Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Steering Clear & Other Strategies for Success

As some of you may know, I work as a prevention specialist at a local mental health center.  What that means, is that the bulk of my job is spent in classrooms throughout the county teaching life skills to students, in an effort to prevent alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use.  One lesson I teach is about peer pressure refusal strategies... you know, ways to handle peer pressure, such as saying no, walking away, etc.  One of the strategies I teach though, is something called "steer clear".  This strategy teaches that if you know something is going to be going on somewhere, where you think you might be pressured to do something you don't think is right, you simply steer clear of that situation and avoid it entirely.  This strategy can also be applied to weight loss.  For example, if I don't want to be tempted to get a Big Mac, steer clear of McDonald's.  Seems simple, right? 

However, just like kids can't always steer clear of those tempting pressure-filled situations, neither can adults when it comes to their weaknesses--mine in particular happens to be food.  Sometimes there are people in our lives that either intentionally or unintentionally can sabotage our efforts for success.  You would think that family and friends would be supportive when you're trying to better your life, but it doesn't always work that way.  I've decided to take the concepts I teach in my peer pressure lesson (for 5th graders, btw), and apply it to my own life.  I need to take the skills that I teach to the kids and utilize them for me when I find myself in those situations where I'm feeling pressured or not supported by others to reach my goals.  There are nine strategies I teach, and I think just about every one of them can be useful in certain situations I might find myself in... maybe you can relate?

1.  Say No.  This seems like the most obvious way to combat the pressure to do something you don't think you should do.  It's oftentimes easier said than done though, and this strategy works best when combined with another, because unfortunately sometimes "No, thank you" isn't enough to stop the pressure.
2.  Broken Record.  The broken record strategy just means that we keep repeating our reasoning not to do something if someone continue to pressure us.  For example, if someone offers me a slice of cake & I politely say, "No, I don't care for any," then they continue to tell me how delicious it is, I would simply repeat the same phrase--like a record stuck repeating itself.
3.  Ignore.  I find this most effective when I have people in my life who make little side comments about how I "can't have this, since you're on your diet" or things of that nature.  No matter how many times I reiterate that I can have anything I like, and that I'm not "on a diet", it doesn't get through to some people.  In those cases, rather than waste my energy on setting the record straight, sometimes it's just better to ignore the comments & move on, knowing that I'm doing something good for my body & my future.
4.  Walk Away.  Sometimes removing yourself from the situation can be the best thing, especially because some people can be relentless in their efforts to negatively influence you.  Are your coworkers trying to tempt you into eating the cake in the breakroom?  Leave the breakroom!  Sometimes this strategy is best used in combination with another.  As I mentioned before, sometimes saying "no" isn't enough--if the pressure continues, just excuse yourself & get outta there!
5.  Better Idea.  When teaching this to the kids, I tell them that if someone tries to pressure you to do something you're uncomfortable with, suggest something else instead.  So if they are wanting you to smoke, for example, you could say "I have a better idea, why don't we go hang out at my house instead."  Well, adults can use the same technique when pressured to eat badly.  A lot of times old friends want to catch up over lunch or dinner.  If they suggest somewhere that I know I'll be tempted to eat something not-so-good, I can always suggest a better idea--a restaurant that I know I can eat something at and still stay on-plan for the day!
6.  Make an Excuse.  As an adult, it seems silly to tell you to make an excuse to get yourself out of the situation, but if these other strategies don't work, use it!  Someone brought donuts to the staff meeting this morning?  "No thank you, I'm still full from breakfast".  It's as easy as that--just make an excuse to diffuse the situation!
7.  State the Facts.  Sometimes people honestly just don't know that you're trying to eat healthy or avoid certain foods.  You can't blame someone for politely sharing their food or inviting you out for an unhealthy meal if they don't know what your situation is!  So state the facts--let them know that you're trying to lose weight or eat more consciously and that you appreciate their offer, but no thanks!  Even when you share this info with some people, they may still pressure you, but utilizing one of these other strategies can help you with dealing with that situation if/when it arises!
8.  Reverse the Pressure.  Those people I just mentioned that still pressure you despite knowing the facts?  Well, reverse the pressure on them!  This is most easily done by turning the situation back to them & asking them why they continue to ask you, despite knowing that you're trying to do something good for yourself.  It puts them on the spot, which sometimes can quiet their mouths!
9.  Steer Clear.  Once again, we're back to what I started with, steering clear.  This is a really important strategy for me to practice and use.  You wouldn't encourage an alcoholic to go to a bar to get a glass of water, so avoid tempting situations that you know would make you feel weak & likely to give in or "relapse". 

This weekend Eddie and I had date night (see our date blog at http://www.onecheapdate.wordpress.com/ ) and we went overboard with popcorn & pop at the movies.  I had intentions to get their "healthy" option, which is a cup or two of popcorn, water, and a nutrigrain bar... but at the last minute, the decision was made to get a large popcorn & pop.  Had I steered clear of the concession stand entirely, the crisis would have been averted.  And you know what, even though I had points for that popcorn & pop, it didn't just end there... my body had a taste of the "old lifestyle" food, and it craved it all weekend.  The next day, I felt like I couldn't get satisfied.  I was constantly hungry & wanting sugar & salt.  Junk led to me wanting more junk.  Thankfully after about 24 hours, those cravings went away, and despite the cravings we still stayed within points all weekend.  However, if I'd used some of these strategies, I may not have found myself in a jeopardizing situation. 

So while I know that these 9 refusal strategies might seem childish or common sense, they really can be helpful to keep in mind.  I know I'll be more aware of them now & try to use them on a more regular basis to deal with the enablers in my life & those that try to sabotage my success.  What do you think?  Could you appy these to your life?


Jennifer Blose said...

Love the new background!

I guess I never really knew 100% what your job entailed. I actually have a friend that was doing the same job (although she just got a teaching job so isn't doing that anymore.)

Anonymous said...

so funny because I recently started taking my lunch to work daily so I could steer clear of the cafeteria altogether. Before I would walk in with "getting the salad bar" in my head and I would walk out with "deep fried popper" or pasta or something other than salad.

Then I re-read a bit of Dr. P's book and remembered what he said about making your environment one you can succeed in and if it meant changing a routine to take away temptation, then by all means change it. So I did! Now I never have to worry about a carrot cake staring me down or another food that I would be tempted should I see/smell it.

It's good you can put what you do for a living into practical use for your own life. Well done lady!

Anonymous said...

Preach, preach, preach. I'll start taking you seriously when you've made this work and don't just come for a day, write an inspirational blog, and go back to food.

Sharyn Jayne said...

Teale > I am excited to see you taking "Action Steps" to the 'theory' of Weight Watchers, A program with proven success with lifestyle changes. You are SO right, it is not a diet, it is a choice in regards to changes of lifestyle, one hour at a time. There are many of us sitting back and watching > Poor Anonymous in the Above< He seems to be a mean spirited miserable person with his own issues and challenges. However, there are some of us that are inspired by your committment ... and some of us are inspired to start taking our own personal Action Steps. Thank you for giving your time and voice to a segment of society that has obesity as a challenge. And poor Assonymous >in the above post< can you make him go away? He has become totally absorbed with his own stinkin' thinkin' ...

hdenam said...

I love the "steer clear"! I actually did that! :) I was on my way to class. I was so rushed and didn't grab my drink or eat BK. So I was going to drive through good ole mcdonalds. But I knew if I did I would get something unhealthy. So I drove right passed and got a drink out of the vending machine! Thanks for this post!