“You should be VERY uncomfortable right now. You are making change. Change is never comfortable.”
This is a mantra I’ve started saying in the fitness classes I teach at Equinox. I say it during the third set of an intense weight-lifting circuit. I say it in the 30th minute of Tabata, a high intensity interval training class. I repeat it to myself in my own training when I start my 5th mile on an interval training run. Change is not comfortable. As an athlete, we become familiar with this discomfort. Physically, it is easy to pinpoint: we gasp for breath, our legs shake, and we struggle to maintain a quick speed. We might even feel nauseas as we teeter on our lactic threshold. Discomfort is an understatement. Our brains might start telling us “Stop, stop, stop. You can’t, you can’t, you can’t”.
Yet we push through the discomfort. We strive to become stronger, healthier, and more physically fit. We know that a few minutes of discomfort will mean a sense of gratification the rest of the day and another step in our gradual progression for self-improvement.
This same notion of change can apply to our non-physical activities too. Looking at our diets and the way we eat, many of us want to make change. We have our eyes on the goals of optimal health, with the finish line of looking good and feeling great. One of the biggest challenges I hear, though, comes with how to make change. After a lifetime of training where we’ve eaten diets based around chicken breast and skim milk, transitioning to a plant-based diet can seem like a terrifying 180. Yes, it will be uncomfortable. Allow yourself time to adapt to a new way of thinking about food. Forgive yourself when you have an off-day or fall back into old habits.
I read a recent article about change by Dr. Stan Goldberg, PhD on the Psychology Today website, 10 Rules of Change. He offers great strategies to address some of the challenges of making change.
Change is frightening. To overcome the fear of change, examine the consequences. Don’t let your fear of the unknown overshadow your motivation.
Change can frighten those around you as well. Prepare your observers. Family, friends, and loved ones can be intimidated and frightened by your new goals and behaviors. Be open with them about why and how you are changing, but make changes slowly
Take baby steps. It took me about 2 years to fully adopt a plant-based diet. It was a gradual shift, as my body and palette craved less meat and dairy…and started tasting more delicious plants.
Simplify. You want to eat more plant-based foods. You don’t need to overhaul your kitchen or find all new recipes. You can start simply but swapping out the meat in some of your favorite dishes with plant-based options like beans, quinoa, potatoes, frozen peas, or brown rice.
Enjoy the act. If you like eating out, find a cool new vegan restaurant to try. If you like taking pictures, post photos the next time you try a new plant-based recipe.
Making change means venturing outside of your comfort zone. You will face challenges with yourself, your habits, and your social interactions. However, keep an eye on the finish line. The goal of feeling great and experiencing optimal health is worth a little short-term discomfort. No one runs a marathon overnight. Change happens one step at a time.
Stan Goldberg, Ph.D., is a private speech therapist (www.speechstrategies.com (link is external)), a change consultant and the author of four books on change.