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Good Health Is a Good Habit

Posted Aug 10 2009 3:45pm

I have met a few truly wise people in my life. Sadly, neither one of them is me. But hey, I’m not dead yet so there’s still time. Anyway, one of them is a chap named Dr. Bill Stewart and the other is Shirley – and I’m not just saying that because I’m scared of her! Even though I am!

Anyway Bill {full disclosure here, I work with Bill in my day job} has written a book called “Deep Medicine” in which the basic message is that every decision we make is about health; if we decide to eat deep fried mars bars instead of a brocolli sandwich that’s a health decision; if we decide to take the elevator instead of the stairs up to the 37th floor, that’s a health decision. P1010055

Shirley says that to make something a habit you have to do it 29 times. Once is just a start. Ten times is good. Twenty times is very good. But to make it something you do automatically, you have to do so 29 times. And she’s right. I don’t know about the math (and as any of my old mathematics teachers in school would say “what’s new!”) but that’s pretty much about right.

Anyway, I was thinking about this when I was working out recently and looked around and realised there were a lot of familiar faces. It’s great to suddenly appreciate how many people you see at the gym all the time. Then you realise they are there because they’ve made the decision to make it part of their lives. It’s not something they do when they feel like it, it’s something they do because they do it.

And that’s the key. The more you do it the less you have to think about doing it. It becomes automatic. You go to the gym on a Monday because you always go on a Monday. You go running on Thursday because you always go running on Thursday. After a while you don’t have to think about it or plan it. You may even wake up thinking “oh my god I don’t want to go running”.. then get up and go for a run.

That’s pretty much how I feel about going to the gym on a Monday evening. After all, I’ve just had a fun weekend and had to struggle all day Monday to try and get back into the work groove and the idea of going to the gym is not high on my list of fun things to do.

So I get there and think I’ll just do an easy workout, nothing too strenuous, something to ease me into the week. Then I get on the stairmaster and before I know it I’ve programmed the damn thing to do the same ridiculously taxing routine I always do. And after that I end up doing the same rigorous weight lifting routine I always do.

Why? Because that is what I usually do. It’s a routine. A habit. I do it because I always do it. It doesn’t take the pain out of the routine, but it certainly makes the decision making process a heck of a lot easier. By taking the question about whether you will do something out of the equation, you make it easier to just do it.

And the same applies to how you eat. If you eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and avoid lots of highly processed, high fat and sugar foods you’ll quickly find yourself not even having to think about what you buy when you go to the supermarket. You just cruise around the areas where the foods you buy are located, and avoid the areas where the foods you don’t buy are.

That doesn’t mean you never eat those foods – after all everyone loves a cookie or a cake from time to time – it just means you dramatically reduce your odds of even having to think about whether you are going to eat one because you don’t have them around the house.

So, if you want to be healthy, don’t think about it, don’t plan it, just make it a habit.

p.s. Welcome new readers from The Real Deal Show Website!

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