Tag Archives: habits

It’s not just WHAT you eat, but HOW you eat as well.

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How you eat matters.  A recent study supports what seems obvious to me:  a pleasant, relaxing eating experience leads to healthier food choices and better health.

So many people race out the door, grabbing something as they go, or they graze all day long without ever sitting down to enjoy their food.  The study looked at the eating habits of over 1000 college and university students and found that those who prepared food at home and had a set eating schedule ate healthier than those who ate “on the fly,” grabbed food at school or were distracted by video games or TV.

What a shame to miss the experience of eating!  It should be pleasurable; in my opinion, eating is one of the great pleasures of life.  Being more mindful of the experience is not only healthier, but it’s also much more enjoyable.

I know we are all in a hurry, but we can all stretch ourselves a bit to improve the experience surrounding eating.  If you never cook at home, why not try a slow cooker as the weather gets colder?  There are easy recipes that take only 10-15 minutes to assemble.  It doesn’t take any longer to order and grab takeout food.

And how about just sitting?!  If you grab something on the go, sitting really doesn’t take much more effort than standing.  In fact it is so much more relaxing.  If you are someone who drives and eats . . . bad idea!  You could have an accident or arrive somewhere with embarrassing stains on your clothes.

Start where you are and build a more pleasant routine surrounding meals.  When was the last time you lit a candle and set the table?  Even if you live alone, this transforms a meal into a relaxing moment.  It may be the only time you get to relax all day, so making it a habit makes it happen.

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Help Me Stop!!

Do you find yourself saying – screaming?! – these words (silently, or maybe not so silently) to yourself?  Want to change a habit?  I do.

Most of the habits I hear about people wanting to change are related to eating.  “I need to (want to, have to, DEFINITELY should, etc.) stop . . . . (eating after dinner, eating while watching TV, eating cookies, eating chocolate, . . . . )  Sound familiar?  Although I am not currently having trouble with food cravings, there have definitely been times in my life when I have, and I understand it.

My problem?  I have been having trouble shutting off my brain at night when it’s time to go to sleep.  I know at least part of the problem is the stimulation of tech devices (computer and phone).  I sit down to dinner, hear that little “ping” from my phone and make a note to check e-mail after I eat.  I start reading a book and think, “I should really send just one more e-mail to . . . ”  The list of distractions and “could do” list just gets longer.

So . . . I have decided to shut off my phone and cover my computer after 6pm.  So far it’s working.  I did go to the computer once or twice (“I’ll just check the weather”), forgetting my promise to myself, but the fleece jacket over my computer stopped me in my tracks – an effective reminder!

I recommend similar reminders for eating triggers.  A fleece jacket (or a sticky note) on the TV would remind TV munchers to consider their choices instead of mindlessly grabbing the bag of chips.  Whatever works to get a new habit going!  It does take some time to form new ones.  When starting the process, an obvious reminder of the commitment helps, simply because the brain is not yet considering options to the usual mindless routine.  That’s what makes habits hard to break – they are mindless.

If you have creative reminders of your own, please share them.  I would love to hear what works for you!

How My Computer Looks After 6pm

How My Computer Looks After 6pm

What are your habitual thinking patterns? Are they serving you or undoing you?

Habitual thinking patterns can easily undo the best of intentions when it comes to eating.  Because they have become habits, these thoughts play out unconsciously, which makes them so sneaky and difficult to change.  A perfect example is the all-too-common self talk that proclaims “I blew it.”  The obvious (but not really very logical) conclusion is “. . . so now it doesn’t matter any more.”

This is probably the single most damaging pattern of thinking in the quest for better health, a better weight, a smaller size, etc.  It initiates the cycle of guilt and disappointment, which never sets the stage for motivation moving forward.  Argue with me if you like, but I think you know I am right!

I had a reminder last night of how ridiculous repetitive habits of thinking can be.  It did not have to do with eating.  It had to do with sleeping, but the concept is similar.

I have been having trouble sleeping well through the night lately – very frustrating!  It seems that it is hardest to get back to sleep when I wake up around 3am.  It’s interesting, but hardly a reason to think that it should be any more difficult to get back to sleep than if I wake up at, say 2am instead.  The problem seems to be getting worse whenever I see a time starting with “3”!

I began to realize that I have been telling myself, “It’s that time.  I will now have trouble falling asleep again.”

Last night I saw the lack of logic – not to mention science – in my developing thought process.  I actually saw the humor in it when I woke up, looked up at the clock and saw that it was not just 3:00, or 3:30, but 3:33!  I laughed to myself, thinking I was truly screwed if seeing a “3” on the clock in the middle of the night meant no hope of sleep.

Now I am debating whether to hide the clock or just be aware of the ridiculousness of this thought pattern when I am faced with a dreaded “3” staring back at me in the middle of the night.  I think I’ll hide the clock.

We can’t really help it that thoughts pop into our heads, but recognizing negative patterns are forming – or have been there for a long time – allows for the chance to challenge the logic and perform a slow exorcism of the not-so-supportive thought patterns.

With the New Year on the way, what a great resolution!  How about resolving to challenge some of the negative thought patterns?  It sure beats the tired, worn-out eating resolutions so many people recycle every January 1.

Willpower: Tips for Finding More of “IT”

 
Willpower is usually much better when a person is well-fed.  Being over-hungry is like tossing your willpower right out the window!
 
 – The same can be said for pleasure from your food.  After days on end of boring, tasteless food, it is usually not long before willpower wears thin and cravings for tasty food intensify, often leading to a loss of control.  The message?  Be sure to incorporate enough enjoyment into eating on a daily basis.
 
 – Recent studies (described in a New York Times article) suggest that willpower might be more related to predictability of a reward than to our own natural ability to resist temptation.  If someone is working hard to change eating habits but is not sure they will lose weight, or when it might happen, a decision to quit could be seen as a calculated decision.  It may be more like a cost-benefit analysis than a measure of your character.  A warm brownie (yum!  now!) faces off against the more distant reward (not guaranteed) of weight loss you may or may not see in the future.
The key to developing willpower?  Set realistic weight loss or health goals and make sure the task is not too difficult.  Better yet, focus on improving what you DO, and focus less on outcome.  You determine whether or not you exercise or stop snacking after dinner for instance.  Setting a timer for 10-15 minutes is a good strategy when you feel tempted.  Often a short delay is all need to “clear a craving from your brain.
You have much less control over the number on your scale – talk about unpredictable!  Your weight will take care of itself with time and improved habits.  Focusing too much on it can be discouraging.
Waiting for the payoff on the scale is easier if day-to-day living is a manageable challenge.  That includes keeping irresistible items out of sight to limit the mental gymnastics of decision-making!  Did you know that willpower requires mental energy?  Try to minimize situations that would sap it unnecessarily.  
More predictable rewards can help too.  Instead of rewarding that wiggly number on the scale, you might reward the behavior goals you meet.  Try banking money for meeting weekly challenges – like $5 for every day you have vegetables at dinner.  Have something in mind that motivates you, maybe a new pair of shoes or dinner out (healthy, of course!).  It doesn’t matter if you would buy it anyway; feeling like you really earned it is rewarding!
Remember that you are human.  Your goals can only be met by continuing with imperfect effort, because that is all any of us can manage.  The important part is CONTINUING, not giving up.  You may surprise yourself!

“This is the most important thing I do today.”

Even on vacation, I try not to completely take a "vacation" from physical activity.

Even on vacation, I try not to completely take a “vacation” from physical activity.

Seemingly little things we do can make a HUGE difference in how the day goes.  If you are skeptical, keep reading.   Continue reading

The Importance of “Mindset”

A Driver’s Perspective (above)

In My Runner’s Mindset

The process of changing habits is a topic of huge interest to me.  It is a large part – arguably the largest part – of helping people get healthier.  For this reason, earlier this month I found myself at an all-day seminar on the subject.

One piece of new information has been rattling around in my head ever since I heard it:  Habits are permanently stored in the brain.  Wow!  That really amazed me.  Does that mean that we cannot change habits?  Of course not, but it can be very difficult without the knowledge of how it happens.  Truth be told, it is still going to be hard with better understanding, just not as hard.  Considering the health consequences of everyday habits, every advantage is super important.

This morning I learned something about habits in the best way possible – I observed it in myself.  I was driving home down a road I use at least once every day.  Once in a while – the once or twice a week I put a few miles on my running shoes –  it is also a part of my usual running route.  So here’s what happened. Continue reading