There is a saying that says “habits are like chains. You don’t know how strong they are until you go to break them.”
Some habits don’t cause trouble for folks when they’re younger, but when they reach their 40s or 50s, and for some people even their 30s, the habits of their youth cause unhealthy weight gain. By the time those habits have you putting on the pounds they have become such automatic behaviors that it’s hard to recognize you’re doing them and even harder to stop.1. Eating a lot of highly refined carbs. The problem with eating a lot of highly refined carbs is it usually leads to just too much eating. There is some solid evidence that highly refined carbs cause an insulin spike that can make you feel hungry again soon and crave even more refined carbs. It may not be a problem while you’re young, active, and have a higher ratio of muscle to fat. When you get older it could lead to excessive weight gain even without increasing how much you’re eating. Replace some of the refined carbs with whole grains and lean protein.
2. Skimping on the fruit and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are often overlooked because they’re extra trouble. When shopping for them it’s hard to know if you’re getting good, quality, ripe (but not too ripe) produce. They often take extra time to prepare them to eat. Even when stored properly they spoil faster than processed foods. All these properties of fruit and vegetables make them easier to avoid than consume. Get in the habit of eating a serving of fruit and a serving of vegetables with every meal and snack. Replace some of refined carbs with produce! Fruits and vegetables can be fresh, canned or frozen.
3. Cleaning your plate. It’s time to un-condition yourself to finish what is on your plate. Learning to eat in response to how your belly feels instead of what your eyes see helps to ensure you don’t eat more calories than you’ll need to fuel your body.
4. Spending most of your leisure time pursuing sedentary forms of entertainment. Sitting isn’t as much of a problem when you’re young. As you get older it becomes more of a problem. If your job has you sitting most of the day and you prefer sedentary forms of entertainment when you’re not working the negative effects can creep up on you. The older you get the less inclined you are to move and it can cause a whole lot of problems from obesity to type 2 diabetes to heart disease and limited mobility. Explore physical activities until you discover your passions!
5. Staying up late. When you stay up late you skimp on sleep. If you’re getting 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night (day depending on your schedule) there’s no worry. If your habit of staying up late means you’re getting fewer than 6 hours of sleep it could be messing with your hormones, specifically the hormones that govern hunger and satiety (fullness). Go to bed! You can watch your programs On Demand and text your friends in the morning!
6. Driving when you could be walking. Jumping in the car for short trips is bad for the environment and bad for you too. Getting in the habit of walking is good for you now and even better for you as you get older. It can support healthy weight, mobility, and ease the effects of arthritis.
7. Using food to manage stress and/or emotions. Food as a coping strategy causes problems for people long before they get old. Emotional eating brings on more negative emotions and is a leading contributor to obesity. Catching yourself before you turn to food is awareness. Awareness leads to ways to work through emotions successfully without the use of food.
8. Stinking thinking. We are puppets and our puppet masters are our thoughts. If we fill ourselves with negative thoughts (stinking thinking) we’ll act in ways that give us unwanted outcomes. The more you allow yourself to listen to your own negative thoughts about yourself the harder it is to take care of yourself or even believe you deserve better. The messages you give yourself should be the kindest, most encouraging messages like the ones you give to the people you love.
9. Saying “yes” when you really want to say “no.” This is a destructive habit that comes from wanting to please everybody but yourself. Your life shouldn’t be dedicated to making everybody around you happy. Don’t be afraid to say, “no.” If you don’t want to eat something say, “no, thank you.” If you don’t want another serving say, “No, I’ve had enough. It was delicious.” If you’re asked to give your time and you have no time to give without taking away your time for something else, just say, “No. I can’t do that.” No explanations are necessary. Just a firm “no” said with a smile.
Turning around your habits may seem awkward at first, but one day they’ll come naturally and they’ll support your long and healthy life!