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Sunday, September 13, 2015

Healthy Habits for a Healthy Life

 How many of us say we are going to get healthier?  We will start going to the gym, we will start eating healthier.  But then it never happens.  The September 2015 issue of the Berkeley Wellness Letter has some suggestions for not only changing habits, but changing them for good.  The article is based on James Prochaska, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Rhode Island.  Over 30 years ago, he proposed stages of changing our habits.  If you follow these stages, suggestions, you should have better success in changing bad habits to good habits.  Studies have found that changing behavior doesn’t happen overnight but it is a process and we can improve our odds of making changes permanent and a “habit” that lasts.   
    What are the 5 stages?   

  1. Precontemplation – yes, you have to decide to change a habit – to get off the couch, to cut back or eliminate the sugared sodas, to go for a walk every day.  This stage puts your goal into more measurable terms.  You may be overweight but then you need to note that to lose weight you will need to cut back on calories and increase the exercise.  Identify the problem or habit you want to change.  
  2. Contemplation – after you identified the problem plan out what you are going to do to change this bad habit to good habits.  Research how the bad habit like 6 sugared sodas a day may harm your health.  Ask others who have successfully lost weight how they did it.  Ask others who are now exercising regularly what they did to get motivated and start. What are the health benefits if you begin to change a bad habit to good habits?  How many calories could you save if you gave up just one sugared soda a day?  Rather than laying on the couch after dinner, could you go for a 15 minute walk?  
  3. Preparation – preparation doesn’t mean joining a gym and then never going to the gym.  It means setting a specific “course of action” and then coming up with a plan to implement your action steps.  Setting dates is also helpful.  Tell others what your action plan is, tell family, friends when you will be starting this action plan.  On Monday, I will start walking after dinner every night.  
  4. Action – ready, set, ACTION.  Set realistic goals like a 15 minute walk after dinner then recruit your spouse, friend to go with you.  Find an exercise class that you and a friend can do together once a week.  Start small and enjoy the success of changing bad habits like couch sitting to going on a 15 minute walk.
  5.  Maintenance – starting a good habit is one thing, keeping the good habit is another.  Make it a routine.  On Mondays, walk after dinner, On Tuesdays, take the exercise class at the local       fitness center, on Wednesdays walk with friends or co-workers after lunch or after work.  It make takes weeks or months but keep at it until the good, healthy habit has really  replaced the bad habit.  You may end up looking forward to your weekly exercise class, the daily walk, giving up all that added sugar in sugared sodas.  If you slip up, start again.
I do like the Addition/Subtraction rule.  If you subtract something like a bad habit, add something like a good habit.  Giving up the sugared soda, try some seltzer water, some flavored water with no sugar added.  Cutting back on potato chips, then treat yourself to popcorn like Skinny Pop which has only a 100 calories a bag and is whole grain.  Or try a different chip like Sun Chips which are whole grain, or the multigrain chips from Food Should Taste Good.  


Healthy Eating – want ideas on how to eat healthier?  Food Day is October 24.  To honor Food Day, the online cooking school, Rouxbe is offering a FREE 30 day cooking course on healthy cooking.  To sign up go to: Foodday.  

Sources: Changing Habits - for good,  Image source:   Habits


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