Thursday, July 12, 2012

Good Habits Are As Addictive As Bad Habits

It's funny, in the past few weeks I've come to understand that my previous manner of eating - eating Unclean - was more a habit than anything else. A bad habit. You fall into patterns, and if you are like me, you find the path of least resistance. You find the easy way, the convenient way. The pre-packaged, direct from the factory to my love handles method of eating. It's a way of quelling hunger without providing your body the fuel it so desperately craves.

Bad habits.

But what if you decided to change a bad habit? What if you recognize that an ingrained pattern you've fallen into is really the wrong way? ( Think about that cigarette, that Diet Coke, that 3 pm bag of M&Ms? ) What if you made your habit something different? Something better?

What then?

Breaking a bad habit is hard. Replacing it with a good habit helps reinforce the positive nature of the change. Don't try and tackle every bad habit all at once; you're only setting yourself up for failure. One at a time.

For example, that 3 pm candy you got from the vending machine. Replace that 3 times in the next week with a different snack - still a sweet, but a little healthier. Perhaps a handful of organic graham crackers? What about some apple slices with almond butter?

The following week, try switching out those M&Ms 4 times that week. This time, try switching your sweet treat to something more filling and also Clean. Hummus with vegetables, maybe?
The point is to ingrain a new habit - a good habit, to replace the one that is detrimental. Do it slowly. It's said that any repetive act done for 21 days or more can easily become a new don't give up so quickly.

My bad habit was being mostly sedentary. I sit behind a computer all day at the Engineering Salt Mines(tm), slaving away. I would come home from work, cook dinner for my family, do ( low impact ) housewife like chores, then sit in front of my home computer all evening doing a variety of tasks. All sedentary.

My good habit? Now every afternoon when I look at the little clock on my desktop and see it is 5 minutes to 5 pm...I get excited. I get to go to the park after work, I get to exercise. I've changed my routine, with the support of my family, to make time for exercise. To finally make time for me.

It didn't happen overnight. I started walking once or twice a week. First on weekends, when I have more personal time. Then a week or two later...I branched out to include a weekday. Slowly, over the following weeks, I added a day here and there. Now? I'm in the park every single day of the week. I've been there ( even for a short time ) on the of the days where it has topped 100 degrees here in my area. I've been there in a light rain, where previously I would have used the rain as an excuse not to go out. I've even been there as I've worked to heal a mild groin pull.

The point is...if you are motivated enough to make a change in your life, work to identify those small, specific habits that are holding you back from your ultimate goal. Work on the habits, one at a time.

My co-worker and I were talking about lifestyle changes - and her own significant weight loss over the past 2 years. She said something about willpower that struck me.

"Willpower is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets."

Breaking bad habits is a matter of willpower combined with repetitive motion. Of wanting a future goal more than you want satisfaction in the here and now. Of knowing certain negative attributes are holding you back from that future goal, from that full potential. It's the good habit of Clean Eating. It's the good habit of exercise. It's the good habit of loving yourself and the body you were born with.