‘Dim the lights’ to reach your goals – Health and fitness blog by Dr Nancy Priston

Nancy Priston Cancer Support UK's new Health Ambassador

Nancy Priston, Cancer Support UK’s new Health Ambassador

We know life can be incredibly tough for people undergoing treatment for cancer or even during the post treatment recovery phase. There is so much to think about, particularly when your body is affected by surgery and treatment, yet, exercise, diet and healthy living are an important part of your cancer journey.

In her new blog series for Cancer Support UK, our new Health and Fitness Ambassador, Dr Nancy Priston, aims to help you reframe your thinking about your levels of activity and healthy living generally. The strategies Nancy uses are designed to support your progress and to help you feel better as you work towards your objectives.


‘Dim the lights’ to reach your goals

It is not unusual for people who are keen to make changes to their diet, or improve their fitness, to think they need to embark on a strict diet or start a structured and sometimes very demanding training regime.

They start with great enthusiasm, but their initial verve can often falter, to be replaced by disappointment, when they find it difficult to maintain the exact plan laid out.

The all or nothing mindset is one of the biggest issues, which keeps people from making meaningful progress towards their health and fitness goals.

I’m sure we’ve all struggled with this – I know I have – and I know many of my clients do, too.

You start introducing some changes to your diet or exercise regime, you’re diligent and follow it to the letter, and maybe start to see some results. But then life happens, you miss a few workouts, or eat something you deem unhealthy and suddenly everything seems to go to pot.

There will always be days when it is much harder to stick to a plan. Your motivation disappears and you feel defeated, frustrated, and discouraged.

Somehow one meal or day feels like it overrides weeks of progress. You’re hard on yourself and start to fall back into old habits and before you know it your progress stalls.

You think it’s not worth it and don’t even bother trying to be ‘good’. Then after a while, you feel the need to work on improving your diet or fitness and the whole process starts again.

This type of mentality is like a light switch, it’s either on or off. You’re either committed to your goals and the switch is on, or you’re not and the switch is firmly off.

Yet it doesn’t have to be this way and it certainly isn’t a realistic mindset to have for long-term, sustainable progress.

Instead, try to think about why you want to improve your fitness or eating habits. Ultimately, it’s to feel healthier and happier, which in turn will bring you satisfaction, a sense of achievement and even joy.

That means you’ll have to learn to manage life and all it entails, and incorporate these challenges into your new habits of fitness and healthiness.

You’ll need to accept that sometimes you’ll do things that don’t fit perfectly into your goals and that’s ok. It’s not about perfection, it’s about consistency. If you make things too restrictive for yourself, you’ll make it harder to reach your objectives.

Rather than being either ‘on’ or ‘off’, instead think of your endeavours as a dimmer switch. You can dial the intensity of your effort up or down, depending on what’s going on in your life, yet you will still be able to see your goals.

Recognise that sometimes it’s ok to indulge or to not exercise and dial down your expectations accordingly during that time. Practice a little self-compassion and understand that progress isn’t linear. Being able to incorporate adversity in your journey is progress in itself and, with a little patience, you will reach your goals.

About Cancer Coach

If you need help managing your life post cancer treatment, please consider joining our free Cancer Coach programme. Cancer Coach is available to anyone previously diagnosed with a stage 3 or below cancer and who has now completed their physical cancer treatment and is experiencing low mood, anxiety, worry, and who doesn’t know how to move forward in their recovery. The course takes participants through a series of weekly facilitated group sessions, run for a six-week period over the telephone or online video. Participants benefit from the peer support of the sessions, as well as learning tools and techniques for improving emotional wellbeing, which can help them on their recovery journey. The course is free, completely confidential and accessible from the comfort and privacy of home. If you’ve completed cancer treatment and are wondering how to cope, then please apply to join the course. Simply complete the application form online. If you have any questions, please email cancercoach@cancersupportuk.org or call: 020 3983 7616.