Action list for Habit Change

Just because the holidays are rapidly approaching does not mean that we get a free pass on changing bad habits.

Fat man holding a measurementIf you’re trying to change your lifestyle, don’t make the mistake of waiting until “after the holidays.” After all, they’ve been going on for over 2,000 years; they’re not stopping anytime soon.

So, for those dedicated souls who wish to enter next year without regret about having “blown it” during the last two months of the year, here are several strategies to navigate your way to a new you in the new year.

Be “sparklingly clear” about what your definition of success looks like.

How will you know you’ve arrived if you don’t know what it looks like when you’re there? It’s true; the result might look different than expected. However, one doesn’t begin a trip without at least an idea about where he’s going.

Describe success in as much depth as you can. Use numbers whenever possible while also focusing on the feelings that will result from your hard work. Use concrete descriptions in defining your goals.

Instead of “I will lose weight,” try (for example) “I will wear a perfect size ten comfortably by January 15.”

Take ridiculously tiny steps.

Small steps done regularly will always generate more results than large steps done intermittently. In other words, it’s better to walk a block and really do it than to swear you’ll run a mile and never get around to it.

If after saying, “I will do (whatever),” you’re not 100 percent absolutely dead-on totally confident that you really will do that, then that goal is too large. Make it small enough so that you have no excuse to not do it.

By the way, a good indicator is that if your inner critic is telling you’re not doing enough, you’re probably on track.

Embrace the rough patches

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Birthday Cake Ban

I hate being one of those crotchety old people who hears a story, shakes his head in disgust, and says, “When I was a kid…”

grumpy-old-man-with-caneYet, I find myself in that position (hopefully I am not crotchety however).

“When I was a kid…” I don’t remember parents bringing birthday cakes or cupcakes to classrooms. I just don’t think it was done way back then; maybe they melted on the stagecoach ride over. Who knows? Yet, times change and it appears to be standard operating behavior for parents to do so nowadays — that is, unless you reside in Northern Kentucky.

Burlington Elementary School in the Bluegrass State revised its wellness policy.

The end result is a ban on food for school birthday celebrations. We’re not just talking about cakes; rather — in the interest of promoting healthier food choices — ALL other snacks are now verboten. Non-food “treats” such as pencils, balloons, erasers and book-marks are suggested. (“Happy birthday Johnny, now blow out your bookmark!”)

The intention is laudable; they’re actually doing some-thing to combat the ever-burgeoning obesity crisis and attempting to shift the focus of celebrations away from food. Good on them for that. And there are indeed health concerns involving food allergies; not to mention, I imagine it’s purt’ near impossible to school a child redlining on a sugar buzz.

Yet I have concerns.

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Twenty Years at Goal Weight

man-in-diapersI entered the planet at nine pounds 14 ounces.

Assuming that to be normal, thirty years later, as a newly minted father, I panicked when the doctor informed me that my firstborn weighed six pounds six ounces.

Looking me in the eye, attempting to calm my jitters, he replied, “Six-six is normal. I promise he’s fine.”

“But I weighed ten pounds when I was born!” I protested.

“I can’t help it if you were cruel to your mother,” he replied.

Moral of the story: I was born big, and from that moment, packed on the pounds, tipping the scales at ten pounds for every year.

To explain, I weighed 50 pounds at age five, 90 pounds at age nine, and 130 pounds when I was a teen. From there, I accelerated, reaching 230 upon entering high school — poor timing to say the least. Of the 1107 students in my class, I was the second fattest. Further putting this in perspective, that was in the day when childhood obesity was an oddity, rather than unfortunately as it can be today, quite common.

Kids are brutal, so what were supposed to be some of my best years were anything but. Girls ignored me; guys badgered and bullied me.

Physical education was the lowest of the low.

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99 Years Old and Looking Back

I have to swallow hard when I refer to the song, “100 Years” by Vladimir John Ondrasik III, known by his stage name, “Five for Fighting,” as an “oldie.”


I mean, after all, a song released in 2003 should not fall in that category; it’s a description meant for The Everly Brothers or The Beach Boys. Nonetheless, if the Earth Shoe fits…

Sorry, I got distracted… back to the issue at hand…

“100 Years” is an amazingly powerful song.

If you don’t have it cued up on your iTunes playlist right now, let me sum it up. Each of us gets 100 years to live, and during that period we go through various stages. The poignant lingering lyrics guide us through those times, beginning at 15 (“There’s still time for you…”) and progressing all the way to 99 (“Time for just another moment…”). So poignant are the words that there’s a webpage to discuss the interpretation. (I don’t make any commission on its purchase nor am I affiliated with Mr. Ondrasik, but it’s worth your time to check out the song.)

My interpretation is that each of us given the gift of one century, which passes in the “blink of an eye.”

So, imagine you live exactly, to the day, 100 years. (In my case, that would mean I exit on September 28, 2054.) Take it to your last day and then back it off to one day before you’re gone; see yourself at 99 years, 364 days old. By sunset tomorrow, you will be no more; you have gathered all the knowledge and wisdom possible in this lifetime. You are completed.

Now suppose that 99-year-old-You could send a message back to the Current-You, right here, right now, reading these words.

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Take Time to be Alone

dream-written-in-sand

Take time to be alone more often than you think you need to.

One of the prime triggers in engaging in a bad habit is looking for a way to give to yourself, especially if you’ve been very busy and overwhelmed.  When we don’t take time for ourselves, we end up “rewarding” ourselves with our habits. It’s a way of taking care of ourselves in the moment, but it doesn’t feel so great when we’re done.

If you want to improve the chances you’ll stay on program and you won’t suffer from a “guilt dessert,” take a few minutes to be alone every day; long enough to decompress.

It doesn’t have to be very long, just long enough to get yourself centered.

By the way, “alone” is not “lonely” – unless you choose to make it so.

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