Changing One Habit At a Time
Today I have completed four weeks of workouts
without missing a single one. I even rearranged my work schedule today to make
sure. I worked past the natural limit of my will power with the support of my
trainer Ras Sahota. The past two weeks have been challenging. I've wanted to
miss several workouts and I hand-crafted very compelling reasons to do so, like
the day after I went on a very challenging and tiring ice climb. I could barely
move the next day when I showed up for my workout and found an unsympathetic
trainer: "this'll be good for you; it'll loosen you up." He was
right. I did feel better after my workout. Who knew?
I've survived the first month of a new habit. I workout everyday. Not just for the short-term but for the long-term. And I'm feeling better. That "feeling" is what is driving me now. I don't need will power. I'm over the hump now, even though the habit is still unstable. I'm vulnerable to slipping back into my old ways and old excuses and so for the next two months, Ras will keep on me until the "I work out everyday" habit is solid and stable. I'm just starting to see results now, but by then, I will have succeeded in implementing an important lifestyle change. The results I'll have then, will have justified all this work. And my body will remember the experience of breaking through the crust on my old habits. The feeling is stored in my cells.
My goal for this habit is to return to my optimal weight and body mass. I had picked up about 10 pounds over the course of the fall and I had gotten to the upper limit of what I was comfortable with. So at a party at a friend's house, after eating about 3 dozen shrimp, I made the decision that regular workouts would become a permanent part of my life.
Of course, working out is only part of the solution. One pound of fat is the size of a large grapefruit and is equivalent to 3500 calories. Exercise consumes 10 to 20 calories per minute and so a pound of fat requires a lot of working out. The other part of the equation is food.
The key to my new exercise habit was to make a permanent lifestyle choice. That is rather than tell myself that this was only a temporary measure to hit a goal, after which I would allow myself to return to my old habits, this habit is for the rest of my life.
I have similar choices to make about how I eat.
While I reserve the right to eat whatever I want in restaurants, for the moment anyway, my new eating habits are going to need to be very different if I am to attain and stay at a healthy weight. Excessive sugar, eating late in the evening, portions that are needlessly large. These are on the way out.
All of this can seem overwhelming and it's easy to get intimidated and just quit. But food choices are also lifestyle choices, I can make permanent changes in these too, just by picking one at a time, layering on one after the other.
The food habit I'm working on now is to eat cleaner by eliminating simple carbohydrates in the afternoon. My new habit is to learn to reach for a more nutritionally complex afternoon snack to deal with the energy lull after lunch (organic nuts, low glycemic fruits, lean meat). This sets me up for a good evening without binging.
The process will be the same. I'll spend the next four weeks with the support of my trainer to build the "I eat healthy afternoon snacks everyday" idea into an unstable habit. We'll figure out how to make it work and get through the drama of the creative excuse phase. After four weeks I can add that to my list of unstable habits and then pick another food habit to work on.
By the time New Year's rolls around next year, I'll have made 10 new permanent lifestyle changes and will be close on two others.