Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I have to make a confession here! My journey to a happier healthier me has been quite an easy one, largely because I am male and I think in a very ‘male’ way.

Men tend to think in terms of strategies, that is to say there is a problem we need to find a way to fix said problem. (Classic Mars as someone put it!) I know it drives my OH crazy sometimes!

Where as women tend to think in a different way often with a more emotional content. (Classic Venus I suppose).

Now before people start putting barbed comments at the bottom, this is not invariable and it does not mean because you are a man you think that way or vice versa. Women can learn from men and men from women, and the greater the range of thinking processes you have the greater your chance of success. (The law of requisite variety)

But what I can say is that in terms of getting from A to B (i.e. when trying to get leaner and fitter) some of that strategic thinking really helps.

Firstly we all have them, (strategies that is!), though often we will not be conscious of them. If we go into a restaurant and are given a menu, we have to make sense of it. We have to differentiate between the dishes on offer, therefore we will have to access our memories and represent them to ourselves.

Some people will picture what they are thinking of, some will talk to themselves and tell themselves how much they enjoyed a particular dish last time, others will conjure up a representation of the taste, smell or the texture of a dish they have had before.

There is no right or wrong way, but it might be useful to get curious about how you do what you do!

What is your strategy for getting motivated to exercise? What is your strategy for convincing yourself that eating a bar of Dairy Milk is the best way of serving your long term goals (gotta say on that one that some people have brilliantly honed strategies for self-deception!). What is the process that happens internally when confronted with food choices?

Now once you have started to unpack the ‘how do I do what I do’ question, it becomes much, much easier to implement new more effective strategies.

Let me illustrate with one of my own examples.

I do not deal with hunger very well! When I get hungry any really rational strategies go out the window and I will override any rational thoughts of what is good for me in order to lose the feeling of hunger! Thus I would in the past eat very bad choices in order to lose that feeling. My strategy was very ‘feeling’ driven, I didn’t like the one I had I wanted to replace it with another (being full) and I really didn’t worry too much how I got there.

When I read Tom Venuto’s book ‘Burn The Fat Feed The Muscle’ and it came to the part about 5/6 meals a day I thought about my hunger strategy and realised that this new strategy of never letting myself get to that hungry stage is a much better way to go. So now the first signs of hunger are usually just a prompt to say that 3 hours have past and it is time to stoke up the boiler again! I am much more aware of and respectful to my hunger signal. I never ignore them or push them away, and unless there is just no way of getting something good to eat I never not act on them.

I could list many other examples. However the key is this. Humans do not act randomly. They act out of a sense of wanting something. If you have a behaviour you want to change as you don’t feel your current one is supporting your longer term goals, get curious about firstly what it is you are trying to get by doing what you do.

Get curious about what ‘strategy’ is in place that allows you to continue this behaviour. What process do you go through internally before the behaviour happens, because although you might not be aware of it and though it might be very quick you do go through a process.

If you want to change it that existing strategy slow it down, your thought processes, notice what you are doing to get to a certain action. Once you are aware of that you can ask yourself certain questions like: ‘what could I do differently that will give me the outcome that I want’ or ‘how can I get similar feelings in the short term with better results in the long term’. Please, do not ask questions, like ‘what do I always do this?’ If you ask ‘why’ questions your brain will deliver justifications, if you ask ‘what could I ‘ questions your brain will deliver you options and strategies!

We are all totally responsible for our own actions, however many of these actions are as a result of ‘auto-pilot’ programming and while they may have served a purpose once may not be serving what we want now. So switch out of automatic and on to manual for a while you might find it making life a whole lot easier!

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