H is for HabitsHabits have fascinated me for years.I’ve often wondered what causes one person to create healthy habits seemingly easily. While others struggle minute to minute to make better choices.It’s evident by looking at America as a whole that only a few seem to …
Habits have fascinated me for years.
I’ve often wondered what causes one person to create healthy habits seemingly easily. While others struggle minute-to-minute to make better choices. It’s evident by looking at America as a whole that only a few seem to latch onto healthier options as opposed to the vast majority that does not. It’s estimated upwards of 75% of Americans have at least one metabolic disorder rooted in poor food choices.
Statistics from the US Department of Health and Human Services (2013-2014):
More than 2 in 3 adults (70.2 percent) were considered to be overweight or have obesity
About 1 in 3 adults (32.5 percent) were considered to be overweight
More than 1 in 3 adults (37.7 percent) were considered to have obesity
About 1 in 13 adults (7.7 percent) were considered to have extreme obesity
More than 1 in 3 (38.7 percent) of men, and about 1 in 4 (26.5 percent) of women were considered to be overweight
Obesity was higher in women (about 40 percent) than men (35 percent)
Extreme obesity was higher in women (9.9 percent) than men (5.5 percent)
Almost 3 in 4 men (73.7 percent) were considered to be overweight or have obesity; and about 2 in 3 women (66.9) were considered to be overweight or have obesity.
Sadly the numbers are even higher today with estimations leaning towards 85% of Americans are overweight and/or diagnosed with at least one metabolic disorder. Habits play a huge role.
One recurring theme I see when people try to create a new healthy habit is the inevitable war within. Habits are something that has become automatic. You don’t have to think much about do them – like brushing your teeth in the morning. Bottom line – it can take up to 254 days to create a new healthy habit. Thankfully, it’s generally 66 days though. So what do you do during those 66 days? What do you do when you are struggling with an internal war about adhering to new habits Breathe – our generation is not the first to deal with this. This internal battle has been happening since biblical times.
Romans 7:15 states: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”
I find it reassuring that I’m not alone in this conflict.
Let me share with you what has worked for me and many of our patients – Declare war.
W – Write it down
A – Act on it
R – Reflect & Revise as necessary
In order to conquer the war within, you need to start by writing it down.
Write down in pen (or pencil) – not type – not dictate – WRITE it down on paper.
The physical act of writing something down creates new connections in our brains necessary for change. It activates the parts of our brain that typing can’t. Writing with pen and paper causes us to have better critical thinking skills, better conceptual thinking, and better problem-solving skills. It improves our long-term and short-term memory. All with the simple act of writing.
When you want to change a habit, create a new habit, or break a bad habit, problem-solving is crucial. Figuring out what works, what doesn’t, and what needs to be adjusted is necessary to create better habits.
When we type, it essentially diminishes our efforts in improvement primarily because of the speed involved with typing. After you write out your plan, put it where you can see it.
A is for Acting on your plan.
It isn’t enough to just write out what you want to change, or even why you want to change. Acting on your plan gives you practice. Set regular appointments with yourself to check-in. Maybe you need an accountability partner to help you stay true to your plan. This is the part of the W.A.R. where you get to learn about yourself and what works for you. Set alarms on your phone as a way of checking in can help, too.
Do you need to stop mindlessly snacking after dinner? Put up those written signs or sticky notes to remind yourself of your plan. Acting on your plan will help you succeed.
Will you get it right on the first try? Maybe. Maybe not.
It’s like a muscle that needs to be worked. Keep at it.
R is for Reflect (& Revise if needed)
Once you’ve set a regular schedule to check in with yourself, you need to be honest. Reflect on what changes you need to make and revise your plan as needed. Do you need to move those signs or sticky notes to a better place? Do you need to rephrase those empowering notes that remind you of your goals? Go back to the ‘W’ and rewrite them and put them up! Then continue through the acronym again. And again – and again – and again!
Write, Act, Reflect – go through the 3 steps as often as needed until that new habit is solid.
For a little more insight on your tendency toward accountability – whether it’s internal, external, with the grain, or against the grain, take Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies quiz.
I personally fall into different categories depending upon the type of habit I’m trying to create.
I’m mostly an upholder, with some questioning. How about you?