Thinking Small

January 9, 2008 at 1:58 am Leave a comment

Americans love big stuff: big hair, big food, big cars. We are “big” thinkers. We are concerned about the “big” picture. We want to do everything on a grand scale.

That’s all well and fine for most things, but when it comes to diet- and exercise-related lifestyle changes, sometimes big is the wrong way to go. Mentally, we frequently overwhelm ourselves by trying to achieve too much too soon.

When I joined Weight Watchers, I had at least 100 pounds to lose. What a daunting number! 100 pounds… yikes! I couldn’t really grasp it, and I couldn’t see myself reaching that goal. But Weight Watchers didn’t start me off with that goal. Instead, my counselor set a 20% weight loss goal for me. Starting off, I only had to lose 20 pounds. That was the only amount I needed to focus on. It was manageable; it was doable.

Psychologically, we need achievable, short-term goals to motivate us. Think about it: Losing 100 pounds takes a lot of work over a potentially long period of time. It can be hard to sustain momentum with a big goal like that in mind. And, what if you don’t lose any weight one week? Or, heaven forbid, you gain some one week? It may seem like that 100-pound goal was getting further and further away. You might very well get discouraged and decide to give up on the whole process. But, 20 pounds is within the realm of possibility and is achievable in a reasonable amount of time. You can see yourself having lost 20 pounds in 3 to 6 months.

The idea here is to set yourself up for success. I first learned about this concept in college when I read the book Feeling Good The New Mood Therapy. The example I particularly remember had to do with setting an exercise goal.

Let’s say you’ve decided that you want to start exercising regularly and you know you can easily walk 1 mile a day. So, you set that as a goal for yourself. On a given day you only walk ¾ of a mile. Because your goal was 1 mile, you might feel like you failed because you fell short by ¼ mile. You might feel depressed and disappointed in yourself. You may become discouraged and give up on your goal entirely.

But, say instead, knowing that you can easily walk a mile, you decide to set yourself up for success with a goal of walking ½ a mile every day. And, one day, you walk ¾ of a mile. Now, you’ve not only succeeded, but you’ve surpassed your own expectations. Now, you’re on top of the world, feeling unstoppable and proud of how much you’ve accomplished. Now, you’re excited to continue meeting or exceeding your goal. Those positive feelings build and help you develop a positive and growing habit.

Thinking small is a great way to start changing any aspect of your life but especially your diet and fitness routine. Those baby steps build on themselves until suddenly you realize you’ve achieved something huge a little at a time.

How can you start thinking small today?

  • Return the grocery cart to the stall in the parking lot every time you go to the grocery store. (Those extra few steps add up!)
  • Keep a pack of sugarless gum in your purse or pocket for when cravings hit. Pop a piece in your mouth instead of grabbing that bag of chips. 
  • Substitute a bottle of water for one soda each day.
  • Dip your chips in salsa only, avoiding the cheese dip, the next time you order chips and dip at a restaurant.
  • Order a side salad with low-fat dressing instead of French Fries to go with your burger from the fast-food joint. 
  • If you’re just starting a fitness regimen, decide to exercise only one day a week for the first month or two.

These goals may seem too small to make a difference, but believe me, they do. They not only help in and of themselves, but they put you in a positive frame of mind so that you’ll be more likely to expand on them as time goes by.

For more tips on thinking small, check out today’s post on Back in Skinny Jeans about doing “Two Tiny Things” each week.

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Entry filed under: tips & techniques. Tags: .

“You’re Too Tiny” Thinking Small, Part 2

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