Five years ago I took a stand and decided it was time to look after my health. And one of the first things I knew I needed to tackle was how much soft drink I was consuming. Because soft drinks are full of sugar, and I knew that too much sugar makes you feel tired (among other things), I could see that lessening my soft drink intake was going to help me become more energetic.
Being tired was the key to everything for me, and it might be for you too. I knew that if I was less tired I’d have more energy to begin cooking healthy meals and to start doing some exercise and then hopefully I’d be able to lose some weight. I was really aiming to be able to cook for myself because it was a lifelong goal and I knew I had to get rid of the junk in my diet. I knew that fresh foods would be the way to turn things around, but because I was too tired I couldn’t do it yet.
You can see already that I had a number of goals I was aiming towards but that I was trying to tackle them one at a time. It’s really important, when making goals, to be able to break them down into smaller manageable pieces – especially when you’re making a health or fitness goal. The reason for this is that goals can become so overwhelming that we just don’t know where to start and therefore never start, or only do a little bit until it all becomes too much. By breaking a goal down into manageable pieces you know exactly what you need to do and when, and you don’t loose sight of the overall goal because you know you’re actually on the right track to achieving that goal.
When I wrote my book “Face Your Excuses: Plan your way to success at the gym” I took a lot of time to explain how goals and habits can work for you or against you. I also explained that before you start your goal, you need to do a big brainstorm of everything you might need to do to complete that goal. In the book it was about how you might get yourself to the gym and exercising, but it could be just as easily done for a goal like consuming less soft drink. So you might have something like this:
In the book I also showed how important it is to not only plan out everything you could do to achieve the goal, but to put these into a plan of implementation – basically the entire book goes through different topics that people need to think about because they might get tripped up by these topics and then not end up going to the gym. It’s better to think about the things that you know will cause you issues now and then plan how to handle them when they crop up, so you want to do that too with your soft drink consumption goal. Therefore, make a plan of things you’ll do and a plan of things you can do to help you overcome any urges that don’t help you achieve your goal.
The I talked about habits – because once you have a goal it’s the habits that really help you achieve that goal. The habits are the daily actions we take that get us where we want to get – so that might be where we have a habit to do something good, or a habit to stop something bad. For instance, you might already have a habit of buying a 600ml cola with lunch. The new habit would be to buy a juice or sparkling water instead. Or, if you know you are having 3 x 600ml bottles a day, a new habit could be to avoid buying that last bottle.
Here’s an example of a plan of implementation where each month you can start working on a new habit:
The basic idea is that the habit you start in January, you then continue it into February and then in March you’re doing habits from January, February and March. It’s a gradual process of building up to the goal you want to achieve – and it’s a gradual drop off of the bad habits that you don’t want to do any more. It’s also easier to build up gradually rather than doing everything at once, because as you start one you get momentum and then you want to do the next one, rather than relapsing into the old habits. For more on habits see Zenhabits by Leo Babauta.
So start by doing a brainstorm (if you want to do a mind map use mindmapfree.com), then make your brainstorm into some sort of plan that you can gradually implement. But watch out, because as someone who has already done a gradual drop of soft drink can tell you (aka me) you’ll start to get withdrawl headaches. So make sure you plan in some way you can combat this.. For me it was to gradually reduce the amount I drank rather than going cold turkey – cause cold turkey just gave me massive headaches and mood swings (not pretty!).
Take your time, be kind to yourself, and start trying a new habit as soon as possible. I started by loosing cola, then I stopped drinking all coloured soft drinks and only had lemonade. I then dropped back to iced tea and now I rarely buy soft drink at all. Sometimes I get one when I’m out or on holidays, and it must have been about 3 years since I had a cola because I only buy lemonade now. Try these tips and see how you go, but if you want more motivation to let go of the soft drink habits or if you want to make other health and fitness goals check out my book “Face Your Excuses: Plan your way to success at the gym” because it outlines goals, habit creation and what success and failure really mean when you’re trying to achieve a new goal.
One last really useful tip: I watched a TED talk recently where she said that if you want to change your life you only need 15 seconds. What she meant was that if you have a thought and you act on it within 15 seconds you’re more likely to achieve your goals. You can’t do much in 15 seconds but you can add a reminder to your phone or add the action to a list of things you want to do. It also works when you’re trying to lose a bad habit because if you don’t act on it within 15 seconds then you won’t do the bad habit and suffer the bad consequences. It’s a relly amazing thing to keep in mind – it’s certainly helped me the past few weeks with my chocolate consumption.
Good luck, and let me know how you go by leaving me a comment below or by sending me a message on Twitter @SpicedAnecdotes.