is definitely something that rewards us long term. We can see that the benefits might be years away. If we don’t start today we have plenty of time to make it up. It is also sometimes difficult if we cannot tangibly feel benefits. We may have added good quality active years on to our lives but we won’t know it now, we may have reduced our risk of type 2 diabetes but again that is something not very tangible in the present moment.

In the case of weight management, and this is aggravated by the general diet culture surrounding us all the time, very often we are motivated to try a diet that promises rapid weight loss at the expense of a varied, balanced diet associated with long term health. We do this because we can see desirable results, this can make us happy even if we don’t feel as well as we could feel. Even if the weight loss is unsustainable because we haven’t found a way of eating that keeps us healthy and suits our body – it was a quick fix.

In reality, slow and steady weight management with a greater focus on eating in a balanced way that promotes long term good health is harder to sustain because the results are not so easy to see.

It is important to be attuned to how you feel. Generally, if we eat better we feel better in ourselves. We feel a bit more energetic, we might have happier tummies, we may feel like we cope better with minor illnesses like colds and maybe even feel like we succumb to those things less often. These results can be felt, even if weight loss doesn’t happen straight away (or at all). This can give us the motivation to stick to those changes to the way we eat to reap the benefits of longer term health benefits. We have to listen to our bodies and be a little patient,

We also have to be realistic with our weight loss and body shape goals. Trying to get your weight down to what you weighed when you were 18 or fit into clothes that your wore before you had a baby or when you played in the uni sport team may not be the right goals. Accepting that our bodies change shape and a fit and healthy body looks different not just between individuals but also for one person at different times in their lives is important. Be a healthier, fitter version of the you that you are now will be achievable – trying to get a body from 10, 15, 20 years ago or to be like another person (often a person selling you a diet plan or style of eating) is likely to fail.

Indecision

Say no more – I think this is probably a massive one in my life. Indecision can paralyse us. The more options there are and there more factors to look into pushes us a little further away from action. Am I making the wrong decision? What if I choose to do this rather than that, put lots of effort into it for no benefit? Maybe I will delay the decision and the action until I am more sure of my choice.

With eating better there are so many opinions and diets, media stories and magazine articles – with so many conflicting stories – how do you choose to what to do to make your eating better. Having confidence in the decision that you have made can be such a motivating factor and sometimes you need good quality advice from someone who has qualifications and experience to give you that confidence. We are more likely to seek advice about cars or money than the food we eat.

If you need that confidence in the choices you make to give your more motivation to stick to them and real the benefits then drop me a mail. Maybe I can help. I may not be able to help you with your general procrastination – I will probably join you for that coffee!! But giving you confidence in a decision about eating better and making choices about food that fit with your Food Story then contact me.

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