How to Start Making a Change

I want to clear up something in terms of a common mistake people make:

Acting harsh towards yourself–a form of negative reinforcement–only serves to keep you stuck in old thought patterns and behaviors that are holding you back.

Viewing yourself with a compassionate eye is the first order of business when seeking to execute a change for the better.

First, forgive yourself and have empathy. It’s possible that the current behavior manifested as a habit because it originally served a purpose that might have benefited you.

Over time, the need to change could crop up. My strategy is to change as I go along in life rather than waiting until a drastic change becomes necessary.

As regards food and fitness goals and resolutions, this is where each of us needs to be kinder and gentler on ourselves.

Making positive changes is possible when you first psych yourself up mentally to make the change. This is Step One in the Changeology book.

To motivate you to change your thinking, thus improving your ability to change your behavior, I want to quote from the book Pretty Intense. You could benefit from buying the book, which is why I quote Danica Patrick here:

“A study in the World Public Health Nutrition Association Journal found that the increase in ‘ultra-processed’ food–food that includes ingredients that aren’t, in fact, food–may be the main cause of the rise in obesity around the world.”

Isn’t it helpful and reassuring to know that a simple change in our eating habits can have dramatic health benefits?

I’m going to end here with a scenario from my own life to motivate readers to consider making this one positive change.

Exhibit A:  My mother’s eating habits which should hit closer to home for readers.

She snacks, snacks, snacks on cookies, chips, cake, and pastries. She has chocolate Special K for breakfast that contains artificial flavors. The food marketer for this cereal lists on the box that the cereal has “150 nourishing calories.”

I didn’t know that artificial flavors were nourishing. Please step away from this particular cereal box. Or any kind of cereal box.

My mother happens to be overweight and out of shape. I love her with all my heart. I care about her and her health.

The number-one lesson I learned from my mother by watching her is that the food we eat impacts our mental and physical health more than any other factor in our lives.

Making simple, incremental, and lasting changes that are effective is possible.

It doesn’t involve going on any kind of restrictive diet. I never went on a diet, and I lost 20 pounds in my twenties and kept the weight off.

I use my family history as an example to make this point:

It pays dividends to be kinder and gentler on yourself when you first start making changes and follow through on continuing with the new behavior.

Find the things that motivate you to make a change. For me, my family history was the alarm bell ringing in my head.

For you, you might want to change so that you can live to see your kids graduate college.

Or you might want to change so that you have the energy to get out of bed in the morning without feeling tired and cranky.

It can be as simple as this.

Find your specific why you want to change.

Lastly: we need to remove the blame that is the stigma–“a mark of shame or discredit” from the conversation.

Feeling good is the life goal that counts more than anything if you ask me.

And you can control how you feel by changing what you eat. Which is what I did “piano-piano” as we Italians say or slowly slowly.

In coming blog entries I’ll detail the methods I employed that boosted my mood, elevated my energy, and reshaped my body.

My goal is to empower readers to make your own positive changes.

Author: Chris Bruni

Christina Bruni is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Left of the Dial. She contributed a chapter "Recovery is Within Reach" to Benessere Psicologico: Contemporary Thought on Italian American Mental Health. As well as an author and activist, Bruni is an artist and athlete.

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