Fitness column: How to replace your bad habits with good habits
Bad habits lie in wait for us to adopt them, like evil pets.
We can find them around the corner with no effort. And once we have adopted them, they make our lives unhealthy and often unhappy.
One of my clients, “Bob,” told me recently that he doesn’t like to miss his exercise sessions because when he does he gets too comfortable and he might stop coming at all. He has achieved his first goal of losing 24 pounds. He’s 61 and thought that it would be almost impossible to lose weight, yet he achieved it. He’s now going for five more pounds.
One of Bob’s strengths is that he knows his weaknesses and is willing to fight them. Many of us don’t want to see when we are sliding down the slope into bad habits, but Bob does and works to prevent relapses.
From personal experience I know that life is a constant fight to adopt and maintain positive habits. Unlike bad habits, however, good habits are not easy to adopt. Nonetheless the benefit of good habits is a higher quality of life, which in turn means happiness.
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Bob came to see me because he knew he needed motivation to start a good habit, and now that he’s acquired it, he has the will continue exercising himself.
To stay on track, Bob focuses on the benefits that a good habit like exercise provides — such as weight loss, better appearance, strength, fewer visits to doctors, diminishing aches and more energy. Plus, the exercise habit has now motivated him to improve other habits, and he eats better now.
Bad habits cannot be “deleted,” only replaced by good habits. And once you start by adopting one positive habit, other positive habits are easier to get on board. One becomes more conscious of one’s ability to improve and keeps going. Our health depends on our good habits.
Whoever thinks that practicing negative behaviors only for a short time will be exempt from consequences is making a mistake. It’s like playing with fire and not wanting to get burned.
You can be the prisoner of your bad habits
When I was young I got into drinking, but a wise man saw me messing up and asked if I planned to drink like that my whole life. I was shocked and told him no.
He continued: “Do you think the people who become alcoholics or addicts dream of becoming alcoholics or addicts?”
“No,” I responded again.
“So,” he persisted, “you think you can control your drinking, but let me tell you, it becomes a habit, and soon you’ll be prisoner of that habit. People who become addicted think that they are the exception.”
I’ve never forgotten those wise words. Since then, I’m cautious about my habits. People don’t plan to become a slave of their desires or addictions; instead they like to make choices.
Be strong willed
I’m grateful I have the willpower to choose to make progress and improve my health and my body, just like Bob. He’s has chosen to better his life over his couch-potato tendencies. He’s happy to be leaving behind a sedentary lifestyle to improve his health and quality of life.
Psalm 126, verses 5-6 tell us that, “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He, who goes out weeping carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.” My take on this ancient wisdom is that they are talking in their own way about habits.
Bob and I understand that good habits are the only genuine way to lose weight and keep it off. Don’t believe those silly TV and internet ads: There is no shortcut.
Is weight loss your goal?
Do an inventory of your habits and find out which bad habits are making you gain weight. Then, start developing good habits that will do the opposite. Keep in mind that you may be so used to your bad habits that you might not be able to identify them. And you may have become so attached to those bad habits that unconsciously you don’t want to give them up.
Believe in yourself
But believe in change: You are stronger than any bad habit you have developed. Reclaim your life and start losing the pounds you’ve always wanted to lose.
Sandro Torres is owner of Custom Body Fitness in Carbondale, author of the book “Lose Weight Permanently” and a Watch Fit columnist. His column appears on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month in Body & More.
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