I’ve heard great reports from participants of the 4-week telecourse, Design Your Health, with my favorite life coaches at the Handel Group.
Most of the participants had already taken my 10-Day Detox Challenge and had experienced amazing results. They felt good and were inspired to accomplish their health goals, but they were also wise enough to realize it would take a real inner fight to undo lifelong patterns.
Some had serious health issues, others had lots of weight to lose and still others just felt the desire to stay on the path of good health in a culture that pushes addiction, instant gratification and SUGAR!
The Design Your Health telecourse focuses on the secret ingredients to achieving your health goals: avoiding the biggest pitfalls and increasing self-coaching skills.
I asked Laurie Gerber, co-president of Handel Group Life Coaching and the leader of the Design Your Health group, what were some of the most significant things the participants learned. For Laurie, what stood out the most was how weak their dreaming skills were at the start of the course.
“Participants hardly knew how to dream at all, so discouraged by past failures and the long road ahead. Each time we asked them to dream, what would come out was something like:
- To not feel like crap
- To feel some sort of control
- To stop binging
“Those are not dreams. They are fixes of “something wrong.” And this focus on something being wrong with them is part of the problem! All the negativity had to end.”
Laurie explained that even after she helped them to see this, people still could barely dream, and they’d write lackluster things like:
- I feel healthy
- I can do whatever I want
- I fit back into my clothes
Eventually, they drilled down deeper to get at what they meant by those things and why they cared about them, and that’s when things got juicy:
- When I look in the mirror, I am so proud of who I am and what I am capable of
- My body gives me pleasure each day
- I wake up feeling vibrant and ready for my day
- I am full of energy to play with my kids and deliver excellent service to my customers
I was inspired by these dreams. Aren’t you? They give me goose bumps, and that’s one of Handel’s favorite instructions.
Get a feel for how The Handel Method® could benefit you.
Then, I asked Laurie about the obstacles the participants tackled, because I knew that would be the toughest part of her job. People had good information and they had experienced how good it feels to eat well, but it’s so hard for most people to stick to what works.
She told me about how they tackled the incessant excuses, saying, “Now, armed with inspiring dreams, the participants could start to take action. We trained them to do this in the form of promises. For example, they might promise to stay on the Detox plan for four more weeks, to try a different version, to stay off sugar or to drink eight glasses of water a day. But as soon as they faced sustaining radical change, those pesky voices started taking away their mental energy, claiming it wasn’t worth it, it was too hard, nobody supported them or they’d fail just as they had before.
“The participants learned to call these voices ‘brat‘ or ’chicken‘ and to name those rantings excuses. It was so powerful to see people finally learning that they could choose the thoughts they wanted to listen to and that just because something seemed true didn’t mean it was. In fact, many participants saw that they themselves had been proving their own belief that they would fail and, by that same power, could prove instead that they’d succeed.”
It’s so powerful to see that we create our reality, but I was wondering what Laurie advised when participants would encounter real “extenuating circumstances.”
Inevitably, during the four weeks, people had to encounter visiting relatives, vacations, holidays, special occasions, and of course, just “really rough days.” This isn’t a matter of negative thinking; this is a real issue to deal with, right?
Laurie noted this was what impressed her most about the group of health seekers. Whereas all these circumstances in the past had been deemed appropriate “excuses” for poor eating and self-care practices, after a few weeks of coaching, nobody felt they could get away with the same logic.
Instead, everyone defined true extenuating circumstances that might warrant straying from their promises and found that there weren’t really many at all! Instead, changes of scenery and characters simply required better, braver communication with the people involved in order to get fed and supported in ways that made sticking to the program easier.
This not only kept the health momentum in full gear, it fostered better relationships and some pivotal family breakthroughs.
I was so encouraged to hear about these triumphs, but I couldn’t help thinking about how people would really sustain the progress over time, especially people who aren’t goody two shoes!
That’s when Laurie reminded me how to leverage the power of “Consequences.” I’ve shared this method with some of you before, but you may need a refresher, as it’s highly misunderstood. It’s not the same as a punishment, and it is very effective if employed consistently and playfully. Laurie explained it like this:
“Sometimes urges, old habits and the pull of the inner “brat” were too strong, and that’s when you have to bring in the secret weapon. If you are having trouble sticking to a particular promise, you design an artificial (home-made) immediate consequence and report in on it. For example, if you ignore the food plan for a day, you have to clean the garage for two hours the next day or you have to give up social media. For some, it works well to use additional or annoying workouts as the deterrent. For example, if one participant didn’t prep her meals the night before, she’d have to do 100 burpees the next day.”
I’m so proud of the participants for being creative and diligent with their consequences. Instead of using them as punishments or making them too terrible, they picked healthy but annoying consequences that served as great reminders to stick to what they set out to do. And they found, if they strayed from the program, paying the consequence restored their faith in themselves and helped them get back on track.
This process is not about right/wrong, good/bad or morality. So often we beat up on ourselves and really feel like bad people if we don’t take care of ourselves or if we overeat. But that mentality doesn’t get us anywhere. It’s time to turn this into something positive instead, a chance not only to get healthier, but also to learn how powerful and self-loving we can be.
Thanks to the Design Your Health group for being such a heart-y bunch and sharing these awesome secret “ingredients” from which everyone can benefit!
Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD