Do you get easily overwhelmed whenever you try to engage in a new habit? Is it hard, having a lifestyle change, because of that barrier overwhelm brings?
Dr. Adrienne Youdim is a board-certified Internist and is the host of the podcast Health Bite. She specializes in medical weight loss and nutrition, and she is aiming to transform the weight loss narrative into one that is both empowering and compassionate – inspiring people to live more physically and emotionally fulfilling lives through evidence-based strategies that actually show results.
In this episode, Dr. Adrienne gives you nine simple and doable tips you can try at home to overcome overwhelm as you go on your journey towards weight loss.
What you will learn from this episode:
“Overwhelm is natural. When we start to engage in something new, it is a common human reaction to step into overwhelm, because our minds resist change.” – Dr. Adrienne Youdim
01:03 – Introduction to today’s topic: Overwhelm as a common barrier to habit change
01:57 – Tip #1: Manage your nervous system. Give yourself a reality check, that nothing is broken and should be feared
02:51 – Tip #2: Engage in a deep breathing practice. Offer yourself a mantra to redirect your thoughts
04:17 – Tip #3: Consider a brain dump. Dump all the things out of your brain onto a piece of paper
05:25 – Tip #4: Check your perfectionism. Remember that your desire to do the thing perfectly will also result in inaction
06:16 – Tip #5: A critical step towards moving yourself to action is defining all the steps, simplifying them, then getting started
08:15 – Tip #6: Eliminate choice. More choice leads to more overwhelm
09:01 – Tip #7: Don’t forget about the power of routine. It is our engine for change
10:37 – Tip #8: Celebrate your wins, no matter how small
11:24 – Tip #9: Be kind. Positive self-acceptance is a powerful motivator for habit change
12:39 – All for you: Recognize that overwhelm is a human tendency. Have empathy for that reaction
“Keep in mind that feeling overwhelmed will do precisely what we don't wish for ourselves; overwhelm will point us to inaction. So, managing overwhelm is a critical step to achieving habit change.” – Dr. Adrienne Youdim
“Doing something is better than doing nothing.” – Dr. Adrienne Youdim
“Fretting and stressing about what you have or have not done in the past – these will take you away from the task at hand. All you need to contend with is this very moment; that's all. And a simple mantra of your own choosing can help remind you of that fact.” – Dr. Adrienne Youdim
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Today, I want to talk to you about a common barrier to habit change, and that is overwhelm.
Sometimes, it can feel so overwhelming to engage in a new habit, to change your lifestyle, and of course, to lose weight. But whether it is weight loss you seek or any kind of change or new habit you wish to implement, the pearls in this episode are for you.
Welcome back to Health Bite, my podcast where I offer you small, actionable bites towards healthy weight and weight management through greater mental, emotional, and physical well-being. I'm your host, Dr. Adrienne Youdim, and I created this podcast as an alternative to the noise, to offer you knowledge-based guidance in the areas of nutrition, fitness, habit change, and mindset that I use with my patients in my medical practice every day to help them achieve healthy weight and health.
INTRODUCTION TO TODAY’S TOPIC: OVERWHELM AS A COMMON BARRIER TO HABIT CHANGE
So as I mentioned, overwhelm is a common barrier to habit change. We engage in new habits with excitement, with impatience, with desire for doing more and doing better, and all of that can lead to a sense of overwhelm. But keep in mind that feeling overwhelmed will do precisely what we don't wish for ourselves; overwhelm will point us to inaction. So, managing overwhelm is a critical step to achieving habit change. And this is a point that I want you to keep in mind, which is doing something is better than doing nothing. So, managing overwhelm, again, is critical to implementing change.
TIP #1: MANAGE YOUR NERVOUS SYSTEM. GIVE YOURSELF A REALITY CHECK, THAT NOTHING IS BROKEN AND SHOULD BE FEARED
So where do we begin?
First, manage your nervous system. Overwhelm is an offshoot of fear and anxiety, and both of these feelings will trigger your sympathetic nervous system, the fight, flight, or freeze part of your nervous system. So, the first step is to give yourself a reality check. Nothing is broken. Nothing should be fearful. While you may feel like a tiger is chasing you, because that is precisely the same trigger that you are experiencing when you feel fear and anxiety, remind yourself that this is an opportunity. You are taking steps to do better and to implement positive change. So, adjust yourself and take hold of your nervous system.
TIP #2: ENGAGE IN A DEEP BREATHING PRACTICE
The most impactful step is breathing. As I've mentioned in prior episodes, deep breathing practices can quickly regulate your nervous system and offshoot the physical reaction you have to overwhelm, anxiety, and fear. A deep breathing practice can quickly bring down your heart rate, bring down your blood pressure, which will relay this information back to your brain and notify your brain to take a step back, to step into a feeling of ease and wellbeing so that you can focus and think about the task at hand.
Offer yourself a mantra to redirect your thoughts. In the book Hungry For More, I use the mantra just this. Remind yourself that all you have to concern yourself with in this moment is this moment. Try and prevent your mind from racing to all the things that you wish to accomplish in the future. Fretting and stressing about what you have or have not done in the past – these will take you away from the task at hand. All you need to contend with is this very moment; that's all. And a simple mantra of your own choosing can help remind you of that fact.
TIP #3: CONSIDER A BRAIN DUMP. DUMP ALL THE THINGS OUT OF YOUR BRAIN ONTO A PIECE OF PAPER
Next, consider a brain dump. This is a writing practice that I call brain dump, which is essentially dumping all the things out of your brain into or onto a piece of paper. Sometimes, when you're juggling multiple ideas and thoughts in your mind, they need a place to go for safekeeping, and writing in a journal gives you that space. It offers you that place to dump all the thoughts for safekeeping.
Write down all the things that come to mind. Perhaps, for example, you're trying to start a healthy eating plan or start exercising or engage in better sleep. Write down all the things, and then choose one. Trying to make multiple changes at once is a set up for failure, so don't set yourself up for that. Pick one item on the list that calls to you the most – the one that feels most doable – and set out to achieve just that.
TIP #4: CHECK YOUR PERFECTIONISM. REMEMBER THAT YOUR DESIRE TO DO THE THING PERFECTLY WILL ALSO RESULT IN INACTION
Check your perfectionism. Remember that your desire to do the thing perfectly will also result in inaction. It's actually a form of sabotage. You will continue to wait, continue to procrastinate until all the pieces feel right, until all the pieces feel perfect, which, of course, is not a realistic perspective. As they say, there is no such thing as perfect, and in your gut, you know this to be true, but you may still be striving for perfection anyway, and your fear of failure will sabotage you. Remember that good is better than perfect. Strive for good and don't let perfectionism get in the way of a good start.
TIP #5: A CRITICAL STEP TOWARDS MOVING YOURSELF TO ACTION IS DEFINING ALL THE STEPS, SIMPLIFYING THEM, THEN GETTING STARTED
So next, how do you move yourself towards action? What needs to happen in order for you to do the thing? Again, if it's healthy eating, what supplies do you need? Create a shopping list. Stock up on all the foods that you need. Can you simplify? For example, if you don't have time to cut and clean veggies, can you purchase pre-cut bags? What about frozen veggies? Contrary to popular belief, frozen is still healthy. In fact, when you freeze, you preserve the nutrients in the frozen form. So, make it easy by simplifying.
Sometimes, when I hear patients or clients want to engage in a healthy eating plan, they want to do all of the things. Go to the farmer's market, buy fresh, buy organic, cut and prep themselves. These are all great ideas, but if they get in the way of doing and starting the thing, then they are going to get in the way. So, make it easy by simplifying.
What about pre-cooked proteins? Maybe you can buy a rotisserie chicken or already grilled. Can you keep canned fish in the pantry? Consider boiling a dozen eggs so that you have them on hand for a quick snack or to add extra protein to a salad. When is the best time to prep? If you know that you're going to be busy all week, can you plan in advance by making a weekly menu and prepping meals on weekends? Once you have a few go-to meals, then don't recreate the wheel. Repeat what has worked.
So, a critical step towards moving yourself to action is defining all of the steps, simplifying the steps, and then getting started, which leads me to the next tip – eliminate choice.
TIP #6: ELIMINATE CHOICE. MORE CHOICE LEADS TO MORE OVERWHELM
I just mentioned, if you have a few good go-to meals, repeat, repeat, repeat. We like to give ourselves choices, but actually, more choice leads to more overwhelm. And believe it or not, studies have shown that less choice leads to more happiness; there's actually a great TED talk about this. And studies have also shown that less choice is associated with greater results in weight loss. So don't opt for more choice. Eliminate choice and make it simple by having go-to’s that are tried and true and reliable.
TIP #7: DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE POWER OF ROUTINE. IT IS OUR ENGINE FOR CHANGE
Don't forget about the power of routine. Routine is really our engine for change.
Be specific about the how, what, and where of your desired activity. Don't say “I want to exercise.” Pick the activity, the time of the day, and then commit to it without negotiation. With our busy lives and busy minds, we can quickly slip into decision fatigue. Have you ever found yourself starting your day with “I'll get up and go for a walk,” and then find yourself negotiating? “Maybe I'll go after lunch. Maybe I'll go after work, before bedtime. Maybe I'll go with my friend tomorrow.” Not only are you kicking the can down the curb, but all that thinking and negotiating is exhausting and it's taking you away from the doing.
So, create a routine and stick to it. Avoid negotiation with yourself in order to avoid decision fatigue. And remember that routine is structure and safety. Think about what we do for our children. We have bedtime routines. We have mealtime routines. Routines are a structure. They're like bookends that create a sense of comfort and safety. So, give yourself that structure. Give yourself that safety net by providing and offering yourself routine.
TIP #8: CELEBRATE YOUR WINS, NO MATTER HOW SMALL
Finally, celebrate your wins, no matter how small. In fact, remind yourself that no win is too small to celebrate. We respond to positive reinforcement, even when that positivity comes from ourselves. So, acknowledge what went right and celebrate that; doing so will energize you to do more. The alternative – badgering yourself for not enough – is yet another form of sabotage. So, start small. Celebrate your wins and use them to build more positive habits and behaviors. Remember that acknowledging the positive begets more positive.
TIP #9: BE KIND. POSITIVE SELF-ACCEPTANCE IS A POWERFUL MOTIVATOR FOR HABIT CHANGE
And last but not least, be kind. Positive self-acceptance, which is acceptance for yourself as you are in this very moment, is a powerful motivator for habit change, and actually, the science backs this up. When we are able to have positive self-acceptance, when we're able to accept ourselves for who we are as we are in this very moment, then we are better able, we are more able to engage in positive habits and behaviors. Why? Because you're not wasting your energy and resources worrying and badgering and fretting over what you could have, should have, or haven't done. All of that negative energy is taking you away from the task at hand. And also, it's demoralizing when we aren’t self-accepting of ourselves. So do what's kind for yourself and do what is effective in terms of habit change by engaging in positive self-acceptance.
ALL FOR YOU: RECOGNIZE THAT OVERWHELM IS A HUMAN TENDENCY. HAVE EMPATHY FOR THAT REACTION
Overwhelm is natural. When we start to engage in something new, it is a common human reaction to step into overwhelm, because our minds resist change, even if change is good for us. We like to engage in what we are used to and what is comfortable to us, and change upsets that comfort in the short term. So, recognize that this feeling of overwhelm is a human tendency. Have empathy for that human reaction and use these strategies to help overcome it.
I wish you strength and power, inspiration and motivation in engaging in your lifestyle changes, and I hope that the tips and pearls in this podcast will get you one step closer towards getting to your goals. And that's all for this week.
I want to thank you for your time. I know that time is precious and I truly appreciate you spending some of that preciousness with me. If you enjoyed the tips in this episode, please share with someone that you love and consider subscribing to us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on my website at www.dradrienneyoudim.com so that you don't miss an episode.
Have a great week and I look forward to seeing you next time. Bye now.