When my daughters were six and seven, I realized something shameful.
I had a tummy paunch and was telling myself it was post-pregnancy fat. Yep, six years after giving birth, I excused and denied my mottled middle.
My moment of reckoning occurred at a Cold Stone Creamery of all places. We were eating our favorites: Ava with her Chocolate Devotion, Josie with her Strawberry Blonde and me with my Coffee Lovers. Boy, were we having a great time!
Before I get further with this story, I want to make something clear: there is nothing wrong with love handles or a bit of pudge. As long as YOU’RE OK with it. I was not OK with my weight. I wore loose clothing and felt badly when I undressed. It’s just me….I feel best about myself when I am fit. I have a small frame and I feel uncomfortable with excess pounds. This is not a judgment about other people. It’s about me confronting something I was unhappy about and how I changed it.
Continuing…We got up from the table when a very fit woman walked past the window.
“Wow, she’s fit,” I said, wistfully.
“Mommy, you look good too, everywhere except your tummy.” Josie said.
As with all children, her words rang true. I had let myself go a bit. I licked the final bits of Coffee Lovers off my upper lip. I fought tears. And I sighed.
I was ready to change.
In the next year, I lost 7 lbs. and got fit again. I had more energy and I was in a better mood much of the time. How did I do this?
I simply changed my habits.
Instead of going out for ice cream, I took the girls out for walks. We didn’t stop going out for treats entirely, we just cut back.
Instead of eating when I felt bored or stressed, I started jogging and doing yoga again. BUT, I made it a habit and I rewarded myself each time. According to Charles Duhigg (The Power of Habit), this is THE key to success. I woke up an hour early every day. I put on my workout clothes which I laid out the night before. After my workout, I had a glass of water and a cup of coffee. I reveled in feeling the endorphins run through my body and my coffee became my reward. I told myself, “No workout, no coffee.” I like coffee a LOT. That was enough to keep me going.
Honestly, I believe I am in better shape now than I was 25 years ago.
Is there something you want to change? How can you develop habits to make it happen? It’s easier than you think! I highly recommend Charles Duhigg’s book, “The Power of Habit.” It’s very entertaining and informative.
Maybe you get excited about setting resolutions. Maybe you are thinking of how you are FINALLY going to change…lose weight, make/save more money, get a new job/spouse/partner.
Or maybe not. Maybe you’ve tried and failed so many times, you’ve given up.
If you are serious about reaching your goals, then you need to develop healthy habits. It’s the things you do on a daily basis that ultimately lead to the actualization of your dreams. Crash diets don’t lead to long-term weight loss. Superficial makeovers don’t lead to marriage and a lottery ticket won’t make you rich (your chances: 1 in 14 million).
It’s going to take change on a daily basis. But it doesn’t have to be painful.
Charles Duhigg of The Power of Habit discusses the surprising power of developing a small habit. He found that people who formed a small, healthy habit usually developed other strong, healthy habits.
For example, I know someone who decided to see if drinking 64 oz of water every day would get rid of her under eye circles. She drank at least 64 oz of water every day for six weeks. She didn’t notice a difference with the dark circles (dang it!), but she did notice that she was eating healthier foods and exercising more regularly which led her to sleeping better.
We’re growing various plants in our backyard, including an herb garden and, of course, cactus. My favorite desert plant is the ocotillo. I see them growing magnificently in Usery Park (where they grow wildly and without irrigation) but in my own backyard, it’s taking its time. We don’t want the branches to grow out into the pathway, so we placed tiebacks on the branches to “encourage” and “redirect” growth in our desired formation.
Tiebacks work when the plant is still supple and maturing, and the tiebacks are gentle in their support. It wouldn’t work to have harsh restraints which could harm or kill parts of the plant.
Humans have tiebacks, too. They’re called habits. As with plant tiebacks, they’re most effective when we’re receptive and “supple” and when the habits are firm, but not too harsh.
The importance of developing excellent habits in order to reach lofty goals is well-known. However, James Clear and Charles Duhigg (The Power of Habit) have studied the efficacy of habit-making and, after reading their work, I found 2 findings especially enlightening and helpful:
Habits generally take 66 days to form permanently and;
Considering making a “habit” a personal rule (“I never eat candy” or “I always workout at 6am”) for example.
Clear admits that although the (commonly held) belief that it takes 21 days for a habit to hold sounds better than 66, it’s actually inspiring to know that it takes longer. If you “fall off the wagon” within the 21 days, you know that you haven’t failed. You just get back up and continue the work.The habit hasn’t formed permanently yet. Don’t give up!
Personally, I feel a difference between saying “I want a,b,c, to be a new habit” vs. “My ruleis a,b,c.” It feels permanent and there is no wiggle room.