Why Is Healthy Living So Damn Hard?
By James Sahn
We all know the rules: eat healthy food, exercise for 30 (or 60 or 90 depending on who's talking) minutes a day, don't smoke, don't drink, don't don't don't. We know the rules but we break them every day!
We make New Year's Resolutions every single year, and we break them almost immediately. We promise ourselves, "tomorrow's the day" and then we break the rules. And we beat ourselves up over it.
I say "we" because everyone I've ever met does this: body builders, overweight office workers, grandmothers, kids, everyone. They just do it to varying degrees.
And if everyone does it, the first thing you can do is stop comparing yourself to everyone else who is "perfect" and finding yourself a mass of imperfection by comparison! Forgive yourself for your failures, your slips, your bad habits. Forgive yourself.
The second thing you can do is to stop thinking of your bad habits as "rewards". If you think of chocolate covered almonds as a reward, then whenever you feel bad you are likely to grab a handful of chocolate covered almonds. If you think of french fries as a reward, then you're going to eat this "bad food" too often. Start thinking of the long-term rewards of healthy living, instead of thinking of it as a punishment.
Next, keep a journal. A journal holds you accountable, to yourself. And you have to start thinking about your accountability to yourself. Internal motivation, or motivation that comes from within, is a stronger motivation than external motivation, or motivation that comes from others. No one else can keep you on track. And it's harder to lie to yourself and rationalize your bad behavior than it is to lie to others.
And lastly, baby steps! If you've been eating junk food for three meals a day for 20 years, you can't expect to have a perfect diet overnight. If you've never followed an exercise program, then you can't start with a full training regimen instantly. Start slowly and build up your good habits. Remember, it's taken a lifetime to create the bad habits, it's going to take a little while to replace them with good habits. The good news is that as you make small changes, you'll see the changes in your life. Not only will you get healthier, but you'll find yourself not even wanting your old habits back. I know it's hard to believe now, but soon fast food french fries will make you a bit queasy when you eat them.
(The exception to this rule is addiction, check with your doctor first, but often quitting cold-turkey is the most effective way to beat an addiction like smoking.)
These steps will keep you on track towards the healthy life that you want, and that you deserve.
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