The biggest thing that seems to keep me from pursuing healthy eating habits or exercise routines for any significant length of time is personal time constraints. Busy, busy, busy. Like many people today, as a single parent, I don’t always have time to get home-cooked meals on the table regularly — much less take the time to actually prepare something nutritious and healthy.
My goals for healthy living don’t include becoming super-model thin. I want to be healthy and strong. I’m not interested so much in how I look as in how I feel. The journey to a healthier lifestyle can begin with two steps: facing up to life’s brevity, and facing up to the truth about your physical condition. Anyone who’s ever been able to wear a size 5 as an adult (like I have) can’t use the excuse of having big bones anymore.
Over the years, my resolve to get healthy has been strong, but the practical application of my good intentions was sometimes difficult. I attempted a complete eating/exercise program. And failed. Failed miserably. A couple of my friends said the program was a failure. My nagging inner voice tried to tell me that I was a failure. But in retrospect, I don’t think either the program or my personal resolve was the root of the failure. I think I simply bit off more than I could chew at one time.
HABITS vs. RESOLUTIONS
I’ve discovered over the years that there’s a big difference between the formation of habits and simply making resolutions. I believe that one of the keys to successfully implementing permanent change in our lives revolves around instituting new habits. Once a habit is made, we don’t even have to think about it anymore. It becomes second nature.
The secret to successfully instilling new habits is choosing one habit — and only one — we want to work on at a time, and then focusing on that single habit for about four to six weeks (the amount of time it usually takes for a new behavior to become habitual). After the first habit’s been formed, we can choose another habit to work on for a month or so, etc., etc. The failed program I tried awhile back required life changes in the following areas:
- the amount of food I was eating
- what I ate
- how frequently I ate
- the amount of water I drank
- aerobic exercise
- using weights for strength training and body sculpting
All in all, I believe it’s an excellent program … but for someone like me who had allowed herself to fall so badly out of shape and away from healthy habits, attempting to overhaul every area of my life in one swoop was almost a guaranteed failure before it began.
ONE HABIT AT A TIME
But what if instead of trying to change everything at once, I’d picked one idea at a time to work on until it became habitual? Six months before — when I first started feeling the inner motivation to get healthier — I could’ve started with one small step such as drinking enough water everyday. Then the next month maybe I could’ve focused on aerobic walking three times per week. Or eating properly balanced meals. And then the next month focused on the timing of my meals.
In the same six months I would’ve been able to simply — and easily — instill all six of the life changes from that program without ever feeling overwhelmed by trying to do too much all at once. Instead of looking at my assorted food/exercise/health issues and feeling like a failure, I could’ve been making small and steady steps in the right direction each month and come out successfully at the other end.
LET’S GET GOING!
My health goals don’t include becoming super-model thin or running a marathon. I want a healthy, balanced lifestyle rather than an obsessive diet/exercise regime that’s based solely on quick results and what I want to see in the mirror. The mirror isn’t my gauge of success. The energy and stamina and good health that comes for a balanced lifestyle is the success I want to see in my own life.
So, what about you? What single small step can you take this month toward a healthier New Year and a healthier new you?
Choose one habit at a time. Take one step at a time. And before we know it, we’ll all be where we want to be … not just healthy, but health-WISE.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Deborah Taylor-Hough is the mother of three, a full-time college student, a displaced homemaker trying to make ends meet on a limited budget, and the author of several older (but still-in-print) books including the popular Frozen Assets cookbook series.
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