If you’ve made some changes to your lifestyle since your heart attack that’s great news. Eating more healthily, stopping smoking, losing weight and getting active can help you recover.
It’s most likely you’ll feel the urge to throw caution to the wind from time to time – when you’re feeling low, perhaps, or surrounded by temptation. Here are five of the most common motivation-sapping situations – and some practical ideas1 to help you stay on track.
1 The celebration conundrum
You’re invited out for a celebration. How do you resist the temptation to eat and drink too much, and join the others outside for a cigarette?
Having some sort of reward lined up for yourself for the next day may help. If you feel yourself tempted by things you’d be better off not having, visualise yourself enjoying a new CD or chatting to a friend the following day. It’s also absolutely fine to speak to the organisers ahead of time and tell them you have particular dietary requirements. That way, there should be a plate of lovely food ready for you, and you’ll feel special.
2 The bad weather trap
Has bad weather stopped you getting out, seeing friends and exercising? What do you do to avoid wallowing in front of the TV and feeling gloomy about what life has to offer after a heart attack?
Reminding yourself why you’re trying to make healthy changes to your life may help. Make a list of reasons why you’re trying to be more active and how you and your family will feel if you become healthier.
Plan your week with alternatives for bad weather. If it’s too wet to walk, you could go swimming or try out an exercise video at home (pick one that’s suitable for your fitness level, and check with your doctor if you’re worried). Or see if any of the shopping centres near you organise indoor walks and invite a friend to go with you.
3 The tiredness = treats equation
Your energy is low and you fancy a treat to perk you up. But how do you stop one biscuit turning into the whole packet? Or a glass of wine turning into the whole bottle?
Most people find that until their new, healthier changes have become habits, it’s better to avoid those temptations. Having one drink or one biscuit can be too dangerous, so at first, don’t have them in the house. Once your new habits are established, you can try having just one drink or one biscuit, and see if you can keep to just one. Don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t. Instead, give yourself gentle reminders about why you’ve cut down in the first place.
4 The boredom backlash
You’re bored with healthy eating. Without salt and fat, everything seems tasteless. What’s the alternative?
Trying to learn more about food and healthy alternatives to help make your diet more interesting may help. Use olive oil instead of butter. Use naturally sweet foods, such as fruit, rather than refined sugar. Experiment with herbs and spices to give flavour without salt – try basil with tomato sauce, rosemary and lemon with chicken, ginger and garlic with curries or stir-fries. Aim to try out two new recipes a week. Give yourself a reward – perhaps a healthy meal out with family or friends – once you’ve cooked eight new recipes in a month.
5 The ‘you only live once’ temptation
Feeling low, you ring a friend who you can count on to cheer you up. They say they’re coming round with a bottle of wine and some crisps, because you only live once. How do you resist their offer?
Trying to reach a compromise may help. Ask them to come round, but explain why you don’t want the crisps and wine. If you’re finding it hard going saying no, remind yourself of all the reasons why you’re trying to give up things that aren’t good for your heart. Your friend should understand.
If you do slip up and eat or drink more than you should, don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember all your achievements before the slip. If you’ve done well for three or four weeks, for instance, one hiccup won’t undo all that good.
FIND OUT MORE:
Planning healthy treats for yourself can help you stay motivated. Get some ideas here.
1All tips: Permission to publish, Clare Moloney, Health psychology specialist, Atlantis Healthcare