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Are your habits making or breaking you? - Issue #52
January 07, 2014
Rigid, the skeleton of habit alone upholds the human frame.
We are all creatures of habit. Our habits sustain us; they allow us to go about our daily routines with little thought or effort. Some of our habits are life affirming and others are self-destructive. Overeating and lack of exercise certainly fall into the latter category.
Habits are created by frequent repetition of certain behaviors. Modern neuroscience shows us that our habits become neural pathways in our brains – like well-worn grooves in a record. Once these habits are well established, breaking them can be challenging. As we practice new behaviors, we are growing new neural pathways and starving the older ones. Until the newer ones become stronger than the older ones, we will be at risk to fall back to the older ones, which is called relapse. When we become stressed, we humans often regress and are at high risk for relapsing back to our old ways.
A relapse isn’t a failure; it’s simply the stronger neural pathway taking over temporarily. Think of a child learning to ride a bike; falling is part of the deal until they have learned to have full command of the bike. A relapse doesn’t change the fact that a new neural pathway has been created. Unless you quit, all you need to do is keep repeating the positive new behavior until that pathway becomes strong and automatic, just like the older one you are replacing it with. This is why it’s so important to get back up on the bike quickly. If you quit completely, the new neural pathway will begin to shrink and you will once again strengthen the older pathways. It’s the old use it or lose it syndrome.
Developing new habits takes time and patience. Having unrealistic expectations of ourselves and beating ourselves up over mistakes is counterproductive and usually results in overeating and then quitting. It’s best to change one thing until we have integrated it, and then add another. If we add too many changes at once, we will feel overwhelmed, get frustrated and soon quit. People who receive social support are more successful at changing habits than people who do it alone. Get a coach, a buddy, or join an online group for accountability and support.
When changing habits, it’s important to reward ourselves for choosing the new behaviors. I call this dangling the carrot. Create a list of rewards to help reinforce the new behavior.
Keep a food and activity log. People who keep such logs are much more successful than those who don’t. Begin to notice the patterns around your eating behavior. What cues stimulate you to overeat? Is it boredom, anxiety, or lack of energy? You will need to create a replacement routine so that you don’t succumb to these cues. For example, if you find yourself feeling sleepy at 3:00, instead of reaching for that fattening coffee drink or cookie, go for a short walk instead.
Changing deeply ingrained habits takes patience, perseverance, persistence and becoming more present, so that we don’t fall prey to automatic behaviors. As long as we keep trying, we will eventually get there - one moment - one day at a time. What habits in my life are not working for me anymore?
Feast for the Eyes - Calla Lily - Photograph by Catherine L. Taylor
I become what I practice. I practice my new habits until they stick.
I pick myself up quickly when I fall back to my old ways.
I talk lovingly and encouragingly to myself so that I feel
motivated to continue.
I created my old habits and I can create new ones.
I start fresh every day with a new attitude and a new beginning.
Is emotional eating keeping you from losing weight and living the life you want? Are you ready to get off the diet rollercoaster and master your weight and your life?
If so, you may be a candidate for coaching. Coaching can make the difference between success and failure.
I have found that people who struggle with food and emotional eating are released from that prison once they learn the skills of mindful awareness and mindful eating, emotional self-nurturing, developing a spiritual or meditation practice, and learning to set appropriate limits and goals.
This turns off the urge to overeat and engage in other compulsive behaviors. When you feel better, you eat better! I have walked this path myself, and it has led me to peace and freedom.
The goal of my coaching is to create a lighter, balanced, healthier, nourishing and joy-filled life. You will begin to see results in all areas of your life because How You do Food is How You do Life!®
I coach and mentor people in the areas of: permanent weight loss, food addiction, compulsive, emotional overeating, binge eating recovery, creative self expression, spiritual direction, mindfulness, meditation, self care and stress management, self esteem and body image issues.
Note: My work is spiritually focused, not religious, and fits with any belief system you may have, even agnostic. My work assumes that you have all the wisdom and answers you need inside of you.
What you call this place -- God, intuition, Higher Power, inner wisdom, or true self -- is up to you. I am simply a guide bringing you back to the truths that are already inside of you.
I hope you have enjoyed my newsletter. Drop me a line and let me know how you are doing. I love to hear what's working for you and read about your success stories.
Catherine L. Taylor
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©2013 Catherine L. Taylor. All rights reserved. No portion of this newsletter may be reprinted in any form without express permission from the author.
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