Published on July 20th, 2012 | by Healthy Gay Lifestyles1
Falling In Love With New Health Habits
By Patrick Davis MA, Holistic Health Coach
It’s hard to believe that at age 45 I am healthier then I was at 35. How did that happen? When I started taking better care of myself I had minimal success until I put into practice the “dating new habits strategy” that I will reveal in this article. If I can lose over 40 pounds and prevent chronic illnesses that run in my family such as diabetes and heart disease, anyone can!
The brutal facts about my health before implementing this approach:
- My doctor described me as pre-diabetic
- My body was 50 pounds over weight
- My bad cholesterol was too high and my good cholesterol was too low
I was fast approaching the age when my father experienced a heart attack
While some people may have a single moment that wakes them up, my health changes happened gradually over a few years. Each small and inexpensive change in daily habits accumulated into a success story that’s been greater than any of the previous fads or expensive programs. While the results have been slow, I now have a sustainable system in place to ensure I respond to the natural set backs along the way. More importantly, I am continuing to make steady progress toward my health goals.
Today, I am Proud to Report
- My doctor now says, “What have you been doing you’re in great health?”
- I have lost over 40 pounds
- My cholesterol is good
- My heart, lungs and body have never been stronger
It Doesn’t Hurt that Both Friends and Strangers Alike Say, “You’re Looking Good!”
Realizing these results was not a straight line — I guess I don’t do anything straight in life! Shifting from a lifestyle prone to illness to a wellness lifestyle involved many twists and turns, ups and downs. Some weeks I find myself taking two steps forward and one-step backward. Respecting that this is the way life is for all of us, rather than taking any set back personally has been key to my emotional balance along the way.
Frankly, there are no gimmicks — one-size fits all self-help solutions. After coaching hundreds of individuals in health management programs for 20 years, I’ve come to practice and share a set of practical tools and universal principles that run across all successful health management programs. This entire program is called, “Desired Outcomes” since it’s a customized coaching package to help anyone realize their goals. My greatest teacher has been trial and error, and researching many success stories along the way. Now let’s give you the benefit of some of this practical wisdom. You just need to take the next six months to break up with old health habits and to start falling in love with some new ones. I invite you to enjoy the process of dating several healthy habits this year.
I start with the premise that we all want the best long-term return on our investment. With health it’s not about where we place our money, it’s about WHEN we practice daily habits that become automatic.
Breaking Up With One Old Habit
The fastest way to break up from an old habit is to fall in love with a new one! By falling in love with a new habit at four crucial times of the day, you will re-train the brain to feel pleasure from healthier routines.
Before the change in my brain and then my body occurred, I craved driving thru the fast food window when I felt stressed. Gradually, specific practices have become more interesting than fast food. Have you ever broken up with an old boyfriend and then saw them years later and think, “what did I ever SEE in him?” That’s what my brain now does with fast food. If we stubbornly hold onto the unhealthy boyfriend out of co-dependent habits, we don’t have room in our life for new love. Yes, I’m actually talking about health habits but it’s a good metaphor. Since I didn’t know how to do this for myself I’m outlining a program for you in this article.
Oh, there is still a faint memory of how much I enjoyed those late night or afternoon runs for fast food, but the new patterns in my life no longer make room for the old to thrive. The craving for processed and starchy foods is not in the forefront anymore. Like an old boyfriend that use to be satisfying to be around, I’m just not that into “him” anymore.
Establishing a new dominant pattern in the brain takes a structured approach of pausing four times a day to make space for dating new habits.
Each Morning – Paying Yourself First
I awake and look at the running shoes next to my bed that I’ve placed on a beautiful red carpet. This single cue reminds the brain of the good endorphins that I experience when I take a brisk walk or run in my neighborhood. With this simple cue next to my bed, I have gone from exercising twice a week to four times a week. While I had already realized weight loss, this small change resulted in another 10 pounds. More importantly, I feel more vital and I’m enjoying many more adventures in my life with friends.
A financial coach years ago spoke about the value of “paying myself first” before spending money on other expenses as a way to increase investments. You may apply this practice to your own well-being each morning as well. At different times my morning practice was focused more on what I ate than exercise. For months I took advice from a friend to start my day with oatmeal with blue berries. It’s not important what you do every morning as long as you are consistent with doing one health habit that is about your health and vitality. The discipline of doing either my walk or oatmeal, or sometimes both in the morning, even before I go for the impulse of checking e-mail, is my way of “paying myself” first before I get into the flow of daily events.
Each Meal – Choose One Thing
Choose one thing you want to focus upon during every meal today. For some they always drink a glass of water to make sure they are not eating out of dehydration. For others, they start adding the many wonderful colors that vegetables bring and minimize white and processed foods our society has become addicted to as food has become a big business. Others return to the more nurturing experience of making food with family or friends in a home. Whatever combination of habits you find inspiring, pick one thing to get started and stick to it for every meal.
Each Evening – Find Playful Substitutes
I’m not generally a saint when it comes to diet and exercise yet I’ve had success by just focusing on simple food routines during those times of day I use to eat mindlessly. I still enjoy snacks like popcorn. I have come to substitute my bag of potato chips ritual while relaxing in the evenings with other foods. Friends think I’m weird for enjoying munching on a bag of frozen green beans. Since food is so personal and emotional and I’m not a nutrition expert, I’m not telling anyone what to eat. I just know that we can all find a playful substitute for foods that make us feel good not just temporarily but that are satisfying over the long haul. Good food is nurturing while we prepare it, eat it and enjoy the after effects. I have found that all processed foods leave me feeling heavy and other foods give me greater pleasure overall.
For many of us mindless eating habits occur in the evening, but they occur at other times too. Recently I went on a road trip where my substitutes for the processed snack foods became carrots with humus and some natural chips. I was amazed when I actually lost weight during this road trip and did not go hungry.
Each Day Overall – Find An Inspiring Hobby
The human spirit is full of life when we connect with beauty, inspiration and love. Developing a specific habit every day that allows me to channel these qualities into the world has reduced the destructive emotions and increased the pleasant emotions that may cause and prevent unbalanced extremes in my routines.
For me, writing poetry in my journal works. When I don’t feel inspired, I simply write down four things I’m grateful for today: “Susi made me a delicious home cooked meal, the sunset was beautiful, my nephew made me laugh, started planning a trip today.” When we pause for five minutes or less to write down in a journal how our soul wants to express itself, we are building up an emotional reservoir that will get us thru the pains and trials of life. During times of trouble I turn to this journal and it gets me grounded and centered again.
For many people they use a hobby that renews them each day. They swim, cook, paint, carve wood, etc. Find a simple and accessible hobby that can be done most days or a spiritual practice or a meditation or a yoga routine that revitalizes the heart each day. Keep it simple, free and accessible so that it can be done at home or on the go.
Based on how we described these categories above, pick ONE habit for each of these four times a day by considering these examples and building a framework that works for you. After all, these are habits YOU are dating not me! I assume we have different tastes in men and habits. Here is a sample worksheet:
- Each Morning
- Each Meal
- Each Evening
- Each Day
Eventually feel free to do more than one as things naturally evolve. Have fun with it. Once you’ve identified a customized routine for these four times of day, you will have your own success story with health. Many of you will find you are already doing much of this to some degree. You now have a tool for organizing your wellness program so that you may magnify the results of health and step it up a notch. Until I share with you another health management tool or until we meet during a coaching session, have FUN dating new habits!
Patrick Davis, MA
Patrick Davis, MA dedicates time each month to coaching individuals and families facing challenges such as realizing personal wellness goals, recovering from trauma, managing the complexity of aging in place, clarifying career options and end of life decision making. You may seek out his effective tools with a free initial e-mail consultation: firstname.lastname@example.org. Some of these clients also benefit from his expertise as an experienced teacher of established hands-on healing practices. Patrick is retained by a few select innovative organizations as a leadership coach and a consultant for transforming culture.