The first three days of anything requiring change are the hardest. This seems especially so when it comes to matters of health and wellness. The first three days of a new diet are a struggle — almost impossible, it seems. The first three days of a new fitness program can seem unbearably painful and difficult. The first three sessions of a therapy (physical or psychological) seem to meet with the most resistance. But this doesn’t have to be the case. And with an easier first three days, there are greater chances of success.
When people are not feeling well, they seek the advice of a healthcare provider and hope for a fast cure — or at least some measurable help — for their acute symptoms. While scientific medicine has some very strong and effective symptomatic solutions, their effects do not often last or correct the cause of an imbalance. Unsatisfied with the short-term effects of biomedicine and their illness-causing side effects, many millions of people are turning to alternative therapies for gentler and more healthful solutions.
The problem is that most Americans want to have their cake and eat it, too. In other words, they want to engage in alternative therapies like specific diets, herbal therapies, meditation and yoga sessions, mind-body modalities, and various emotional therapies. But they want the solution to be powerful and immediate. However, natural solutions take longer to help the body and, by their nature, are not toxic or harmful in the process. More importantly, natural wellness solutions often require that the person who is not well takes control and self-administers his “therapy.” This is difficult for even the most sincere and holistic-minded person to do, as we have been conditioned to expect immediate results. But fast results are not always the healthiest or longest-lasting.
One of the main reasons people claim they have started and stopped diet plans and workout routines is because they could not “get into” the program fully. The first three days were “unbearable” for them. I have also crashed and burned within the first three days of my own health goals over the years, but I was lucky to find a solution to the problem.
The solution I use with great success is to pre-empt those first three days with four pre-days. That is, I start to change my thoughts about what I will soon begin to do, and I begin making changes to my habits and routines in small steps leading up to the first of the three days. Jumping into cold water head first can be shocking and unbearable, causing you to jump right back out. However, dipping one toe and then another and then a leg and so on into the water, a little at a time, to prepare yourself physically, mentally and emotionally for the inevitable jump makes the process much easier to handle and those first three days a delight to manage. Here are some things that I do during the four days leading up to day 1 of the “first three days” of my health-changing activity.
Think From The End
Before beginning a new wellness activity, I spend some time thinking about the desired result and my reasons for wanting it. Whatever the reason, I consider it, meditate on it and think of all the wonderful things that will result from engaging in it. This gives me the emotional and mental adjustment for the need and desire for what I am about to do so that when the program gets tough (and they all do at times), I won’t quit. Being certain of why you want something and having a burning desire to achieve it make success that much easier.
One of the most common reasons people drop out of their wellness programs is lack of support. Not only do humans tend to need someone to be accountable to, but they also need to be part of a group. But often, the social network of other people is not on the same wellness path and can derail your efforts by not respecting your changing needs and behaviors. I always tell my loved ones and co-workers before I begin a new program that I am starting, and I ask them to ask me about my daily progress. Often, people who need to change cannot do so on their own; but when a group of people in different places (work or home) ask them about it, they feel accountable and are more apt to do it. Additionally, if I am fasting or changing my diet, I ask for support and buy-in from family and friends to understand and respect my changes and not be upset with me for not eating what they may be preparing for a meal.
Adjust Your Set Point
I refer to a “set point” as any metric on any topic. For instance, a set point can be six hours of sleep per night, three meals a day, 25 crunches — anything that can be measured in repetitions, hours, days, weight or on another scale. For many people entering into a diet, their food set point can be measured in terms of meals per day, servings per meal, number of items, counts of calories, carbs or fats per meal, etc.
The concept here is to know where you are required to be during the first three days of a new diet (for example). You can mitigate that stress- and diet-change jump-off point by easing into it four days prior to the start. The same goes for stretching, exercise, meditation and so on. Begin readjusting your less-healthy set point so that the drastic change required of the new activity will not require as strong a shift, making it easier on the mind and body to handle; and stick with it.
Change Your Environment
Another difficult piece that pulls many people away from ultimate success is the living environment. If you are starting a diet but have juices with high fructose corn syrup in the fridge, frozen pizza in the freezer, white bread on the counters and coffee calling your name, then these items need to be removed.
“Out of sight, out of mind” is a great saying that addresses the issue of psychological triggers. We often move on habit without thinking so. Removing the unhealthy food from sight (or throwing it in the trash!), putting the coffee pot into the closet, covering the TV (to help stay off the couch when we need to be out walking), and so on helps reduce the subconscious triggers that arise from seeing things that are counterproductive to the new endeavor.
If altering sleep is your issue, then take the television and books out of your room prior to beginning a new sleep program. If engaging in therapies like Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) or Sedona Method for changing past memories and emotional triggers, remove items and pictures and music from your surroundings that may trigger you and set you back in your success and, therefore, interfere with moving past the first three days and into the easier fourth day and beyond.
Be Specific On What Those First Three Days Entail
One of the best things you can do to support your ability to manage and get through those first three days is to know exactly what you need to do and what you need for support. For a cleanse or diet, that means having in your home and at your disposal from the first minute of day 1 all the food or juice or supplements you will need to sail through those first three days and onward. Having the food and items at your fingertips from “go” makes the start and journey through the first days easier. Without all the thinking, shopping and scrounging to do what is required, the mental strain is lifted, the anxiety of not knowing what to do is eased, and only the emotional and physiological aspects are left to contend with. If you have been shifting the emotional set point and other areas for the four days prior, as suggested, then those issues will be less of a strain and those first three days will be much easier, if not painless.
The four pre-days leading up to the first three days of a new wellness program, diet or effort are keys to helping enhance the process; make the transition on your mind, emotions and body easier; and adjust little by little. The result: The deep end dive that many people do on day 1 will not drown you and your sincere efforts. With a four-day pre-set, the first three days can actually be a delight; and day 1 becomes day 5.