I first began this post citing the reasons we have all heard over the years for the nation’s rise in obesity – sedentary lifestyles, availability of convenience foods, availability of fast foods, longer commutes and not having enough time to prepare healthy meals. All of these are definitely reasons for the increasing size of our waistbands, but I would like to provide a different look at what I think is a huge factor in our “growth” if you will. My perspective is summed up in two words. Both are independent of one another yet very much supportive of one another, habits and commitment.
I am going to first begin with habits. Old habits, the ones you have had for years, are hard to break. This is why they say, “Old habits die hard.” Whether they are good, bad or neutral in regards to your health, they are habits. It is what you know. What your body and mind know. A habit, by definition, is an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary. It’s no wonder these unhealthy bad habits are so difficult to break. Depending on what sources you read, to make a behavior in your life into a habit takes 21 days. This is not a very long period of time in the grand scheme of things. Recently, I changed some of my lifestyle habits, and I am still struggling with these changes depending on the day. Now, when I say “recent,” I am talking about changes I started more than nine months ago. Nine months!! Not 21 days. They still can be difficult.
This brings me to the other component, commitment. This variable can be equally challenging. We as a society want everything now or in some cases, yesterday. We want and can obtain almost any information in seconds with the Internet. We have access to food 24/7. I have even seen (however sad) an advertisement for a divorce in one day. Commitment takes the long haul, the unswerving attentiveness to our everyday decisions. To ingrain in ourselves healthy decisions every day takes commitment. We as a society want diets to give us instant results, pills to take away the pounds, surgery to help us eat less to lose weight. All of these interventions work in the short term, but for the long run, the results of this type of weight loss can quickly disappear if your commitment to healthy habits is not present in your everyday choices. We must be present in our everyday, every moment decisions. If we are not committed, we can lose those pounds now, but the moment we think we can slip back into our old habits or routines, the pounds find their way back onto our bodies. We think once we have lost the weight the hard work is done. Not true. The work continues with your efforts to maintain your new-to-you healthy habits for the remainder of your life.
I mentioned earlier about nine months ago I made some lifestyle changes. I then had an unhealthy BMI of 32. I am still working toward my ultimate goal and am constantly thinking about what it is I need to do to reach my goal, but I am happy to say my BMI is now 27. Although I am still in the overweight category, I am no longer obese. I am much healthier now compared to nine months ago. I feel much better, have more energy, and feel mentally and physically stronger. Do I still struggle with maintaining my healthy habits? Yes. Do I always make the absolute healthiest decisions when it comes to my diet? No. I am not perfect. No one is, but we all can work toward our health goals and make a commitment to ourselves to do what is best for our own health. We need to put ourselves first in order to be here and at our best for everyone else in our lives.
Helpful tips I have embraced to make those healthful behavior changes become habits:
- Make a commitment to yourself in writing.
- Make small changes first – early success creates more motivation and commitment.
- Write down reminders on sticky notes and place them where you will see them frequently.
- In place of snacking, go for a brief walk or ride a stationary bike for five or ten minutes. You won’t want to snack after putting in some time exercising!
- Brush your teeth! No food tastes good after you brush!
- Do set lofty goals, but have smaller, easier to achieve ones along the way. It makes your journey more rewarding.