“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” - Aristotle
Health is something that needs to be nurtured on a daily basis. It is our our habits that will determine how healthy our bodies are, not what we do for one day or one week or even one month. Habits are acquired patterns of behaviour that have become nearly or completely involuntary. That means we're often not even aware of them.
It is not always easy to change these ingrained unhealthy patterns, especially since we have evolved to seek out foods that are calorie dense to help us to withstand periods of scarcity. Foods high in fat, sugar and salt hook people by triggering the exact chemical reactions triggered in the brain by hard drugs, or nicotine, or alcohol. To learn more about this you can check out 'The Pleasure Trap' by Dr. Douglas Lisle.
There are steps we can take to make the acquisition of new habits a little easier. First, know your why. What are your motivations? Get really clear about why you want to change. Remember how great it feels to be full of energy and enthusiasm for life; how your energy affects all those around you; and how your children learn from your example.
Plan for success. Write down your goal. Choose a start date. Write down exactly what you’re going to do, how you’re going to be accountable, what your rewards will be, what obstacles you might face, what your triggers are. And then commit yourself to your goal. Tell the world about it. Write about it on your blog and your facebook page, tell your family, friends, co-workers, etc. The more people that know, the better. Set up a system where you will remain accountable. Making this public commitment will make you think twice before you buy that tub of rocky road.
Identify your triggers. Every habit has at least one trigger — an event that immediately precedes the habit. Create a positive habit to replace the negative habit for each of the triggers. For example, if you have a hard time eating with health in mind when you go out, figure out how you will deal with this situation. Maybe going to a different restaurant that has more healthy options, or eating a big salad before you go will prevent you from ordering your old fatty favourite with a side of supersized fries. If you tend to buy impulse foods when you shop, keep healthy snacks in your purse and drink lots of water so you're not shopping when you're hungry.
There will likely be times when you falter (or at least want to). Who will you turn to when you need encouragement? How will you get yourself back on track? What will keep you going when you forget your reasons? Do your research and keep motivated! Find strategies for success, potential obstacles, tools that will help you be successful (blogs, magazines, books, forums, success stories). The Happy Herbivore posts 'Herbie of the Week' success stories that I find motivating. Identify your support system.... people you can go to who will be supportive of your healthy choices and who will help you stay on track, and arrange to meet with them regularly.
Keep track of your success. A journal helps you succeed because it reminds you to be consistent. It keeps you aware of what you’re actually doing and reminds you how far you have come. It motivates you, because you want to write good things in there.
Reward yourself regularly and often. Buy yourself a healthy treat, get a massage, schedule an extra hour to yourself, have a hot bath, or buy yourself a new pair of shoes! This is very important. You want your brain to start making the connection between a healthy diet and positive emotions.
If you slip, just get back on the boat... right away!! Figure out why you slipped, and plan to beat that obstacle next time. Then be as consistent as possible until the habit becomes ingrained. If you quit, you’ve let the failure beat you. But if you reset your resolve, and learn from your failure, the failure then becomes a stepping stone to success, so don't beat yourself up!
The good news is that good habits are just as addictive as bad habits!! Like brushing your teeth, healthy habits eventually start to feel like the norm and you will feel off when you don' t do them.
What habits do you want to change and why?? Start with one at a time. Focus on one habit every month or two, and just imagine where you'll be by the end of the year!
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