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2X4 moments

31 Jan

The first step in making any change is to be aware of the need for change. I would argue that most big people are very aware of their size. You know you might be overweight when…(insert a list of Jeff Foxworthy type one-liners here). We get it…we see it every morning in the mirror. So overweight people are aware of their current state, but are they aware of the need for change?

While it may seem obvious, it is not always for us. It takes a “2X4” moment. What’s that? When you get hit upside the head with some harsh reality. Sometimes it is a comment from an “innocent” little kid “lady, why do you have three tummies?” Sometimes it is something we hear from a family member “mommy, how come you never play soccer with me?” Sometimes it comes in a difficult conversation with your doctor “if you don’t lose weight, you are not going to be able to have children”. Sometimes you stand at the edge of giving up a dream “we can’t put you on active duty at your current size”. Everybody has a reason…you just don’t know it until you know.

Then you need to be aware of WHAT IT TAKES to make a change. To get something different, you need to do something different. Whatever it is you are doing (or not doing) right now with eating and exercise is contributing to your current state and it all needs to change (not 100% right now, take baby steps). Sacrifices will need to be made. Change the way you think, what you believe about yourself and what you are doing. There is no magic pill or formula. It takes hard work EVERY DAY and sometimes all frickin’ day long.

Okay, so we are now aware of the need for change and the discomfort it will bring…is that enough? Almost. A 2X4 moment for me was being aware of what I was doing throughout the day. The best example is what I was eating. In my head I wasn’t eating that much. I wasn’t really sure, but I made a good guess that eating wasn’t the problem. That was until I started writing down what I ate and calculating calories. Suddenly I have evidence to show that I wasn’t eating the way I thought I was. Having a food/activity journal helped me be aware of what I was doing because I had to write it down and look at it. No more mindless eating. No more “expensive” calories choices. See “Evidence and Food Police

Even more important was becoming aware of my automatic pilot. Tired? Eat something. Stressed? Eat something. Lunch time? Eat something. Watching TV? Eat something. Super stressed? Eat a lot….and on and on. Eating was my “go to” reaction to everything and it took me quite a while to realize it.

To get something different I had to do something different. So I picked up the 2X4 and knocked autopilot out of the captain’s chair. At first, I was just happy to realize what I was doing and why. Then I got better at being able to see when it was coming. Once I was able to predict it and realize what was happening, I eventually got better at managing the moment. The more I am aware of what I am doing, the higher the chance I can do something different. Awareness works as a first step in changing behavior.




Readiness to change, Prosci style

29 Jan

Warning: this post is me geeking out on change theory…keep reading…it will be worth it.

One of the coolest parts of my education at Northwestern was learning about change management. We had 2 classes on it to talk about the theory behind it and how to do it. We studied quite a few models, evaluated a change of our own, and used a case study to design and test a change.  Through these classes, I learned about the Prosci Change management certification.

Prosci is an organization that has studied change management for years. They publish leading research on what works in change management, as well as several books and training programs. I am a HUGE Prosci fan. Instructional design wise, the certification program was a solid learning experience incorporating lecture, group activity, practical application, case study, and fun. Seriously, can’t say it enough….one of the best certifications I have under my belt. I have used their method to much success to get stuff done at work. More importantly, it was Prosci that provided a key insight for me on weight loss well before I was ready to take action.

Before I attended the certification class, I read their book “ADKAR: A Model for Change in Business, Government and Our Community”. Here is the basic ADKAR model:

  • Awareness of the need for change
  • Desire to participate and support the change
  • Knowledge on how to change
  • Ability to implement required skills and behaviors
  • Reinforcement to sustain the change

To get it from the original source, go here:

The basic premise is that you have to move people from one step to the next in order for change to happen. People will not change if they are not aware of the need to change. If they are aware of the need and desire to do it, next comes providing the knowledge to do it. You have to know something about it before you can do something about it (ability). That change needs to be carried out over time so reinforcement is necessary. Change won’t work by announcing a change (awareness) and then reinforcing behavior…you have to fill in the why, what and how. (There is much more to the ADKAR model, but that is all you need to know for now).

What struck me is the brilliance of this change management model. You can use it to see whether you are ready to change or not. It also walks you through a 5 phase process to lead change at the big overview level. Then on a smaller level, it helps you manage the day-to-day or moment-to-moment transition that happens during change. Both are guided by ADKAR. Let me explain.

Here is assessing my readiness to change Prosci style:

“Miss Gramiak, do you know you could lose some weight?”  Yes doctor, I am painfully aware EVERY DAY that I need to lose a significant amount of weight. Thanks for pointing that out. Awareness? Check.

“Don’t you want to lose weight? Then you can shop in more stores” Well, yes I do. Like nothing else. Who in their right mind would say they are perfectly happy being significantly overweight and limited by their body size? Desire? Check.

“You know, weight loss is really like basic math…eat less and move more.”  Again, thank you Dr Obvious. If you read my patient information sheet you will see I have an MPH which means I spent quite a bit of time studying the impacts of healthy eating, regular physical activity, and stress management. I KNOW it works…significant evidence exists to prove it. Now doing it myself…that’s another story. And what I don’t already know right now, I can easily access on the Internet or by talking to friends, etc. Knowledge? Check.

“All you need to do is buy a good pair of shoes and walk 30 minutes a day. Move more than you do now and you will feel better.” Gosh Dr Obvious, I know how to walk….but do I want to? (going back to desire here) I know that walking will make me sweat…can’t do that during the day. Am I able to schedule some time before or after work to do it?  Probably. Ability? Check.

“Just keep up the good work. You will feel great so that will motivate you to keep going. If you need to, buy yourself a treat when you reach a small goal.” Wow, Dr Obvious. That was really inspiring…because changing your life is that easy. So glad we had this talk. I do like your idea of buying stuff to reward my success and keep going.  Reinforcement? Check.

I think I can take the real brilliance of ADKAR and make a whole series of posts this week. Until then, remember that you have to do something different to get something different. Try walking through the ADKAR steps…how does your story fit? If you are skipping a step, your “something different” is to go back and take it one at a time.

“I’d do anything to be that size”

21 Jan

One of the absolute stupidest things I ever heard a fat person say was “I would do anything to be that size” as they saw a skinny person walk by. Really? Would you really? I mean, really? I have been there. I remember wishing on many occasions, “man I’d almost anything to be able to fit in to a size 10.”  REALLY?


This is where we go to dream land and think about all the big sacrifices or crazy things we would do to be that smaller size. We see ourselves robbing a bank, going on a spy mission, stealing, cutting off a finger, giving away our first born. Maybe these are too extreme. Maybe dream land is more like we would hold our breath and promise to be more grateful every day for our new life. We promise to spend more time with family or to give back to the community “if only” and that “one day” we could be the ideal size. We hang our hat on the “one day someone will come rescue me from here” and all will be better with the snap of a finger and until then I’m just powerless.


Because this big weight loss thing is soooo out of my reach. Man…I’d do anything to be that size….sigh…


Really?  Anything? Think about it. Think about where you are right now and what you are doing. Think about your daily schedule. What 1 thing in your day would you sacrifice to be at a healthier weight? If you are not ready to sacrifice 1 thing, no matter how small it may be, you are not ready to “do anything to be that size”.


Will you change the way you spend your time? Would you drink more water? Would you cut out mindless eating? Would you get off your butt more? Would you plan out your meals in advance? Would you have healthy snacks on hand? Would you choose to eat less sugary foods? Would you write down all the food you eat all of the time? Would you fill half your plate with vegetables at every meal? What about eating one less serving of crap food a day?


Gosh Anne…all of those things sound so hard…and some of them I don’t WANT to do…what kind of life would that be anyway? I mean, how do you live without bread?  Okay, that’s fine. But you are willing to “anything” to lose weight, right? So what does “anything” mean then? Don’t start focusing on a huge shift in your life. Start by picking 1 thing and do it. What is one habit you want to pick up? What is one thing you can do to be more mindful of what you are eating? What is one way you can incorporate more exercise in to your day?  Start small and build…it all adds up. This is not a race. You are not in a competition. Give yourself time to make the transition.


To get something different you need to do something different. Pick your one “anything” and get to work.



Going to extremes

7 Oct

Five years ago, 2 friends and I decided we would lose 30 pounds in time for our upcoming October birthdays (we were all turning 30 within 3 weeks of each other, hence the 30 pound target). We met up to walk, weighed in once a week, and tried to be encouraging to each other. I have no idea if any of us were successful. I know I wasn’t.

Flash forward to this summer. I was somewhere between 20 and 30 pounds down and I started thinking about a weight goal. What if I lost 35 pounds by the time I’m 35?  It sure sounds catchy and would make a dreaded birthday something to celebrate. First I did the math and looked at my current average weight loss.  35 pounds would be a doable, as it was just a little above what I had been averaging already. I asked my trainer and he said it was doable.  I told myself that if I did it, I would buy myself a new car. Okay, it’s on. Let’s roll.

Three weeks in I was struggling. The overachiever in me was worried…what if I couldn’t do it? I had a few weeks of low weight loss because of some poor eating choices. I was discouraged. October 14 was sooner and sooner and the weight was coming off slower.  I didn’t meet the goal 5 years ago, and I didn’t want a repeat disappointment. At the same time, my own expectations were becoming a barrier for me. It was torture…not measuring up, eating crap, feeling bad, worrying…Why am I holding myself to this random weight goal and worrying about it if it is making me crazy?  And so I let it go. Either way, I knew I would be close. I bought the new car and got along with life.

Last week (or 2 weeks to my birthday), I stood 10 pounds away from “35 by 35”. Mmmm….this is tempting. Do I give it a try? 10 pounds in 2 weeks is aggressive. I knew it would be extreme no matter what I did, but I wasn’t sure if it was possible. I talked to Tony.  He said it is doable, but I would have to do exactly what he told me. HA! Yeah right, me listen? Well, I did. I worked out like crazy and was in “bland land” eating wise all week. I took fish oil and even tried coconut oil. (TOTALLY disgusting…it’s like eating super sweet crisco). If I can do anything for 10 weeks, I sure can do this for 2 weeks.

Thursday night I went to my dad’s house to get on the treadmill. I resented every minute of it. I was tired and hungry and sick of eating chicken and spinach. I seriously thought about stopping for an ice cream cone at DQ on the way home. That is when I knew this extreme is no longer good for me.


I handled it well for a week, but I also didn’t like the mid-workout crash or feeling hungry throughout the day. I proved to myself that I could do it if I want to. I knew it paid off before I even got on the scale. But nothing, NOTHING is worth going back to food, the success I had gained, and the confidence that has grown. Friday night was weigh in…down 6 pounds. HOLY MOSES! That’s a lot. The greedy, overachiever thought about the possible number next Friday…that would be awesome!  The rational, healthy me knew that another day of bland land would send me in to relapse. I no longer cared if I didn’t make 35 pounds by 35….what was more important to me was to maintain the sustainable, healthy life I had found. I’m not in a race.  What is amazing is that this is all now my choice and in my control.


Tony delivered exactly what I asked for, but the minute bland land changed from a tool to a barrier it was done. There are reasons to go to extremes and there are reasons to not. I still might hit “35 by 35”, who knows….you will have to come back next week to find out. What I did learn is more important…I can do what I set my mind to, I am in control of my choices, I can identify and use the tools I need to help me, and my new life is sustainable. I want something different and so I do something different. I try new things. I challenge myself. I go to extremes, but I also recognize my limitations and I adjust accordingly.

I’m tempted…

28 Sep

This morning I came to work to find this on the treat cart:


These treats appeared as a reward for the whole department completing a survey. Quite the reward huh?

For the first time in a long time I am tempted. Will it be the end of the world if I have a cookie? No. Will it be worth it? Probably not. Today will be the day of “what do you want more” and walking the long way around the office. To get something different, I need to do something different and that includes rewards. 6 months ago I would be all over these cookies. What do I want more? How can I get more?

Redefine rewards. A cookie is not a reward…it is an extra 15 minutes of running. I will like the sugar rush, but will soon have a sugar crash after…leading to more cookies. Mentally and physically, crap food is not rewarding. I will tell you what is rewarding…a killer workout, running my best time in a long time, sit ups, swinging a kettle ball… Exercise is the best choice. You may struggle and hate every minute of it, but it pays off. Physically your heart is pumping, you burn calories, and your brain releases all the feel good hormones. This helps take the urgency or the edge off of stress and you get to feel good for making a good decision for yourself.

Rewards are important to keep your motivation going. I buy myself a new pair of running shoes every 20 pounds. Today I will go shopping at lunch and treat myself to new under wear (real exciting, I know). I may be tempted to get some new workout clothes too. Even more, this might be the day for breaking 100 sit ups, getting me closer to a size 14 and more new clothes. Cookies are tempting but work and progress is rewarding. I chose the later. I choose me. I choose better. And somehow I’m no longer tempted.

Work in progress

28 Sep

I started my weight loss journey in May, got serious in June and have been committed to it every day since. It was an ending to the “old me” and a step in to completely unknown territory….the neutral zone…also known as chaos. What is life like when you actually manage your stress instead of eating it? What is life like eating tons of vegetables and no bread? What is it like to run because you want to? What is it like to sleep great and have energy all day? What if I don’t know how to…? What if I can’t…? What if I’m not strong enough?  All the unknowns and the doubt…lots to think about. So today I took some time to reflect on the last few months.

I did a side-by-side comparison of where I was and where I am now. HOLY COW. See what I mean?

I seriously cannot believe it.  Look at these pictures! I can’t believe I let myself get that big. I can’t believe I am where I am now. I can’t believe all that has happened in between.

I feel like I am back to my old self. I went out and did almost 4 miles today. My eating was clean, my energy was high. Things are looking good. Truth is, I am still a work in progress.  Sometimes it feels (and probably looks) easy. Other times it’s a battle. Life in this neutral zone is tough, but I’m getting used to it. I’m learning a new way to think, be, and do. I wouldn’t say this “new me” is established quite yet. For now this girl remains a work in progress, and that is good enough for me.

Like money in the bank

17 Sep

This year I am hitting a somewhat milestone birthday and I am not looking forward to it. So to give myself something to be excited about I decided Denver will buy his mom a nice piece of jewelry…$1000 worth of bling. (Yes, my dog is very generous!) I decided I would do this the responsible way and save up for it instead of putting it on a credit card. Here’s what I did.


I decided to save $1000. I paid my regular bills, took care of my car, went grocery shopping, and occasionally splurged on new running shoes or clothes. After all, I deserved the reward because of all the hard work I have been doing. Every week I would check my bank account balance and frown. No change…what the heck? I would start the next week hopeful. My “new plan” would be to take out some cash from the ATM and only spend that on food. That worked until Thursday when I ran out of cash and had to buy my lunch with my debit card for the rest of the week. Then I was invited to go to Wild Fire on Saturday night. Yum! It is kind of an expensive place, but figured it would be okay since I don’t eat there often. My bill was $75 but well worth it.  Mmmmmm….I love me some steak and cabernet! The next morning I logged on to check my bank account balance. Dang it! Not only have I not saved anything this month, I ended up a little in the red (a pair of running shoes somehow made it to the credit card).


New plan. Now I am going to check my bank balance every morning. That way I will know where I stand every day before I spend any money. The number went up and down and up and down, stayed the same a few days, then back down. The bills got paid, the groceries were purchased, the gas tank in the car was full. And here I am again…no $1000…not even $100. What the heck? I mean, look at all I have been doing…I think about saving money every day. I check my balances. It’s not like I can quit spending money. Mr Mortgage and Mr Electric are going to be knocking on the door. I have to buy clothes and food and gas for the car too. Why isn’t this working?


I am looking for change at the wrong level. “Money in the bank” is not what I am going to do to end up with $1000. Instead, it is my daily thoughts and actions that will determine whether or not I get that $1000 saved. First, I need to set a budget. Second, I need to stick to it. I need to believe that I am worth that new jewelry and decide I want it more than any other thing I can buy. I may decide to put $100 from every paycheck aside before I spend any more money that month. I may decide to start shopping the grocery sale papers a little smarter. I may decide to drop cable TV or cut back on what I will spend on entertainment. There will be times I am tempted to buy another pair of running shoes, how will I decide whether I really need them or not? I will be invited out to dinner, how am I going to plan for that? There will be times when “I just need to spend money”…what am I going to do to plan to be successful in those instances?


Catching on?  Weight loss is like money in the bank. “I am going to lose weight” is not where the change takes place. “I am going to eat a certain number of calories a day” or “I am going to increase the number of vegetables I eat” or “I am going to get 45 minutes of exercise every day” is the right level of change to focus on. Eventually, all the work you are doing in these areas will add up to weight loss.


To get something different, you need to do something different. Whether you are just starting and you pick one thing, or you are well on your way and are doing several things differently, change needs to happen in what you think, do, and believe. Start small and build up the differences. They will eventually add up to success….math doesn’t lie. How do I know? This girl has focused on doing something different in how I think, eat, and move…and it has paid off in a total loss of 50 pounds. And that my friends, is worth more than money in the bank.