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

I 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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Age Appropriate

A few months ago, I lamented the fact that I would soon be turning 60.

father-timeWell, try as I might to deny the inevitable, September 28 has arrived.

I am now officially entering my seventh decade.

Also, as I mentioned, I grok that there are people looking at 60 in their rear view mirrors, most likely shaking their heads, thinking, “Come on Scott. Get over it!” Yet, I remind these naysayers that this is the oldest I’ve ever been. My wife, in attempt to be supportive I presume, has been espousing, “Remember, today is the youngest you’ll be for the remainder of your life.”

Hmmm… I don’t know whether that’s comforting or not. But, what can I say; she’s a child in her fifties. She’ll learn.

So, I went to the doctor for a check up. They checked my weight (“You’re lost a few pounds since last year.” Yay!) and blood pressure (“We need to watch that.” Sigh…)

Then came my height.

I’m going to be vulnerable here so be gentle with your judgment, okay? Most of my adult life, I’ve lied about my height, insisting I’m a towering 5’ 9” when I’m actually a diminutive 5’ 8”. One might rightly wonder why that extra inch matters so much to my obviously frail psyche — and that’s a fair question. Yet, the honest reply is I haven’t a clue. Maybe it’s a guy thing, who knows? Anyway, of late, with newfound maturity, I’ve finally come to grips with the reality that major league basketball is not going to come calling and have accepted my actual stature.

So, it’s one of nature’s practical jokes that I find out I’ve shriveled to five-seven and a half! [Read more…]

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Shocking Development in Behavior Change

According to a university study, approximately 40 percent of our daily actions are habits; unconscious routines we do by rote.

Asleepwalking-mant first, I had trouble believing that. Yet, consider a typical day. Unless it’s an unusual occasion, such as vacation or maybe weekends; you wake up at approximately the same time. You are either a “breakfast eater” or you’re not; habit number one. Should you be of the former category, your morning repast will consist of the same basic items it does every other morning, despite the fact that the average grocery store offers over 40,000 choices from which you can choose.

If you commute to your job, you depart at the same time, most likely down to the minute, traveling the same roads, arriving at the same location, even parking in the same space. Upon arriving, you greet co-workers with the same banter, perform the same tasks, take lunch at the same time (at the usual restaurants), order the same meals, and head home at your regular time.

Yet, that’s not all.

[Read more…]

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