Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Healthy Habits in 2013 - Little Changes

One thing that I've learned the hard way over time is that trying to make big changes, especially several of them at once, just doesn't work.  It's making lots of little changes, one at a time over time, is what makes things stick - it doesn't matter what it is - health habits, work habits, or relationship habits or whatever - slow and steady really does win that race!

Which brings us to today's healthy habit:

Healthy Habit #4: Little Changes

When it comes to health, most of us can and need to make changes.  Unless you have  a dire, life-threatening situation that requires major immediate action, I've found in my personal life that the best way to make those changes is Little Changes over time.  Most importantly, you'll stick with those changes over the long haul!

I'll give you an illustration:  

I recently ran into a former co-worker of my husband's - someone I hadn't seen in several years.  I honestly didn't recognize her (who is this person talking to me and how on earth does she know my name???).  She had lost well over 100 lbs (I found out during our conversation it was 173 lbs total).  She looked so different and she looked wonderful!  Aside from the weight loss, she glowed, she had energy, and she was all smiles.  She was none of these things when she worked with my husband.  

I congratulated her on her weight loss, knowing that her weight had been a real sore spot for her.  

She told me how she did it:  
First she started substituting water for the soda pop she drank all day every day until she was down to one can of soda per day.  
Then she started walking the stairs when she needed to go up or down one floor (the hospital they work at has beautiful, big open stairwells).  
Then she started parking at the far end of the parking lot rather than close to the door.  
And eventually she added playing in the yard or dancing to music inside with her preschooler every day for at least 15 minutes and then grew that into a walk to the park with playtime on nice days.  
Then she started walking on the treadmill they owned (and never used) until she got up to 3 miles per day.
Finally she started running that 3 miles.  
She stuck with each habit until it was a true habit.  
And lost 173 lbs in about 18 months.  No diet or personal trainer needed - just a good pair of shoes.
She was even hoping to run a charity 5K later that year.

I was very impressed.  And so excited for her!  

For myself, little changes I've made have to do with drinking less caffeine (subbing every other cup of coffee each day with hot herbal tea and then eventually water), flossing my teeth (something I just don't enjoy), washing my makeup off before bedtime (it helped clear up most of my acne too!), getting to bed on time or even early, and getting up early.   Several years ago - before our babies were born - we overhauled our entire diet the same way - adding a little fruit or veggie to each meal until we had roughly half of our plate full at each meal.  John even likes many vegetarian or mostly vegetarian meals that we make - something that never would have happened before!

What little changes do you need to make?
Do you need to go to bed earlier?  Adjust by 15 minute intervals until you're at your desired goal - stick with each one until it's a habit and then work on the next one.
Do you need to drink more water?  Pick one time each day to drink a glass.  Stick with that until it's a habit and then add another one.
Do you need to move more? Pick one thing (walking the stairs or across the parking lot for example) and stick with it until it's a habit. Then pick something else.
Do you need to eat more veggies or fruit?  Add one thing you like per day or per week until you're up to something per day. Make that a habit and then add another the same way.
Do you need to floss each night?  Start with a routine and stick with it.
Do you need to eat less? Start with leaving a bite or two on your plate or not taking a second helping.  Work on that until it's a habit.  Then do something else until you're at the desired amount.

It's sounds tedious and time-consuming but I can assure you it's not.  If you work on one thing per month, that's 12 changes you've made for the better in a year! And they'll stay with you.  Isn't that amazing?

Me - I'm working on healthy snacking right now.  What do you need to work on?  Care to share?

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Lea