Alice Greene
America's Healthy Lifestyle Coach

12-year health, fitness and
weight loss success story


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Contest Blog Posts – in Full

First Steps Toward a Healthy Lifestyle – New You 2010 Contest

January 27, 2010

Contestants and Groups Selected
This week, four groups began the two-year journey together that will change their lifestyles. I received nearly 100 applications for participation in the contest, and of those I narrowed the applicants down to 40 and then talked with each of them at length last week. Each of them was ready, motivated and committed to making healthy lifestyle changes to reclaim their health, fitness and wellbeing. They all recognized that rapid weight loss and dieting was no longer the answer, and they wanted to finally take good care of themselves.

It was challenging to pick just eight for the contest, so I decided to create three more groups of eight to experience the same two-year program in order to support at least thirty-two of them. This option was given at no cost for the first two months, and thereafter at a very small cost to continue. I offered this to all those who I didn’t select for the contest, and who had agreed that this option was something they were interested in, could afford or could fit in their schedules at the times I selected. Not all elected to participate. And sadly, there were many I wasn’t able to offer this option to. Fortunately, all of them, as well as you, can follow along by reading this blog and checking the contest site (www.aHealthyLifestyleWorks/contest.com) where I will put weekly updates on how to participate on one’s own or in groups.

The eight contestants are Cheryl, Debbie, Eric, Kim, Lisa, Michael, Sharon, Tim. They are three men and five women, and a number of them are in their 50s. One is turning 40, another is turning 50, and one is in their early 60s. A couple of them have school-age children. Most of them are at risk for chronic illness, such as heart disease or diabetes, and many of them have been sedentary for various reasons.

Getting Started
In our first sessions together, the group participants talked about what led them to apply for a spot in the contest. They shared the struggles they’ve had to exercise regularly, make healthy food choices and make themselves more of a priority. These struggles and the associated frustration, disappointment and pain they created are what motivated them to finally take action. Being inspired to change because of what is no longer tolerable, from a wake-up call or an opportunity to be in a life-changing contest, is often the motivating catalyst that puts people into action, yet that motivator has a short fuse and can disappear as quickly as it appears. The catalyst can get you to make a change, but it won’t keep you motivated to stick with that change or to make long-term changes. For that you need to create long-term motivators based on what it is you will be able to do, feel or experience as a result of the healthy lifestyle changes. These positive outcomes are what keep you motivated to stay on track.

During the application process, each person had identified what they hoped to improve and why that was important to them, and during our first session they had a chance to revisit these aspirations. I asked them to identify two areas of improvement they specifically wanted to focus on for the first two months. By limiting the focus, they wouldn’t be getting overwhelmed by trying to make too many changes at once. Since all of them had indicated a desire to improve their eating habits, that became one of the two goals for everyone in the groups. I then asked them to identify on a scale of 0 to 10, where they are now in these areas. This will give them a way to see improvement, in addition to the other ways they will track their progress. For many of them that wanted to improve their fitness, they put themselves at a 0, 1 or 2 on that scale, with 10 being very fit.

Once they had identified the two improvement areas for the first two months of the program, we then discussed setting our first week’s goals. I explained that these goals needed to be very small and achievable. The objective was to set themselves up for success, avoid injury and to minimize drastic changes in their current lifestyle routines. A tiny change is enough, even it that means just going up and down a single flight of stairs a few days this week, going for one 30 minute walk during the week, getting back on exercise equipment for 15-20 minutes two or three times this week, or adding in 10 minutes of stretching for a few days. While many people in the groups initially offered to do more, I cautioned against it. When was the last time you did that much I would ask them, and again and again they said it had been a long time. I also asked them on a scale of 0 to 10 how confident they were they would come back next week and say they had fully achieved that goal (10 being very confident), and many said they were at a 6, 7 or 8. What would make it a 10, I would ask? The answer was scaling back the goal. Less is more. You can always add to this goal in future weeks, stretching yourself a bit more after building your self-confidence that you can make your goals, that you could do more than you’ve been doing, and that you really can fit this change into your life. Start with baby steps, and the excitement of achieving success will motivate you to stick with it and stretch yourself a little bit more the following weeks. This is how most people who have become success stories, like myself, ended up achieving more than they ever thought possible by taking it one small incremental and achievable step at a time.

We also set a goal for improving eating habits, and for this I asked them all to focus on the times they began to feel full each time they ate this coming week. The purpose of this is to begin to develop an awareness of hunger levels and a consciousness of becoming full, so they will be able to intuitively know how to control their portions and be able to choose to stop eating at that point. Few people, I’ve learned over the years, really know what it feels like to get full or remember the last time they noticed this, because they have never put their attention on it. Yet if you don’t know when you are getting full, then you aren’t able to make a choice about whether to stop or continue eating. This is the first step in gaining control with food. When they watch for their fullness during the week, I told them it is very important not to make any judgments about what they observe. If you judge yourself for getting full and continuing to eat, you will find it difficult to observe and you will likely eat even more food as an emotional reaction to that internal criticism. Judgment doesn’t change behavior, objective and compassionate awareness of your behavior is what leads to change.

See What the Participants Have to Say
I’ve asked the group participants to comment on their experience each week here on this blog. The contestants will be commenting similarly on my blog posts hosted by their community blog site at www.newburyport-today.com. Take a look each week to get a birds-eye view of what they are discovering for themselves, which will help you in following the contest and participating on your own. You are also free to comment on your own experience.

Have a healthy and active week.

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