Have you ever heard the saying that it takes 21 Days to create a habit? Well here we are, 22 days into 2014- how have you done with your new years goals so far?
Don’t worry if you haven’t been perfect, change is hard- especially lifestyle change. In their book Switch, the Heath brothers discuss the situation of the “rider” and the “elephant” to explain why it is so hard for us to make lasting change in our lives.
The “rider” is our logical self, our highly evolved and logical brain. The part of us that is responsible for deciding that we should lose weight/go to the gym/ go to bed on time, etc. The elephant on the other hand is the less evolved portion of our brain. The elephant in us is very emotional and likes to be comfortable. It is the part of us responsible for not doing what we know we should do. Imagine a rider sitting on top of an elephant. The rider is holding the reins, and for the most part is able to control the elephant. This is our willpower- and if things are going our way, this is sufficient.
But willpower is limited. And if the elephant decides is wants something different from the rider, the elephant wins every time- hands down.
The authors argue that we need to motivate both the rider and the elephant in order to create lasting change. Extreme changes [think: the Biggest Loser contest], will produce results- but more often than not they fail in the long term because they rely on willpower alone. Instead of extreme diets or exercise routines, we need to make changes so slowly that they become automatic.
Below I suggest 7 small changes you can make that will ultimately lead to improved health and weight loss (if you have weight to lose). If you are overwhelmed by a health goal, take a look at the list and pick 1 to work on. When this behavior becomes effortless, (i.e. you’ve been 100% compliant for 2 weeks or more) pick another one to tackle. These habits are the foundation for long term weight loss and health. If you take this approach you will have made all these changes permanent by May and will be much more likely to maintain your results than if you had gone on a diet.
Start with the easiest task first. Get a “win” under your belt before moving on to the next. The progress will be slow, but it will be consistent. If you haven’t mastered the easiest item on this list- it’s not time to move onto the next. Master the basics first. Don’t take 1 step forward to take 2 steps back. Take change one step at a time and you will win in the long run.
7 Baby Steps to Health & Weight Loss
- Take a Multivitamin & 2 Fish Oil capsules daily (unless otherwise prescribed by your doctor). In his book Ultrametabolism, Dr. Mark Hyman explains that over 90% of Americans have at least 1 nutrient deficiency. There are many reasons for this, but it is pretty safe to assume you are part of the 90%. Cover your nutritional bases by taking a multivitamin and fish oil EVERYDAY without fail.
- Drink only water, and at least 8 tall glasses per day. We lose 2 liters of water everyday through normal processes like excretion, respiration, and perspiration. Caffeinated beverages will dehydrate our bodies even further. Dehydration slows your metabolism and depletes your energy, so drink up!
- Sleep at least 7 hours per night, every night. Sleep is essential for our bodies to repair and directly impacts our energy, hormones and metabolism.
- Eat breakfast. This will stimulate your metabolism and decreases the likelihood of a food binge later in the day. Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.
- Eat vegetables 3 times per day. Vegetables fill us up and provide our bodies with vitamins and nutrients that are essential for our health.
- Eat Protein at every meal and snack (20-30g at least). This will stimulate your metabolism and reduce cravings for carbohydrates.
- Exercise daily. This doesn’t have to be done at the gym, but make sure you move as much as possible. Take the stairs, walk the dog, and go to the gym when you can. Pedometers are a great tool, and are now available for free on your smartphone [fitbit for example]. Accumulate 10,000 steps or more every day.
These habits are simple. And you’re probably thinking “I know this,” but it’s not what you know, it’s what you actually do that counts.
Start easy- 1 habit at a time and make 2014 your healthiest year yet.
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