It seems that when we know that overeating is bad for us that we would just stop it. I mean, that’s the logical course of action. It’s hard to believe that anyone wants to die the slow and painful death that the complications of overweight and obesity can cause, yet most people who are overweight don’t believe that they can change and an alarmingly large number of those, don’t even want to get healthy. I have witnessed two people say, “Oh, I don’t do healthy.” That has got to be one of the dumbest statements that has ever been uttered. So, if you don’t do healthy then I can only assume that you do unhealthy. Do you consider yourself suicidal? Whether you do or not is irrelevant, you are suicidal if this statement has ever come out of your mouth. There is still hope for you, however. Just employ a little strategy.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Habits actually help keep us alive and well. We develop habits to wake up every day and groom ourselves. We learn our route to work by repetition and that repetition develops a habit so that we can get to work with little or no thought. Automatic behaviors save energy that we might need for something else so some habits are advantageous. When we have good habits, our brain can focus on bigger and better things and problem solve more efficiently. Repetition is a very efficient method to learn a behaviour whether it’s good or bad.
Intertwined in this repetition is the release of dopamine from the reward center of the brain based on an action producing pleasure. Again, some of these rewards come from good habits but quite often, negative habits trigger a dopamine release and then we want to repeat them. That’s when our habits start working against us.
There Is Hope
Humans are unique in that we do have the ability to retrain our brains away from destructive habits even if those habits produce pleasure. Research has shown that when we exercise control over bad habits in any area, we strengthen our ability to change. If you think that you simply can’t resist your Mom’s chocolate cake, then work on some other area of perceived weakness. Over time, your resolve will be strengthened. Just as we tend to become more and more irresponsible as we continually give in to our cravings, we can become more able to resist unhealthy foods by simply exercising control over a single food craving one time. The ability to change will be strengthened like a muscle is strengthened from exercise and that strength will increase every time that you make a healthy choice. I know of at least one time that someone asked David how he can resist sugar-filled foods like birthday cake. His reply was that he never ate it so there was nothing to resist. True, that’s how you do it. Flex those behaviour muscles!
Identify your bad habits. Sometimes we have had bad habits for so long that we become unaware that they are working against us. Going to a buffet after church on Sunday may not be in your best interest. Consider how old habits are tearing away at your goals.
Avoid the Issue
If you think that you can’t resist eating something that is in conflict with your health initiative, don’t put yourself in that situation. If the vending machine in the hall calls your name every time you walk by then take another route. If you always eat unhealthy foods at a traditional family event, carry a healthy alternative that you really like. Avoiding the obvious foods and situations that work against you can be very effective in helping you relearn good habits and destroying bad ones that cause ill health.
Change Your Mind
Flip those ideas that you have about your ability to succeed. Instead of imagining yourself stuffed full of Aunt Sara’s pecan pie, imagine yourself gracefully walking right past it with a bowl of fresh fruit in hand. Our body tends to follow our mind.
Create A New Habit
Instead of putting yourself in a precarious situation like a food oriented night out in a bar, where you are likely to lose control of your cravings and appetite, replace that event with a positive, goal oriented behaviour like walking your dog or working out in the gym. While the old behavior is hard wired into your brain, over time and with new rewards being associated with the new behavior, the good habit will take hold and become a source of pleasure in itself. As you reap the benefits of your new choice of activity, dopamine will surge into your brain whenever you perform this new habit and the good habit can eventually become a source of great pleasure. When I first began working out under the Iron, I was so intimidated, but I was also determined to achieve success. Strength training is my life now and a source of great pleasure. Two years into my program, I have retrained my brain to crave a good thing.
Believe and Achieve
There’s an old saying, “Can’t never could do nothing.” Yes, I know it’s bad grammar, but what it’s saying is simply that unless you believe that you can do something, you never will. Believe that you can change the habits that are wrecking your health and achieve new habits that will give you the body, health and mind that you want and then…get up and do it. Your future is in your hands. Create Your Life.