We’re accustomed to thinking about this stuff as work
- we WORK hard in the gym
- we WORK on improving our nutrition
- we put in the WORK to not get tripped up by “bad” food
We try. We toil. We make effort. We are tireless in our pursuits.
Is it just me or does that feel, well, kinda knackering?
And be honest, how well is it actually working for you? That’s always your touchstone for any approach. If it’s working for you, awesome, stick to your guns! If it’s not - even if it was working for a while but it’s not anymore - time to try something new.
Think like Madonna here. She’s the queen of reinvention, right? You can reinvent your strategies as often as you need to. If they’re not producing the results you want, change something!
Today, let’s move away from the serious efforting we’ve been doing and try something new:
A few of my clients already use this to great effect.
It's about taking a playful approach to something that’s not normally a game.
When I was a student, I used to play a game with my mates during lectures where we used to count all the “um”s that a particularly boring lecturer used to pepper her talks with. We’d tally them in our notebooks like a prisoner tallies off days on the cell wall. It made sure we were paying attention and it made us laugh. Win win. 🙂
If you have kids who love to get a sticker or a star on a chart for doing housework, homework or going to the dentist, that's game-ifying. If you’ve ever balled up your socks and tried to throw them into the washing basket from across the room, you’ve game-ified laundry!
Games don’t have to be complex. In fact, the simpler the better. Here’s a few examples to get you started.
Red, Yellow, Green
One of my clients - let’s call him Burt - was having a hard time staying consistent with his eating habits.
It wasn’t his “why”. Burt has one of the strongest reasons to stick with the programme that I’ve ever come across, namely that by losing the weight he needs to lose, he can have a new hip. The old hip is currently extremely painful and doesn’t like walking or standing anymore. That's motivation right there.
It wasn’t a lack of understanding either. I mean, this guy is super smart. He knew what needed to happen.
There was definitely an powerful element of eating to alleviate discomfort - constant pain and travelling long distances for work will do that to a person.
We uncovered a lot of deep rooted mindsets around food:
- showing love through sharing food
- being something of a gourmet
- food as self-care when tired or down, and so on
and a lot of unsupportive beliefs concerning weight loss:
- that it’s not something he can control
- that it doesn’t correlate with eating choices
- that it’s tenuous and liable to reverse, which is scary and disempowering
Plus some incidental “cos it’s there” eating choices - we all know what it’s like when you have a meeting and there’s biscuits on the table, amirite??
We made some inroads whilst uncovering all this stuff, but the game we introduced was, if you’ll excuse the phrase, a game-changer.
Here it is - it’s dead simple.
- Keep a food journal.
- Write all your awesome food choices in green.
- Write all your somewhat dubious ones in yellow (these would be good choices in too great a portion size, foods that are healthy but not helpful to fat loss, that sort of thing).
- Write all your poor food choices in red.
Your goal - to make the page COMPLETELY green.
Over time, Burt did just that. His food journal moved from all the colours on the page to totally green. Then, those green pages started to stack up. It’s rare that I see any red in there any more.
What was awesome about this was three-fold.
- It allowed me to get a really clear view on his understanding of how to eat for fat loss.
- It allowed him to get focused on a really specific measure that told him how consistent he was being.
- And it allowed him to realise how pleasurable eating this way can taste, feel and be.
As hoped, it precedented the best streak of weight loss we’ve ever seen. Burt is down over 20kgs in the last 12 months.
More than half of that happened after we introduced this game.
That, right there, is the power of a game. It’s not complex. It’s almost ridiculously simple in fact. But it works.
This is my game that keeps me on it with my fitness. It's a weekly planner chart on my wall, divided into weeks and days. This where I write the training sessions I’ve done.
My aim: 3 sessions a week.
My brain doesn’t like seeing empty boxes on this chart of mine.
If there aren’t 3 sessions chalked up for the week, I chase down those missing sessions the following week in order to create a 3xp/wk average by the time I tally the chart when it runs out.
Simple. But effective.
Another client, let's call him Ernie, has invented a game where he scores himself 0-3 points depending on how well he put together his meal. 0 points would be, for example, burger and chips; 3 points would be a chicken salad.
At the end of the day Ernie tallies his points - the closer to 9 he gets, the better he feels.
He tallies again at the end of the week. This is direct feedback for him on the quality of his food choices throughout each week - there’s no guessing, no forgetting or misremembering. He knows exactly what’s occurred.
Alongside this, Ernie keeps some data - how his weight has changed, whether he’s lost inches etc. Whatever matters to him. From that, he can see how he’s changing based on his success in making great food choices - or vice versa.
This is an awesome game.
- It’s completely personal, in the sense that you get to choose what’s a 0, 1, 2 and 3-pointer meal for you.
- PLUS, it draws a direct connection between consistency of habits and real results.
Your turn! First, figure out what you want to improve. You probably already know, but have a think and make it as specific as you can.
Then get creative! How can you make a game out of it? How can you play with what you need to do? Keep it light, humorous, use music, colour, stories, pictures, rhymes, videos - anything that speaks to your right brain and feels good.
Life is meant to be fun - and that includes the bit where we improve ourselves because we do stuff we enjoy more consistently than anything else. Health improvement is a serious business, but that doesn’t mean we have to take it or ourselves so seriously.
Less efforting, more play!