Easter candy always reminds me of a time a few years back I call my “I never do this” phase.
It was spring, I was active and I had a reasonably good diet. "I never do this, but just this once," I thought to myself, "I’m going to eat three Cadbury Creme Eggs—and it’s okay this once because I never do this!" The next week, I was starving after a long day, and I thought, "OK, I never do this, but I’m going to treat myself to a giant chocolate coconut candy egg for dinner." Soon after it was, "I never do this, but I’m taking the entire week off and not going for a run." And then, "I never do this, but I’m going to buy a bag of Easter mini candy bars. I’ll eat them really slowly, and I’ll make it last till next Easter." Surprise twist: I killed that bag in four days.
Within a couple months of "I never do this" rationalizations, I was shocked (seriously, I was shocked!) to find myself with lethargic energy, awful digestion, and some seriously lousy habits. Also I had tighter-fitting pants, and not in a good way.
We know that it’s the dozens of tiny decisions about our diet, exercise, sleep, even our relationships with others, that make up our health. Small, healthy choices like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, consciously plating reasonable portions, and eating more vegetables really add up to improved fitness and health.
But it also works the other way: Many small unhealthy choices add up, too.
Today as a health coach, I frequently hear from my clients, "I never do this, but this past week…." The rest of the sentence usually goes something like…
• I ate a whole pizza
• I went to McDonalds…twice
• I’ve had cake every day this week.
I don't believe that we should deprive ourselves of treats, but Michael Pollan says it best in Food Rules: Treat treats as treats. With 365 days in a year, there’s room for a less-than-perfectly-healthy moment here and there for most of us. I sometimes have to ask my clients the same question I asked myself: Is this a special occurence, or is this a regular habit? When I was honest with myself, I knew I was deluding myself into thinking I was just enjoying an occasional treat. My candy habit had become just that--a habit.
The good news is that even if you do have an unhealthy habit (or two or ten or fifty), you have the power to reverse it:
• Be honest with yourself about your behaviors
• Think back to how you developed that behavior. (Did I start eating candy every night because you get bored? Or because I was hungry all day, and then I was ravenous? Or was it simply because it was there?)
• Think about how you can preempt making those unhealthy choices with some planning
• Focus on solutions, don’t beat yourself up for past behavior
• Ask friends, family or a professional to support you in your new behavior.
Do you have your own "I never do this…" habit? Share it here or on my Facebook page. And of course, I welcome you to get in touch if you need support in developing positive healthy habits! Email me any time: firstname.lastname@example.org