The American Medical Association (AMA) declared that obesity is a disease. Whether you believe this is true or not, you can still beat the heavy habits that led to your obesity.
“I don’t know how I got this way
I know it’s not alright
So I’m breaking the habit
I’m breaking the habit tonight” — Linkin Park (Breaking the Habit)
A habit is an acquired pattern of behavior that often occurs automatically. Most of our daily lives are consumed by various habits. Food and exercise are no exception.
Most people understand that habits exist, but not how they work. A habit is a self-enforcing loop that is triggered by a cue, sustained through a routine, and inspired by a reward. This is according to Charles Duhigg’s new book, The Power of Habit.
I was fat throughout my childhood and into early adulthood. Being fat is NOT a disease. Being fat is a habit. Which is why I now refer to myself as a former fat girl.
When you eat, what you eat, and how much you eat are often habits that you learned. I used to eat a bowl (or two) of cereal every day for breakfast. When I recently went gluten-free, I couldn’t eat my bowl of cereal for breakfast. It was frustrating! I suddenly had to think about what to eat.
Exercise is also a habit. When I first started lifting weights, I would lift them at night while watching TV. Once my daughters were in bed, and the TV came on, I picked up my weights. I know it was a habit because I didn’t even think about it- I just did it.
Not exercising is also a habit. If you have never been active or incorporated it into your day, you are missing the cues that motivate you to START exercising.
You may believe that obesity IS a disease. After all, other members of your family may be obese, and your previous attempts at losing weight might have failed. Short of having weight loss surgery, knowing that obesity is a disease still does NOT give you a prescription for change.Find out how to use #habits to cure your #obesity- without surgery or pills! @nytimes @cduhigg #routine Click To Tweet
So, how do you change your heavy habits?
You change the routine that drives the reward!
For example, you crave a sweet snack every afternoon at 3pm. That is your cue. Your reward is the feeling you get once you consume the treat.
Is a treat the only way to inspire that feeling? Or, is there something else that can give you that same feeling?
Watch this video below on how to kick the habit of rewarding yourself with sweet treats.
You’ve heard the saying, “A moment on the lips, forever on the hips”. I’m not saying that every bite you take should be measured against its consequence. But, I am saying that every bite you take should be intentional. If you’re eating to fulfill an emotional craving, you should be aware of that.
My challenge to you is to write down every time you eat without thinking for a whole day.
That one small change can stop the heavy habits you have gotten used to, and allow you to create awareness around your current routine.
The step of writing these habits done is CRUCIAL, because you may “know” what you are doing without really putting the spotlight on why or how much.
Believe me- I had no idea I was eating upwards of 4000 calories every day until I actually wrote it down.
I started this article with the lyrics from Linkin Park’s “Breaking the Habit”, because this song inspired me to run again when I first started my weight loss journey. Plus, the song really gets to the heart of the matter when it comes to how to break your habits.
(2017 update: I don’t know what demons Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington fought with. However, I was heartbroken when he committed suicide. His habits overcame him in the end. As a tribute to him, I am including the full video of Breaking the Habit in this post.)
Breaking the habits that led to you becoming obese won’t be easy, and you will want to keep doing what you have always been doing. There is a way to break those habits for life, without feeling like you are suffering in the process. To learn about ways to do this, check out my health coaching program.