The Skinny Daily Post™

Short, daily essays on weight loss and fitness
from a really average woman who lost 100 lbs.
and works every day to keep it off.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2004  

Habit Forming
Automating good health

It wasn't giving up certain foods or eating less for awhile. It wasn't going to the gym every day while I lost the weight. The hardest part of losing a big chunk of weight and keeping it off has been remembering to work at it every day. The longer I keep my weight off, the harder this is, for some reason. When I'm most myself, I'm completely immersed in my work and hobbies and family and friends. Time flies by, and I haven't attended to my body at all. I haven't eaten well, and I haven't exercised. I don't want to be obsessed with my body, but my most natural self completely ignores the presence of a body at all. What to do?

Habit. I have long held the theory that if I can automate body care, I won't have to Think about it or obsess over it, but it will still be done. I use passive verbs to describe the ideal state, here. I'd like my body to maintain itself through sheer force of habit. If I can make it so much a part of moving through my day that it's not even top of mind, but just part of the natural rhythm of a day, like letting dogs in and out and feeding them, like brushing my teeth, like using Carmex 12 times a day.

The Carmex Strategy
God bless Carmex. It should be like using Carmex. I have to make some small effort to use Carmex. I have to make sure there are pots of it nearby all the time. I need to note that my lips have dried, and find and open the jar and use it. So too with exercise and good food. I need the opportunities to be there always, shoes and gym clothes always in my car, gyms and class schedules and videos within a short distance or arms' reach, pantry contents clear in my head, healthy fall-back food in my back-pack. Having the resources ready is a good thing, so that when I feel the urge and have the time, I can find and prepare good food, get in a good workout.

The Tooth Brushing Strategy
Or maybe it should be more like brushing my teeth. I live at the whim of clients and projects. No single day looks anything like the one before it or the one that will follow. I wake at different times, go to bed at different times. I've whittled my beauty routine down to the occasional smear of moisturizer, random jabbing of mascara. The only habit I've managed to lock in place is brushing my teeth. I'm darned consistent about that. Body care should be more like tooth brushing, the thing I do before anyone or anything else can enter the day's picture.

I'm trying for a combination of the toothbrushing and Carmex strategies: A short series of old-fashioned calisthenics in the morning, just before tooth brushing, and/or a trip to the gym on the way to the office. Readiness for random fitness blasts at any point of any busy day. Planning meals and grocery management just before going to bed at night, and keeping my backpack equipped with protein-centered snacks.

Also, of course, keeping a log of what I eat and how much I exercise, until the habit is set. How long does it take to set a new habit? I'm told anywhere from 21 days to 3 years. I'm thinking it's more like 3 years.

And you? What habits are you trying to weave into or unravel from your day? Have you made a plan? How will you track your progress? How much do you think about your fitness and nutrition habits now? Not enough? Just enough? Too much? Let's find the right balance between unconscious effort and wacked-out obsessiveness. Make a plan today. Okay? I will if you will.

Starting New Habits, Breaking Old Patterns,
Habit, the Household Wonder Worker,
Developing a Habit Coaching Form,

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posted by Julie |
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