When I first started doing push-ups back when I was a teenager, I couldn’t do more than three of them for a loooong time. Years it seems. Just three push-ups. I was starting with zero tone in my muscles, so it took a long while to build up a base.
By the time I was in my 20’s I could 20. In my 30’s I could do 30. On my 50th birthday, I did 50 (albeit with a small break). After all these years of intermittent practice (I don’t do push-ups every day), it’s something my body knows how to do, reliably.
But it took consistent practice and time to make it so. And, if I take too long of a break, I lose some ground.
Building the strength of your “I’m good” muscle will also take time and practice to become reliable.
Your “No Thanks” muscle is the one you exercise every time you choose not to have a sweet, a drink, or a snack you really aren’t hungry for. It’s the thought you say to yourself as you stand in front of the fridge or pantry, looking for something to eat but not sure what you want. It is the thought and the words that give you permission to act differently than you did before.
Other terms for “I’m good” include: “I’m all set,” and “No thanks.” These are particularly helpful in social situations when you’re being offered something you don’t want to have.
But all these terms need to be exercised and practiced. You can’t expect to be standing in front of 3 Thanksgiving pies, with fresh whipped cream, and pull out one of these exit strategies unless you’ve practiced it. You just won’t have the muscle memory of doing it before. Your brain will default to what it has said before, likely, “I’ll just have a little bit of each one.”
To be successful with behavior change, you’ll need to interrupt old patterns of thought and behavior, and introduce new thoughts and new habits, and strengthen them through repetition.
I often liken the strengthening of neural pathways to taking a shortcut across a lawn: the first few times you’d barely notice that someone had walked that way. But before long, it becomes a well-worn path that is clearly distinguishable. Then, you always take the short cut.
Similarly, the first time you do something the neural pathway for it in your brain makes a weak connection, both in thought and in action. The first time I went to do push-ups, my brain had no pathway to traverse and my body didn’t have any strength. The next time I did it, the mental pathway and muscle strengthen a bit more. And the next time a bit more. It continues on in this way, strengthening both habits of thought and action until it is firmly the default pathway.
So…you want to start strengthening your mental and physical pathways for saying “no thanks,” “I’m all set,” and “I’m good.” Even when you just are talking to yourself! Like when you’re reaching for an extra helping, or standing in front of the fridge.
This is a particularly useful tool to have at-the-ready over the holidays, as there is an overabundance of sweets everywhere you look. If navigating the holidays seems daunting, you may be interested in my new 8-week program Crushing It Through The Holidays.