Don't Fall Back into Bad Habits
How to keep a good thing going
You worked hard on making better eating choices and exercising. And for a
few weeks or maybe a few months, you did well. You lost weight, felt better,
and were sure that this time, your new and improved health habits were
here to stay.
But then there was a big project at work that had you ordering in pizza at
your desk rather than going out for a low-calorie lunch. Your children needed
extra help with their homework, so your evening walks got put on the back
burner. And before you know it, those hard-won healthy changes went by the
What happened? While you weren't looking, you slid right back into your old
Habits, whether good or bad, are repeated patterns of behavior that we do
without conscious thought, says Jo Anne White, PhD, a life coach and professor
at Temple University in Philadelphia.
They key to changing habits and keeping them changed is to take conscious
control, says White. To begin with, make a decision to change the defeating
habit and set a specific date for when you'll begin. Then, write down and
consider why you want to make the change.
"Once you've physically done something -- in this case, writing it down
-- your action gives power to your mental commitment," says White. "It
tells you: Now you're serious."
Making Better Choices
For many people, maintaining weight loss and fitness gains are harder than
achieving them in the first place.
One of the most common reasons for relapsing is stress, says Malena Perdomo,
RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Family and work
issues, or any major life change, can trigger a slide, says Perdomo. So can
feeling bored, sad, or guilty.
"Become aware of the times you slip up," advises Rebecca
"Kiki" Weingarten, MSEd, MFA, coach and co-founder of Daily Life
Consulting in New York. "Stop for a second to see why you want to
Ask yourself if you're really hungry, or need some comfort food, Weingarten
says. If you really need an "emotional" snack, you don't have to deny
yourself -- just make a better choice. Sucking on a piece a hard candy instead
of downing an entire candy bar, for example, may do the trick. So may drinking
a diet soda instead of a sugar-laden one.
"You don't have to stop enjoying your life," says Weingarten.
"You just have to substitute new, positive habits for old, negative
In fact, Howard Shapiro, MD, author of the Picture Perfect Weight
Loss series, believes that the fastest way to fall into bad diet habits is
by depriving yourself of your favorite foods. Shapiro says it's not so much
about dieting as training yourself to make smarter choices.
Craving ice cream? Instead of opting for a cup of ice cream with 300
calories, have a fudgsicle for just 40 calories. Need a carb fix? Instead of a
bagel with butter for 640 calories, try two slices of whole-wheat toast with
peanut butter and a cup of fruit, all for 370 calories.