Saturday, October 29, 2011

From Convenience to Compliance

This principle is pretty obvious, yet I don't always take advantage of it:

Convenience tends to encourage compliance.

I had not even finished typing that sentence before I had a SHOULD ATTACK.

I SHOULD be committed no matter what.

I SHOULD do what is right, rather than what is convenient.


But, contrary to what prevalent societal messages might imply, there is no virtue in doing something the hard way when it isn't necessary. Why not make doing the right thing convenient?

You know why all that junk is displayed in the checkout lane--things you might not walk across the store to buy but will occasionally toss into your cart while you are waiting? Sure you do. So does the store. The more convenient it is for you, the more likely you are to buy it.

Consider these questions about your health and fitness lifestyle:

1) What kinds of foods are the easiest to grab in your home at this moment?

2) If you decided that you wanted to exercise right now (or immediately before or after work), what would you have to do first? Find your walking shoes? Move furniture around and find a video or a mat or your pedometer or some weights? Drive across town to a gym?

3) How about your support system? When you need help related to eating or exercise, what do you do? Do you have support and/or resources already identified which you can access quickly and easily, when the need arises?

Here's my guess. If the answers were that 1) you usually have healthy snacks readily available and no candy or baked goods lying around under your nose 2) you already have a nearby place to exercise with a workout routine you've established and know exactly where your exercise shoes, clothes, and equipment are, and 3) you have a good support system in place, then I'll bet you are doing well with your fitness goals.

Most of us know, at least generally, what kinds of choices will move us in the direction of health and wellness, but it's easy to let them slide. The key is making it as easy as possible to keep the promises you make to yourself, like eating better and moving more.

I've done fairly well with my own weight loss goals, and I'm physically stronger than I was 6 months ago, mostly from exercising regularly at a local gym, but there's definitely still room for improvement. It's time for me to take a look at my day-to-day routine and find new ways to encourage consistently healthy choices and discourage choices that set me back or slow me down.

How about you? What are some things you've done to make it easier to stay on track? Are there additional changes you can put in place to facilitate doing the right thing? I'd love to hear your thoughts.


  1. You make some very valid points to ponder, Lenora. In fact, many of which have crossed my mind in the recent months as to why my motivation has been stagnant to kick start the fitness portion to my health goals. The result of my "thinking through this" has been centered on changing my goals to fit life as it is today versus yesterday.

    I found that the major culprit to my lack of motivation was my work week commute. Commuting via car over 10 hours a week can drain any ounce of motivation left in me at the end of the day to workout. I had to come to the realization that my schedule has drastically changed, and the way I "did" exercise back then when it worked for me, is different than I can do it today. Light bulb transformation! CHANGE your routine and goals and it will allow you to be consistent.

    The answer was to join a local gym near work (with Chicago winters on the loom)so that I can get my workout in immediately after work and before the drive home. In fact, the drive home will be more enjoyable with a workout to boost, and traffic reduced to a tolerable commute. In fact, my first day was yesterday and it was the best motivator I could ask for right now, in pursuit of my goals.

    The key, as you say, is to make it as easy as possible to keep the promises to ourselves, which may just mean to go lightly into any fitness and weight-loss program, but with a quiet sort of passion. My body certainly is not as spry as it use to be, but I am slowly training my mind to entertain a more suitable fitness program that will help me remain consistent yet energized to my goal. I don't have to pound the treadmill for hours or lift weights above the weight and range my older body can tolerate. By changing my fitness routine, I allow change to take place in my body, and will be pleasantly surprised by the results. Realistic expectations is a good thing!

    Thanks for your post! You encourage me. You write beautifully!

    Rita P.

  2. Thank you for posting this article. I have this saying planted deep in my heart, "if you fail to plan, you plan to fail." To be successful on this weightloss journey I'm on, I must take time to plan and schedule! It's a bummer, because I love to be spontaneous! But, there are great rewards in learning to discipline yourself. I have a drawer in my refrigerater that is full of foods that are just the right portion. So, when I'm hungry, I just open that drawer and pull out my healthy snack. My gym bag is always packed. I even made a packing check list that I can glance over to make sure I haven't forgotten anything! I know from experience that showing up at the gym without my music totally weakens my workout. I have a full gallon of water ready each day, and I don't go to bed until I've drink it all! Yes, being prepared is a key ingredient to success!

    Thank you for sharing! Sweet Blessings!

  3. Rita and Sharon, thank you so much for these great comments!

    Rita, I SO relate to what you have said here and the need to rethink your plan to fit into the life (and body and understanding) you have today, as opposed to 10 or 15 years ago. On the surface it's easy to assume that if it worked before it should work again, but the reality is that we have to adapt to current conditions and live in the present. I LOVE your solution to workout near your workplace before the commute home, which will now be easier because of lower traffic and because you will have your workout under your belt rather than dragging yourself to the gym at the very end of a long day! Great thinking! I'm excited for you.

    I especially like what you said about "a quiet sort of passion." That really struck a chord with me, because there are times when I am just not interested in a lot of fanfare or tackling an enormous challenge like a marathon or climbing a mountain, even though I'm inspired by those who do. Passion, devotion, discipline, and even enthusiasm can be expressed in different equally valid ways. Again, the choices I would have made a decade ago may be different than the ones that work best for me today. Love your insights!

    Sharon, I couldn't agree more, and it's clear that you've really thought through this carefully (perhaps with some trial and error along the way?) and developed a plan that really works for you. I appreciate what you said about liking to be spontaneous and yet recognizing the great rewards of discipline, because to me the glaring paradox of discipline is how freeing it can actually be. Planning ahead can free you from considerable worry, guilt, and regret and allow you to devote more energy and attention to far more productive matters.

    I LOVE that drawer of healthy foods in just the right portions in your fridge! How FREEING to be able to open the drawer and choose from a variety of good options, rather than that familiar uncomfortable feeling of being hungry but not wanting to grab something you shouldn't and not wanting to ignore your hunger or have to take the time to figure out something that you can eat without blowing it, or stop and fix something, or even go buy something--all while hungry and very possibly tempted to have "a little extra." Great solution!

    Would you believe I am actually a professional musician, yet I have never gotten around to loading some workout music onto my iPhone? (Kinda like the cobbler's children have no shoes...) The truth is I always have music playing in my head, so I rarely even think about using an iPod or something like that, but I really don't care for much of the music that is playing on the speakers at my gym, so I need to remedy that and give myself easier access to something I find a little more inspirational when I work out.

    There are lots of great ideas, here. Thank you both for sharing! I hope others will keep adding to the list. Sometimes what seems obvious or automatic to one person may not even have occurred to someone else, and I often find it helpful to be reminded even of things I know but haven't been doing consistently. So no idea is to small or silly to mention. I look forward to whatever people choose to share!

  4. I've been examining the yin and yang of passion and desire in art - and now, here it is in food also. No philosophical conclusions yet, but thanks for adding some flavor to the subject!

  5. for everyone who has felt frustrated and discouraged by the inability to keep weight off, there are biological reasons that we have evolved to gain back weight.

  6. Interesting, L.J. It certainly sounds more compelling and elegant that way than when I frame the topic in terms of "convenience and compliance!" :)

    I really appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment.

    And thank you for posting this article, swhchurch. I hadn't seen it, but I will be very interested to watch for further study in this area. I'd especially like to know if there are "natural" ways (i.e. short of taking hormones) to raise leptin levels. For example, the article makes no mention of exercise being a part of the study, although conventional wisdom has long held that regular exercise somehow helps lower what is sometimes called the setpoint and makes it easier to maintain weight loss than relying on dietary changes alone. I wonder if exercise might raise leptin levels?