10 years ago, when we moved to Montana, my husband and I built a killer vegetable garden complete with raised beds, a drip hose system and 6-foot tall fences to keep the deer out. We brought in rich soil and everything we could think of to fertilize it with. Our planting technique was meticulous and I am pretty sure we planted just about every vegetable that could possibly grow in the climate of Northwest Montana.
Then reality set it….
Tending to the garden proved to be a much bigger task than we bargained for. Between weeding, thinning, fertilizing, watering and, at last, harvesting we were totally overwhelmed and most of the things we planted failed to thrive due to neglect.
We were slow learners.
Year after year we were over-ambitious in our planting and every year we failed to follow through with the tender care that our plants required. There was always more plant carnage by Fall than there was harvest.
Clearly, we were biting off more than we could chew. Our expectations were not realistic given our busy lifestyle and we ended up wasting a lot of time and money. (Sounds oddly familiar to a diet, or two, that you may have attempted in the past, eh?)
This summer (yep, 10 years later), I finally decided to buy just 2 hanging baskets for the front of my house. No vegetable garden and no other plants that need my attention daily. I am happy to say that those two plants THRIVED this year! Mid-September and they still look fantastic.
I had a STRATEGY for how to manage the two baskets this year and I stuck to it. They got watered every night just before I started prepping dinner and I fertilized them on Saturday morning. I managed those two baskets so freaking well, that I am confident that next year I could take on an additional plant or two easily.
Really, I should have known better.
I coach people every day to take on 1 new habit at a time, not 15! I know that that one of the quickest ways to derail any health improvement program is to take on too much too soon. That seems to be true of most things in life, including plants!
Of course the diet industry would like us to believe that you can change EVERYTHING today, lose weight and maintain it long term. How many friends do you have that have done the “quick fix” only to regain all of their lost weight, plus some?
Too many changes at once (or, in my case, too many plants) just end up making us feel overwhelmed and we can’t sustain the change for the long haul; pounds come back on and plants die.
Slow and steady wins the race. The ONLY way to attain and sustain health-based goals is consistent, progressive work; mastering one new habit before taking on another.
I know, I know…it is not what you want to hear! It took you five years to gain the extra 30lbs but you want it gone by the end of the week…for good!
Sorry sister…it ain’t gonna happen.
Below are 5 tips for helping you to make successful changes that last:
#1 Be realistic!
If you have to change your life dramatically at the start of any program promising to improve your health, BEWARE! You may feel confident that you can handle a lot of change quickly, but when reality sets in…you will be running as fast as you can back to old habits that do not serve you. Your weight will creep back on and you have another “diet” to add to the “tried that” bag of failures.
#2 Choose 1 thing to start improving on and start SLOW.
If you haven’t exercised since the Jane Fonda era, do not expect to hit the gym 5 days a week for two hours at a time. Commit to one or two short exercise sessions per week, made up of exercises that feel challenging, but not like you may not walk for a month. After a couple weeks of CONSISTENTLY doing those workouts, you will feel mentally and physically ready to take on “a little bit” more.
#3 Have a strategy for how you will get that ONE thing done.
In other words, if it isn’t scheduled, it is not going to happen. Schedule the one thing you are committed to improving on and DO NOT negotiate that time. When specifically will you workout, or prep your food for the day, or drink your water, or go to bed?
#4 Try attaching a new habit you are trying to build into your life to a habit that is already established in your life.
For example: commit to drinking water every time you use the restroom; when you are making dinner at night, prep healthy foods you can take to work the next day (hard boiled eggs, cut up veggies etc); take your fish oil and probiotics after you brush your teeth in the morning. Adding new habits in this way increases the likelihood that you won’t forget.
#5 Remember it is NOT about perfection, it is about committing to doing 1% better daily.
There were a few days this summer (actually more than a few), that life distracted me and I forgot to water my plants, but MOST days I did really well and I was always AWARE of how my plants were fairing because they were hanging on my front porch; I had to look at them every day. Are you reviewing your goals everyday?
You WILL screw-up some days with your plan of how to better your health, but that is no reason to throw in the towel. Go back to your action plan as soon as you can and before you know it, like my hanging baskets, your health will start to thrive.
With a dash of Grace & Grit anything is possible!