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health advisor


Adopting a healthier lifestyle can be overwhelming; when the going gets tough, too many of us consciously (or unconsciously) sabotage our own success. I have been there. As an adolescent I was chubby and awkward; I constantly sabotaged my own health.

Learning to crave movement and healthy food has been a process; a large part of the process was learning how not to self-sabotage and, possibly more significant, figuring out that when I did self-sabotage I didn't have to beat myself up. I could learn from the experience and then make more informed decisions in the future.

Somebody once told me that we all have our own flavour of self-sabotage. So true. The trick is to identify our unique flavour and then figure out the way to squish it.

In my experience, most people sabotage their journey by letting one less-than-ideal health choice snowball or by trying to adopt a method of change that doesn't fit their personality.

Self-sabotage flavour No. 1: The snowball effect

Missing one workout is not the same as missing five workouts. One cookie is not the same as seven. One glass of wine is not the same as drinking the bottle. This may sound obvious, but it needs to be said. Too many of us let ourselves snowball; we rationalize missing a workout or eating multiple treats by telling ourselves that the damage has already been done, so why not indulge further?

Well, the reason "why not" is because portions count, and all movement adds up. Mindfully eating small portions of indulgences we love is a healthy part of life – mindless binges are not physically or psychologically healthy. You can easily recover from missing one workout or eating a piece of dark chocolate. Twenty pieces of chocolate is another story.

The lesson is that a small indulgence is a healthy part of life; you can compensate for it by going for a walk or eating more vegetables the following day. If you let that one choice snowball into multiple indulgences it will take days (even weeks) to get back on track.

Self-sabotage flavour No. 2: Trying to adopt a method of change that doesn't fit your personality

Don't try to fit a square peg into a round hole Other people's health and diet regimens are exactly that – theirs. Sure, you can twist yourself into knots and adapt to someone else's program for a few weeks, but chances are you won't be able to maintain the program over the long haul. Adopt a method of change and a lifestyle regimen realistic for you. For example, if you know you are most successful when you implement changes gradually, try my "weekly add-on" method. If you like radical change, try my "180 daily pyramid" method for change.

Weekly add-on

First, make a list of health habits you would like to adopt. Examples: eat five or more servings of vegetables daily, drink more water, eat fewer fried foods, or cook more food at home.

Next, decide which changes will make the most impact on your overall health. For example, you might hear that everyone will lose weight if they cut out alcohol. But if you hardly ever drink, that suggestion is unhelpful to your quest. You might find it more worthwhile to eliminate your 3 p.m. sugar binge.

Last, pick one to two changes and commit to doing those for a week. Once you successfully complete them for a week, maintain them and add on another change the following week. Continue to add on positive changes until you have implemented all of your new healthy habits.

180 daily pyramid

Similar to the above weekly add-on method, start by making a list of the changes you would like to make.

Next, ask yourself how long you could realistically maintain all of the changes. Be honest.

Let's pretend you said two days. Commit to being 100 per cent disciplined for those two days, knowing that once you finish your two days you can eat normally for a day. Once you complete your two days, take your "normal" day, and then stick to your goals for three days. Once you can do three days, aim for four, then five, and so on. Decide realistically how often you should schedule a "normal" day. Once per week? Once per month?

The main take-away is to develop your own "recipe for success." Put together a program that is realistic, sustainable, and built around your unique reality, rhythms, lifestyle, and personal goals.

Kathleen Trotter has been a fitness writer, personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for more than 12 years. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter @KTrotterFitness.