As a species, humans are resistant to change by nature. Because of that resistance, it takes us a while to break a bad habit or implement a new one – up to as long as a month. During this transition period, it is easy to fall back into our old ways, unless we consciously keep ourselves on track until our new change has taken hold as a habit.
In the case of healthy habits, not only can introducing them increase our resistance to disease now, but they also improve life later down the road. That means taking fewer prescribed drugs in the future, maintaining independent living longer and more longevity as we age. But the road to change can be bumpy if not done correctly.
Do you like food that is not good for you? Foods that create inflammation or drain your energy? If so, you are not alone… and it is not your fault! We are genetically engineered to gravitate toward that kind of food from our ancestral days. Hunting, gathering and exploring the surrounding area took a lot of energy and so food with a lot of calories and fat provided the energy.
But the food today is different than it was eons ago. Today processed and fast food lurks around on every corner, inviting you to come in … and while you are there, super-size everything making for even more fat and calories. But that isn’t the end of the story. Food is addictive. So, if you succumb to eating a lot of processed and fast food, that is what your body becomes accustomed to eating, what it prefers, and in fact, what it craves.
However, the opposite side of the coin is also true. If you start eating healthy, it too over time will become addictive also. The trick is to make small incremental changes over time and not a big change all at once. That way your body will slowly change and adapt to your new way of eating. What gets people into trouble and they fail is they try to make too much of a change in too short a time. Don’t quit eating bad food cold turkey – slowly start eating less bad food and more good food over the course of say a month. Implementing those smaller steps will make it easier to adjust your eating habits as well as guiding you to the foods you feel the best on.
The same rationale of change also applies to exercising. At the start of each New Year, people make all-or-nothing commitments in the form resolutions where they are going to conquer the world fitness-wise - exercise five days a week, run a marathon in a month, etc. But after the first time or two in the gym, they are so sore they can hardly move. They take a few days to heal up and never return to the gym again.
Instead, they should have started slowly by doing some short easy workouts a day or two the first week and gradually increase the frequency, workout time and type of workout over the course of the first month.
Building healthy habits is a process of setting an attainable and realistic end goal with several milestones of mini-goals along the way. Be sure to reward yourself in a positive way after reaching each milestone as it provides the mental boost to continue forging ahead to the next one.