'Clean your plate': where habits begin

03.17.14 |

Eighty-five percent of people who go on a diet without behavior support gain the weight back within two years

Changes in diet and exercise choices are important, but they rarely last because the underling orientation of the individual remains the same. Our health ultimately stems from where we place our health in terms of a priority in our life. If we change some behaviors in the short term, to resolve some problem it is likely that our old patterns of behavior will eventually resurface. The weight comes back on, and our health again takes a tumble.

Seeing this trend inspired me to write Dr. A’s Habits of Health. I saw that daily choices added up in the long term. Small errors of judgment in what you eat, in how much you move or don’t move, and other habits that seem insignificant snowball, until one day you realize that you feel heavy, tired, and sick. So I designed a system that addressed these habits and taught people to first recognize the importance of their health and then give them the understanding, strategies, skills, tools, and support to create  long term health.

Deeply entrenched habits

Undoing these Habits of Disease is not always easy. Sometimes our habits are deeply entrenched, like trees that have established a network of roots over a few centuries.

To illustrate this fact, consider this new study recently published in the Journal of Pediatrics (this summary from the Huffington Post covers the high points). Researchers found that forcing children to eat all of the food on their plates may inadvertently teach them to ignore internal hunger cues, which could lead to children eating more food than they really need, a behavior that continues well into adulthood. The final result: obesity.
Influences like this are part of the reason why we have a habit of eating everything in front of us, regardless of when we feel full or satisfied. From a parenting standpoint, the intention is to be mindful of a child’s need for food, but the consequence could be dire: a troublesome Habit of Disease.

The challenge of reprogramming

If you grew up in a household like this, as many of us did, you may be faced with the challenge of reprogramming a habit that you have reinforced for 30 years or more. If you don’t address the Habit of Disease, it will win the inner-dialogue the next time you are faced with heaping portions of unhealthy food at a company picnic or family get-together.
When you consider your health, think beyond losing weight. Make your ultimate goal a lifetime of optimal health. With that goal in mind, build a foundation that will last. For most of us, this will mean abandoning much of what we’ve been doing before, but that’s okay. Sometimes you have to clear away the old to make way for the new.

To help you get started, here are a few tips that can help:

  • Use smaller dishes. I recommend 9-inch plates.
  • Structure your portions. For adults, reference the Habits of Health. If you are planning for your children, talk to your pediatrician about what is appropriate for your child’s age and unique needs.
  • Use the glycemic index to eat food that leaves you feeling satisfied, helping to limit your desire for second helpings. My color coded shopping charts will make it easy.
  • If you eat a snack, do not eat directly from the bag or container. Take a small portion and leave the kitchen.
  • Surround yourself with people that also want to create health in their lives. Look to them for support when you feel yourself struggling with a craving.
  • Develop a strategy for overcoming trying situations. For example, the Stop. Challenge. Choose. method has helped thousands of people make the healthy choice time and time again.

Health is a journey, and it might be challenging at times. To create health that lasts a lifetime will require some work, but it is worthwhile work. And the Optimal Health community is here to help.