It’s the Little Things

sticky- on track

I’ve never been into those cheery, inspirational posters people hang on their dorm rooms and office walls. You know the ones, with a kitten clinging to the branch of a tree and the words “Hang in there!” across the bottom. Or “TEAMWORK” scrawled under a bunch of guys rowing a boat. Because, you know, they gotta row in the same direction, like a team. Ahem.

But I am a fan of Post-it® notes. Thank you Dr. Spencer Silver and Art Fry for making them possible. Anyone who has ever been in my home or office, and sometimes even my car, has seen a rainbow of notes containing shopping list, passwords, directions, and tasks.

sticky- to do

Nowadays people put all that on their phones, but old habits die hard and my sticky note habit started in the pre-phone era. Hard to believe I’m that old, I know.
So when I was looking for a way to stay on the right track with my diet and exercise goals, I stayed in my comfort zone. My wheelhouse, if you will.

I went right to my little buddies and asked for some help.

sticky- move
Little friendly messages strategically placed throughout the house remind me to eat less sugar, eat more nuts, and to move my butt. And while some days I just gaze right past them, over time I think they’re helping. Looking at them every day, the messages have seeped into my brain.

sticky- eat nuts sticky- no sugar!

How do YOU stay on track?

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When you grow, you gotta leave some things behind

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Learning new things and finding new interests is good. Great, in fact. They stimulate the brain and keep us young.

It can be a little sad when you realize that something that used to make you happy isn’t doing it for you anymore. But it’s also exciting, because (unless you are depressed) it’s a sign that you’ve grown. Moved on. Found new things to make you happy.

Take shopping. Please. Shopping used to be a big deal for me. I considered myself a black belt. Retail therapy as a reward for meeting a goal. Wandering the aisles at Target as a way to decompress. Researching the season’s new trends and finding them at the best possible price. Memorizing the locations of bathrooms in my favorite malls. Victory was finding that perfect striped top or casual sandal, on sale, in my size. It fulfilled a primal hunter-gatherer need in my psyche.

But lately shopping isn’t as exciting for me. Not for clothes, not for housewares, not for makeup – not even (gasp) for shoes.

With one exception. My hunter-gatherer tendencies are now funneled in to healthier living. Which includes, I realize as I write this, shopping for health-related products.

But the shopping for health stuff isn’t really the same. It’s a means to an end – getting healthier – and not an activity in and of itself. Though I do know where the bathrooms are in many of my favorite health food stores, and a sale is still a win.

Growth is good. There are tradeoffs, to be sure, but it’s totally worth it.

What are you leaving behind as you take on new interests?

xoxo,
Sondra

* Image courtesy of njaj / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Change is the hardest word

Habit. What a dirty little word. We use it to explain away our worst tendencies, as if calling them habits whitewashes us from responsibility. No one wants to be called a drunk, an over-eater or a lazy bones, but we’re willing to cop to “being in the habit” of having a few too many drinks, enjoying a few too many desserts, or forgetting to go to the gym.

The Power of Habit book-cover

This week I read The Power of Habit. Why we do what we do in life and business by Charles Duhigg. He argues, with support from Aristotle and William James, that changing the habit changes the man. Person. You know what I mean.

We’ve all made New Year’s resolutions with the intention of changing our lives. We start out strong on January first (okay, maybe January second), feeling self-righteous. But by Valentine’s Day most of us have petered out. No matter how much we want to lose the weight, quit smoking, or drink less, we lose momentum and the intention just drifts away. Soon we are back to our old habits.

Habit. There’s that dirty word again. Duhigg argues that our habits can be changed if we understand the underlying psychology behind them. For instance, let’s say I am trying to lose weight. And let’s say that every day around 3:00 pm a colleague comes around to see if I want a chocolate break. So I indulge in a treat despite my desire to lose weight. I know I should stop, but I like this person and I really like the break. It makes the rest of the afternoon pass by so much quicker. What can I do? I’m in the habit…

Duhigg would have me dig into the craving behind this habit. He argues that you can change the habit if you understand the cycle around it.

  • Cue: Tired and/or bored
  • Habit: Chocolate break with colleague
  • Payoff: Renewed focus for the afternoon

What I am really craving is a short distraction from work. That’s the heart of the habit. The chocolate is just part of the cycle. If I can substitute some other distraction I could lose weight while still fulfilling my need for a break. I could suggest that we change our break—talk a walk or eat an apple. I could find a healthier break buddy. I could go for a run. You get the idea. The pivotal concept is to identify the real craving and address it.

As interesting and fun to experiment with as this is going to be in my personal life, it’ll be key to my success as a health coach.

Joshua Rosenthal, founder of my nutrition school and the author of the book Integrative Nutrition, also has a thing or two to say about cravings. He teaches that a craving isn’t about a specific action or food, it’s just how the mind is interpreting a specific body need. Using our example above, as a nutritionist, Rosenthal would say that a craving for chocolate is really a craving for energy, which could be satisfied by an apple. From a nutrition standpoint I totally agree. But from a psychological standpoint, Duhigg would argue that the chocolate is not the core craving, and that an apple might not address it.

In fact in a debate I think the two would agree. Rosenthal refers to the food we eat as “secondary food” and believes that everything else in our life—friends, satisfying work, love, etc.—is our “primary food.” If you want to change your health, Rosenthal believes, you need to address both primary and secondary food. Which is more or less what Duhigg is saying, using psychology-speak.

Needless to say, the sociologist in me is licking my chops to start trying this out on people.

Evil laugh. Evil laugh. Evil laugh

This next year is going to be fun!