• Jennifer

How habits help to determine our health

Have you ever heard that what you do every day, matters more than what you do occasionally? Our health is determined by a million small decisions made over a lifetime. Often, those small decisions are made out of habit without much thought.

At some point, though, those habits weren't habits yet, but conscious decisions. The great thing about habits is, they often happen automatically. That is often their downfall, also. So, let's talk about habits that support out health and think through some that might be derailing it.

First, let's get the negative out of the way. We can all think of habits that we know aren't good for us. But, because it's a habit, they are hard to quit. Examples are:

  • smoking after a meal

  • excessive drinking when with certain friends

  • skipping a workout after that night out with friends

  • hitting the drive-thru after work

  • that latte and danish at 3pm when our energy fades

Like I said before, if these acts are habitual, then we no longer consciously decide to do them. That's a problem. The first step here is to reflect on our own habits that don't support out health. Begin to notice what triggers that habit. Consider how you can head off that bad decision. What do you do consistently that you know provides net loss effect on your health?

Habits are hard to quit, so it's better to replace them. In the case of the latte and danish habit in the afternoon, the same is true. It would be hard to simply quit that habit, especially if your body has become accustomed to the boost from the sugar and caffeine. Instead, replace it. Try a brisk walk, some sunlight, and some stretching. The same is true for all our bad habits. Instead of quitting, try replacing.

Now there are many habits that provide a net gain effect on our health. As a matter of fact, any lasting change that we want to make, becomes more permanent if it is a habit. So how do we develop healthy habits?

  • Try pairing. Pair a new behavior (like taking supplements) with something you already do every day (like drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning). Pairing a new behavior with an existing one makes it more likely that you'll remember it and stick to it.

  • Do it everyday. Ever heard that it takes 21 days to create a habit? Well, research actually says it's closer to 60 days, but the point is consistency matters. Especially if this change is hard one, do it everyday.

  • Hold yourself accountable. Research also tells us that by making our goals public (sharing it on social media, telling a friend, or enlisting the help of a counselor/coach), we are more likely to turn that goal into a habit.

I challenge you today to evaluate your own habits. Where do you excel? What are some habits you need to replace with better ones?

My menu plan (2 weeks worth) printed and taped inside my planner for quick referencing.

One of my best habits is meal planning. I am responsible for what 5 people eat for nearly every meal of the day (we rarely eat out). If I didn't have a good menu plan in place, we would not eat as nutritious meals, I imagine our food budget would be much higher, and my anxiety from making the "what are we eating today" decisions would be through the roof. Instead, I have automated pretty much the whole process.

  • Each of us eats pretty much the same breakfast everyday

  • The kids and I eat pretty much the same lunch everyday while my husband gets the leftovers from dinner the night before

  • I created a rotating menu plan (with associated shopping lists) for 4 weeks. When a new weeks comes, I plot these meals into my calendar, compare the shopping list with what I have on hand, and head to the store.

This planning has cut down significantly on the time I spend wondering and stressing on what this pack of hungry animals is eating. It is one of my most treasured habits because I know that is sets us all up for success.

Wanna learn more about habits? I highly recommend the book Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin. It's an easy read and will provide you with insight on why you have the habits you do and the best way to develop some good habits of your own.

Jennifer is a Holistic Nutrition Coach. Email her today to find out how she can help you reach your health goals.