My version of Diet Hell: noshing on carrot and celery sticks all week, being so busy that, while I’m exercising, the only thing I can think of is how I’m going to be late to my next thing, then getting on the scale to see the same number over and over and over again – not an ounce lost. There’s weeping. There’s gnashing of teeth. I scream, “Just give me something that works!” I don’t care what it is, as long as I know it will make a difference.
After I’ve calmed down, I return to reason. I remember that I care. I care about what I eat. I care about how I move. In fact, I care so much that I not only want the best for myself; I want my efforts to count. If I’m doing all that work, then I want my plans to, well, work. No surprise, then, why there’s no shortage of plans out there. Magazine covers splash, “Lose 10 pounds in 1 week!” Radio programs spout newsbytes about the latest phyto-immuno-anti-whatever. Dr. Oz tells us why we must go out and buy a particular product today. No matter the latest diet trends, there’s one thing that has never changed. I still have to do the work. Absorbing information doesn’t burn a single calorie. I have to find a way to fit these facts into my daily living. I’m the one who must transform others’ ideas into my solid reality.
Unfortunately, most first attempts to fit ideas into my life fail. Probably because I end up doing the exact opposite: trying to fit my life into the ideas. How can I change my breakfast to eat more blueberries? Where can I park to reach 10,000 steps? Which social commitment can I break, so I can get my workout in? These are not wrong questions, but they tend to build a bad vibe. When I try to stuff an entire life into the latest bag of health tricks, I can’t fit it all in. All of my undone intentions spill out the edges, like my muffin top squeezing out my jeans. Plus, I feel more depleted than re-energized. Worse yet, when I don’t see results from what I have managed to do, it’s like someone erased all that effort, as if I was never around for it at all. Its not hard to gain 100 pounds when every effort feels like a waste.
Years of weight loss disappointment have given me all the more reason to discover a dependable strategy, and I think I’ve found it. This tactic works, no matter the plan, no matter my level of effort. When this one thing is in play, then things fall into place. What is it? Confidence, that feeling that all my work is, in fact, working. Nothing creates more momentum than believing in my effort. When I have a sense that this choice is not wasted, then I continue to make energizing choices. Over time, confidence has been my proven predictor of real results.
Turns out, I’m not the only one who’s noticed the power of confidence. In fact, someone’s even described a way to cajole confidence out of its elusive hidey-hole. His name is Charles Duhigg, and he’s written a book called The Power of Habit. In his book, Mr. Duhigg examines the kind of actions that snowball in the best way, creating more energy even as we’re expending it. I like Mr. Duhigg’s concept of Keystone Habits because it’s fueled by confidence. It doesn’t rely on fitting the puzzle pieces of diet and exercise into a perfect picture of health (I can never seem to fix all those pieces together at once, anyway.) Instead, Keystone Habits capitalize on my in-born strengths and – here’s the bonus — allow me to get more results out of less effort.
How is that possible? Think of a pinball machine. Remember those early pioneers of arcade entertainment, cartooned with graphics and lit up like Las Vegas? To start the game, you yanked on a spring-loaded handle. A firm tug, followed by sudden release, shot a heavy, silver ball up and onto the game’s flashy deck. The ball boomeranged across the board, navigating a gauntlet of smaller pits and pins, which were also spring-loaded. When the ball hit a pin, bells rang, more lights flashed, and points tallied on the backboard. Each ping-back kept the ball in play. With a sure grip on the sides of the machine and fast reflexes, you strategically engaged “flippers” to keep the steely rebounding as long as possible. Score enough points, and you won free play; a bonus ball dropped into the launch pocket.
My inner world is like a pinball machine. A single choice can boomerang throughout my psyche, long after the follow-up action is finished. Each action comes with tag-along thoughts about me, my life, my purpose (anything that’s weighing heavy on my mind). This is always happening — often without me noticing – as each thought pings-back across my brain. Each ping links to the next thought and changes its mental message ever-so-slightly. I can’t always turn my mind on or off, but I can affect the direction of my thoughts within my pinball brain. That’s where Keystone Habits can help. They’re actions which promote positive messaging inside, boomeranging and racking up psychological momentum. Over time, what was once a hard choice becomes easier and easier.
For example, one Keystone Habit I practice is asking each morning, before I get out of bed, “What can I do today to be happy?” I’ll brainstorm a small action that I know will make me smile inside and out. A simple act, for sure, but this Keystone Habit creates momentum for larger changes in my life. When I follow-through on each day’s happy action, I affirm the idea that I can affect my world for better. I disengage the stress monster. I let go of limits. I consider what could be. When a new opportunity comes my way, I’m quicker to say “yes.”
How does all this relate to losing weight? Consider how I gained all that weight in the first place. I ate my frustration and devoured my disappointment. Those habits create enough pressure to rub my soul raw. I’d reach for a quick fix of food any day, just to make the hurt go away. In contrast, Keystone Habits create moments of healing and confidence each day. Those days stack up into weeks, which add up to months, and – sooner than I thought — I’ve lost 63 pounds! I got more results out of less effort. I scored some free play!
To gain the confidence advantage, I’ve learned why Keystone Habits must be custom-fit to flex with my desires, lifestyle, and obstacles. Copying someone else’s habits won’t work. Keystone Habits have the power to create positive momentum because they unlock inner wisdom, direct from my source. They make space for those cherished “aha” moments. Bursts of insight can increase effectiveness, just like those tiny pins boost a ball around the pinball deck, adding up points. More insight leads to more play. This self-sustaining, pinball-effect holds the potential to transform my life. On my best days, I feel less like I’m pushing and more like I’m riding a wave of energy and inspiration.
How do I identify my Keystone Habits? Since the purpose of this practice is to release natural momentum, I want to identify glitches which snag me up. When I’m the less-than-pretty version of myself, I pay attention to the thoughts pinging through my mind. I write down their juiciest versions, which tend to be negative, sweeping generalizations. Then, I brainstorm a small act which directly counteracts the idea of that negative thought. I do it once. I don’t notice any change. I do it again, maybe still no change. Every time I repeat the my positive ping-back, it touches off the negative thoughts again and again, but that’s the point. Still, I keep going with my little act, often enough and long enough to develop a habit. I continue until I’ve gathered hard evidence that those negative thoughts are, in fact, rarely true. Next time they stir, I know better. I turn my heels on the inside and look the other way. I am no longer victim to my thoughts. I have deep, inner freedom.
Ultimately, practicing Keystone Habits is not about making the best choices or doing the rightest things. It’s not about making better lists or smarter time management. When I GMO it into that, I’ve just created more pressure. Instead, Keystone Habits release pressure by asking first, “What will draw out my confidence?” By starting at this finish line, its much easier to stay in the race long term. Keystone Habits make space for me to clear embedded obstacles. If that still seems vague and out of reach, let me ask you, How do you want to live your life? Insert your answer here:______________. Your next Keystone Habit is about that.
Do you want to get more results out of less effort? Then let me ask you, “How do you want to live your life?” Insert your answer here:______________. Your next Keystone Habit is about that.
Enjoy more Vision Boards at pinterest.com/100Pounds/lose-100-pounds-in-1-year/
Shelby is on her most revealing and thrilling adventure yet: to find out what it’s like to lose 100 pounds in 1 year. Will she make it? Find out by joining Shelby on this journey, not only of the body, but of the soul and mind. Shelby lives in Missoula, Montana where she works out at The Women’s Club Health and Fitness Center.