Monday, December 29, 2008

Go Zen for the New Year

Starling Fitness recently expanded on a post by Zen Habits about the 7 keys to turning bad habits into good habits. I would argue that diet is one of our most ingrained habits. These tips are useful for dealing with cravings that don't represent true hunger. We may get used to turning to food when we are bored, or angry, or upset. After all, we are creatures of tradition. We tend to establish a pattern, and stick with it.

The tips are:
For each habit, identify your triggers. 
Is it boredom? Loneliness? Does tv make you want to snack when you're not hungry? It will be helpful to write them down.

For every single trigger, identify a positive habit you’re going to do instead. 
For me, it's best to try to do something productive, such as blogging or working on my internship applications for this summer. But it could be anything, like calling a friend, writing a song or reading.

For at least one month, focus entirely on being as consistent with your triggers as possible. Perfect timing for a New Year's Resolution, perhaps? In this amount of time, your goals will be well on their way to becoming new habits.

Avoid tempting situations. Laura at Starling Fitness points to parties or buffet dinners. As the holidays wind down, maybe it will be spending too much time on the couch that will lead to overeating. Maybe it will be late dinners and drinks with friends. Suggest you try sushi instead of steaks and fries, or a wine bar over beer and appetizers.

Realize that your urges will be strong, but they will go away after a few minutes
It's important to realize that true hunger will not go away. Leo at Zen Habits suggests, "Find strategies for getting through the urges — deep breathing, self massage, eating frozen grapes, walking around, exercising, calling a friend who will support you."

Ask for help. It may feel like the hardest thing in the world to talk to your loved ones about food issues, but more than likely, they will be willing to support you if they know it's important to you.

Staying positive is key! You will, at times, feel like giving in to old habits. If you mess up, bounce back. You didn't undo days or weeks of effort with one slip-up.

Bonus: If you fail (and many of you will, at least once), don’t give up. Bad habits have been ingrained into your daily routine for years. It will take longer than a month to truly give them up. Best of luck!

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