“Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.”
~ George Washington Carver
In the previous exercise, you will have worked on building your list of reasons to begin or maintain a habit. This is the second exercise based on the Transtheoretical Model of Behavioural Change and it focuses on the excuses you give yourself to give up on a beneficial and healthy habit.
Charles R. Snyder, a psychology professor at the University of Kansas, and his colleagues formulated the first comprehensive theory on excuses. Their research suggests that whilst some excuses are healthy coping mechanisms used to deal with everyday stress, they can grow to become a chronic condition that can harm growth and possibly ruin your life.
Many of the excuses are obvious, like when you say to yourself that you just don’t feel like doing it, or maybe when your friends talk you into going to a party rather than work towards your goals like you had planned. Unfortunately, there are many that are much more subtle and difficult to spot and many of them were programmed into you at such a young age that you probably aren’t even aware they exist or the effect they have on you. These are the thoughts, or excuses, that run through your mind and inhibit you from starting and continuing to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle. These thoughts are a large part of why you don’t succeed.
Here are some more that you may recognise:
- I experience cravings when I feel hungry
- I couldn’t live without bread/pasta/cakes, etc.
- I would have to give up my favourite foods
- Comfort foods are what I use to deal with stress
- The foods I eat are part of my family’s culture
- I feel vain when I am trying to improve my appearance
- I would feel deprived without the foods I enjoy eating
- I might fail
- I can get really irritable when I’m hungry
- Changing takes a lot of time and effort
- I feel demoralised that I can’t lose weight
- My family or friends don’t want me to change
- I might feel left out at parties or in restaurants
he object of this exercise is to write down as many of the excuses you give yourself for not following through with your habits and then ‘reframe’ them to neutralise their effect. This will reduce the Impulsiveness that causes you to give up on your habits and at the same time increase the Expectation that you can and will reach your weight loss goal.
Let’s take the four main excuses people give for not exercising according to a survey of over six million people as examples, and then reframe each excuse and turn them into positive reasons to succeed.
- I’m too worried about what everyone else is thinking about me
- I don’t have the right clothes, equipment or perfect technique
- I certainly shouldn’t be spending that amount of money on myself
- I should be spending my free time with my children instead
I’m too worried about what everyone else is thinking about me
Many people worry about this, but it doesn’t take long to do a search online to find lots of encouraging support from people who are experienced gym-goers, and learn what they really think about people who have just started to take exercise:
“Most of the time when I see ppl outta shape at the gym I have this thought that commends their presence there. Like, ‘good for you’.”
So, the next time you are exercising or about to go to the gym, you may want to reframe the situation and say to yourself something like this:
“OK, I may be worried about what everyone thinks about me, but that is just my imagination. According to what I have read, most people support me and are willing me on. And, the more experience I get, the better I will become…”
Once you have the reframe written down you can then lead your train of thought back to your list of Reasons To Succeed. Together they move the importance of exercise up the priority ladder in your mind.
I don’t have the right clothes, equipment or perfect technique
Thanks to YouTube there are thousands of hours of high quality instructional videos available to learn from before you even set foot in the gym. The top trainers in the world will give you detailed information on how to train properly and safely, and if you were to watch just a few hours, you will know more about the proper technique than 99% of the other people in the gym with you. Remember too, that the people who do train regularly love it when people ask them questions about training technique.
You might say to yourself:
“I may not know or have the perfect technique, but doing any movement or exercise is better than doing nothing at all. And now that I’ve watched some videos, I will be doing better than before, and practice makes perfect…
“…Plus, doing some vigorous exercise seems to energise me for the rest of the day and I don’t need a coffee in the afternoon to keep me awake.”
I certainly shouldn’t be spending that amount of money on myself
“If I used the same logic with my car and didn’t service it regularly it would soon break down and the cost to fix it would be far higher than the cost of the service. The same is true with my body, except I can’t replace the parts like I can with a car…
“…and taking the time to exercise is proven to be good for my health, gives me energy, boosts my confidence and is free to do. Doing exercise will add years to my life, help me lose weight and boost my immunity.”
I should be spending my free time with my children instead
“If I go to the gym I feel better about myself and that helps me enjoy my time more with the children. Also, I set a good example for my children and in a time of a growing obesity epidemic it is important to instill good health principles in their minds so they don’t succumb to overeating, obesity, and possibly even diabetes.”
Here are five other common excuses you may recognise that can keep you overweight:
But I deserve this chocolate
“Yes, I do deserve this chocolate, but not as much as I deserve to be slim and happy. The chocolate will give me pleasure now, but the extra calories and weight will make me unhappy for the rest of my life and possibly even cause a negative effect on my children.”
I’ve ruined it anyway, so why not go all the way?
“It’s OK. I know I have slipped, but every extra mouthful can equal anything from 30-60 extra calories I then have to lose tomorrow. I may as well take a deep breath and be proud of myself that I am stopping right now.”
I ran 3 miles today so I earned this splurge
“Yes, I did really well, but my goal is to burn calories and lose weight, not do more exercise and stay overweight. 3 miles is only about 200-300 calories and that is only 2 glasses of wine or 1 chocolate bar. I will have walked 3 miles for nothing!”
I’m super stressed
“Yes, I do feel stressed, but I’ll drink a few glasses of water, take a couple of nice deep breaths and think about how proud I will be if I continue with my healthy lifestyle. Then I will feel better.”
Life’s too short. Eat what you want!
“No, I plan on improving my life right now and enjoy it as much as other people who follow a healthy lifestyle.”
If you have ever heard of affirmations, then you may recognise a similarity. However, these statements are precise, personal, relevant and proven by rigorous research to work.
Take some time through the day to write down all the excuses you give yourself to not maintain your desired healthy lifestyle. You can quickly switch your phone on and add them to your Google Form or note them down in your journal. Then, when you get home and have some time, think of a counter to reframe the excuse that will get you motivated to keep on track and not slip into your old habits. You can then link that reframe to some of your Reasons to Succeed.
“The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bullshit story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it.”
~ Jordan Belfort