by guest blogger Pam Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP, best-selling author and expert on health, fitness, and nutrition
Turn on the TV, radio, iPad/pod/phone or computer and there they are: countless weight-loss ads pushing pills and potions, promising muffin-top weight loss and a perfect life of bliss once you magically melt your love handles.
Instead of falling for the usual January hype, how about breaking out of the script, ditching the propaganda, and planning on a year of genuine, sustainable-for-life transformation? Here are some basics to get you started on a path of mental, spiritual, and physical regrouping and rejuvenation:
• Be brave and transform. Throughout your life, you engage in countless transformations and, with each, you create new wisdom and expand your powerful base for a healthy mind, body, and spirit. Transformation is gradual and empowering. It’s dynamic and fueled by lots of trial and error.
How to do it: Close your eyes and envision a peaceful, calm mind directing choices that lead to increasing health and well-being. Memorize that vision. Transformation continues for your entire lifetime. The journey is the destination.
• Stop losing. Don’t think about losing…weight, couch time, TV time, computer time, snack time. Instead, do a mind shift and now declare “I’m gaining energy, self-esteem, me time, a life filled with more joy and opportunities for my mind and body.” Think of it as gifting yourself all of these achievements and more.
How to do it: Make a list for yourself of the things you’d like to “gift” yourself and keep reminding yourself that this is the priority. You’re not losing a thing. You’re transforming your mind and body.
• Give your dreams deadlines. Everyone’s got dreams. But a dream without a plan is only a dream. Let’s drill down to what you really want and can realistically achieve.
How to do it: Grab paper and pen and write the words MIND, MOUTH, and MUSCLE across the top of the page. I believe in a holistic and integrative approach to change and transformation. Each one of these elements supports the other so that you get a more effective result. Below each word, write from three to five goals you’d like to achieve in each category over the course of the next 12 months. Under MIND you might write, “Do a daily meditation”; under MOUTH, “Eat a healthy breakfast”; and under MUSCLE, “Walk for 30 minutes each day.” Now examine each column and, taking whatever time you need, choose just one goal you know you can work on and achieve over the course of one month. Write these goals down in any kind of journal or tracking tool, and write each as a commitment. Then write them into your daily calendar.
• Practice the 80/20 rule. Forget perfectionism. You’re human and stuff happens. Wiggle room is an essential part of your transformation journey.
How to do it: Aim to hit your goals 80 percent of the time, leaving 20 percent open for other things that might come up. If you do that, you’ll train your brain to cut you some slack when life gets in the way of your plans. Sure, you’ll have 100-percent days (and make sure to congratulate yourself when you do), but there might be well as 50-percent days, as well. The point is that you can be successful without looking at your progress as being on or off track. You are the path. It’s all on track.
• Give yourself license to chill. Your mind is racked all day with work, anxiety, hyper-focus, and high performance. Like your body, it fatigues. You need to make time to chill, to just be and not do.
How to do it: Meditation and prayer are superb ways to achieve this goal. When you meditate and/or calm your mind with prayer, you activate the “smarty pants” part of your brain (the prefrontal cortex), and this allows for more brain cells to form new circuits to support new habits. When you chill, you get smarter and energized.
As you embark on your year of transformation, celebrate each victory, regardless of size. And be patient with yourself. You can do it. One step at a time.
Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP, is a Pew Scholar in nutrition and metabolism, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland, and a fellow of the American College of Physicians. A triathlete and mountaineer, she is known as “the doc who walks the talk,” living what she’s learned as an expert in health, fitness, and nutrition. Dr. Peeke is featured as one of America’s leading women physicians in the National Institutes of Health Changing Face of Medicine exhibit at the National Library of Medicine. Her current research at the University of Maryland centers on the connection between meditation and overeating. She is the author of many best-selling books, including Fight Fat after Forty. Her new book is the New York Times best-seller The Hunger Fix.