Consider these facts:
- 65% of people in developed countries are overweight.
- The ability to retain fat makes us the evolutionary winners… if a famine were to occur we would be the grinners crossing the finish line of staying alive.
- Just this morning in the supermarket we observed eight jam-packed aisles of packaged food and one lone section of “fresh” food items.
What is available to us in Australia is unprecedented – the choice is enormous. And choice is what this article is all about.
Recently, we have both started to exercise more with the help of a personal trainer. Gyms haven’t worked for us - they do, however, seem to work well for gyms, which in the past have taken our hard earned cash and then only had to deliver a handful of classes, long before a habit can begin. As does low-carbs-high-protein or paleo or just raw food or whatever eating plan is the recommended one of the day.
We like our personal trainer. She doesn’t give too much away about what we’ll do in the next session. We train outdoors with minimal equipment and laughing is encouraged. It’s social and fun and it’s actually working. It is worth getting curious about what will work for you.
The reason most exercise and diet plans fail is not the food or the activity or the gym but the organ on top of your neck. We have all developed a lot of automatic habits about eating and moving that can be challenging to break, so eventually we find ourselves back with our old habits, often with a bit more self-loathing thrown in each time.
And the reason why we fail is because of the way we think about eating and moving. We often diet because our doctor said we should, or exercise to try to look better for someone else. We have given our power in it away to someone else, so we are not truly invested in it. What we have discovered in coaching people towards health is that new habits must be grounded in deeply held values that we can check in with when there is a decision to be made about our health.
The Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) model of change applies perfectly to health coaching. In the ACT model there are three pertinent features:
Articulate clearly your values in relation to the eating and moving and refer back to these values when you make decisions.
Have an awareness of the CHOICE POINT moment in all your decisions involving food and exercise.
Utilise mindfulness to become more aware of all the choice points in your day, and align choice point decisions with your values.
The ACT model in health coaching helps us to address the “psychology” aspect of diet and exercise, and is beautifully articulated by Joseph Ciarrochi, Ann Bailey and Russ Harris in their book “The Weight Escape” published by Viking 2014.
An example might be that Jane is exercising because her doctor rudely reminded her of her middle age status. She is shamed into exercise for a while only to stop when the pain kicks in or the first rainy day or one of the kids gets sick.
If Jane, instead, articulated valued based reasons why she would want to exercise and keep it up. Jane might say:
- I want to be fit and healthy to spend outdoor quality time with my kids
- I want to keep participating in sport
- I want to be strong and resilient
- I want to enjoy good health
- I want a lot of energy
At the moment where Jane doesn’t feel like training today, she can use a moment of mindfulness to note that this is a CHOICE POINT moment – a choice where she can move away from her articulated values and goals or towards them. It is her choice to make.
Once mastered, this technique works for exercise, eating changes, dealing with addictions and other health behaviours.
Health coaching teaches this effective model and supports the client toward successful maintenance of new lifestyle habits by addressing the often neglected variable in the diet and exercise equation – mindset. Lasting change can be achieved for a similar cost to that unused gym membership and those diet shakes in the cupboard going out of date.
Sharon-Marie Hall is the Principal Psychologist at Premier House Psychology. She has 22 years clinical experience in both therapy and coaching. Her passion is walking alongside people towards good mental and physical health. She acknowledges that the greatest of things is achieved with a light heart so chooses to laugh often.
Jodi Jamieson is the Practice Manager at Premier House as well as a talented and lively business, personal and career Coach who has worked with individuals and teams to successful outcomes. She knows that passion brings power, fun and purpose to achieving your goals and will work with you to help you find your passion and assist you to maintain that enthusiasm to achieve your desired result.