Breaking Eating Habits

cold-turkeyIn the spirit of Thanksgiving…this post is vaguely relevant regarding turkey…hence the classic image to the left.  I recently read a blurb from someone I follow on Twitter (one of the godfathers of the paleo/primal eating lifestyle) regarding how one changes habits…specifically when moving to a healthier lifestyle. The takeaway was something along the lines of “when making a change…do you take baby steps or go cold turkey?”

This time around (and hopefully for good) I’ve selected the “cold turkey” route…and when I say “cold turkey”…I literally haven’t touched a morsel of poultry since starting the reconstruction.  This isn’t because I believe poultry is bad for you…it’s just one of those foods I must avoid for a few months based on the food sensitivity test.  Don’t worry though…I still cook it for the other four members of my family…so that everyone doesn’t have to suffer from Dad’s food sensitivities.

It’s been said that it takes about three weeks to either break a bad habit or develop a good habit.  Finally…I’m a firm believer in this old adage.  I have on numerous occasions now successfully walked past the break room at the office…come face to face with a table full of donuts…pies…cakes…pizza…anything from Rick’s Bakery…and been able to resist the temptation.  Sometimes I get really close to these former food options and smell them…remember them…and move on…before I would have completely indulged…and felt like crap the remainder of the day. Being able to do avoid these temptations has hardened my resolve somewhat…it’s difficult…but getting easier every day.  With it being the holiday season and all…our office will be innundated with holiday treats sent over from contractors, consultants, and vendors…needless to say…I’m up for the challenge!

In my past efforts to “get healthy” I had taken the baby steps approach…sometimes having success…and perhaps if I would have stuck to it I could have made remarkable changes in my health.  The thing is…I was always a sucker for unhealthy foods and would easily gave into temptation.  I’d go a few days eating “moderately healthy”…I use that term loosely because it is laughable thinking about what I used to consider healthy…but I would feel like I deserved some sort of reward for eating well. So I would undo any progress with a little 4-piece Popeye’s here…a little up-sized Arby’s there…and hey…did you know hey have Greek froyo at TCBY now? While mildly nutritious…when you mix Greek froyo with Reese’s cups it sorta defeats the purpose. The point is…I would always find myself back where I began…unmotivated and feeling like a failure.

What’s been the game changer this time?

KnowingIsHalfTheBattleI would have to say knowledge. Making this abrupt change is partly due to the revelation that for a vast majority of my life I’ve participated in stuffing my maw with a pro-inflammatory diet.  Like I’ve said before…I was a little oblivious…not knowing or caring that certain foods were either chronically keeping me sick or contributing to the many issues I was trying to live with day-to-day.  This time…I’m learning a ton more about the foods I should be eating (reading labels and ingredients) and actually enjoying them (in correct portions)…which in turn has made everything…well…extremely doable.  Knowing is half the battle!

How have you been able to change any bad habits or develop new good habits in your life?  Baby steps?  Cold turkey?  I’d like to know!

Go To Sleep

KeepCalmSleepIt’s something we say to our kids every single evening at bedtime, “I love you…but will you please just go to sleep…don’t fight it…you need good sleep for your body to recharge it’s batteries.”  This statement often precedes the unending requests for water…or the getting up to go potty…or to tell us an important tidbit of the day they conveniently JUST remembered…nice try offspring.

I know I don’t need to say this, but it’s tiresome as a parent…and we’re already pretty worn out by their bedtime…let alone ours.  We love our kids tremendously and enjoy their company…but at bedtime we want them to just go to sleep…for reals.

What I have to admit though is that I’m a total hypocrite on the matter.  With my freedom as an adult to have no bedtime…my sleep habits have been terrible…for a long time now.  I do similar things in an effort to fight sleep…not necessarily the pottying and water requests…but similar things.  I haven’t asked the kids, but I’m assuming they think this totally looks like “Do as I say…not as I do.”  We parents are hypocritical about a lot of things…but all is not lost.

I’ve been a night owl since the time my bedtime was increased as a kid.  Even when with a bedtime of 8:00PM as a grade school kid I would stay up late under the blanket with a flashlight to play with my Star Wars action figures.  During my middle school years it wasn’t very difficult for me to stay up late playing Nintendo on a Friday/Saturday night…ah…those were the days!  Plus…back in the 80’s-90’s (here I go sounding like and old man)…I was a huge fan of youth group lock-ins…mostly because you got to goof off all night…at church…and eat pizza and drink cokes.  In high school I would often times stay up listening to music (U2 fan here) or feverishly trying to finish my homework or school projects.   During my junior and senior year of high school I worked part-time in the evenings…often the closing shift where I ended up getting home close to midnight…on school nights.

The college years is where it all went downhill for me.  It didn’t help that all-nighters were a right of passage pursuing a degree in architecture.  These late nights were often filled with building models, staring at drawings or computer monitors, blaring music, and partaking in binges of unhealthy food and drink.  Ask someone who I was in studio with (a couple may even be reading this)…but I was known to drink a 6-pack of either tallboy Yoo-Hoo’s or IBC Creme Sodas to get me through the night…we’re talking pre-Starbucks era folks…true story.  These habits of staying up late stuck with me…for no good reason at all…well into adulthood.

In today’s world, with the advent of Netflix and other types of on-demand media we can easily lay around and waste our evening hours binge watching episodes of ‘Friday Night Lights’ back-to-back-to-back…or perhaps well-intentioned documentaries…on food and healthy living…until well past midnight.  We don’t watch a ton of ‘regular’ TV in our house…but I think these new forms of media can be even more addictive…plus…there are no commercials!

So during my initial consultation with the “natural doctor” one of the things we discussed was sleep habits.  She asked if I slept well…I said no…or on rare occasion.  She asked what time I typically went to bed…I said anywhere 12:00-1:00AM on average and waking up around 6:30-6:45AM.  She asked what I did before going to bed…I said that I read on my tablet to catch up on all the craziness in this world (news)..or watched a show…essentially always looking at some sort of screen. She asked what did I do to wind down or deal with stress…I said nothing.  She then said that there’s no wonder you’re having sleep problems…you’re essentially not letting your body cycle down properly, not giving your eyes a break, and you’re constantly stressed.  All of these things plus a terrible diet are harbingers of poor sleep. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner.

She gave me some helpful tips that I wanted to pass on…I figure could benefit everyone who reads this (these might be obvious to a lot of folks out there).  I’ve not successfully implemented this every evening…I’m working on breaking some habits…turns out breaking the food habits may be easier than the sleep habits…but I’m here to tell you they work. They’re listed below in the relative order I try to do them in.

  1. Turn off all devices around 9:30…including TV, computer, phone, tablet, etc…this is supposed to let your eyes relax and help you disconnect from the day.
  2. Drink a cup of hot tea…I use Sleepytime by Celestial Seasonings…there are others out there.
  3. Do a series of light yoga stretches along with deep breathing…imagine me doing yoga for a second…funny huh? I do a couple of stretches that help spinal alignment…it helps my coccyx pain.
  4. Optional (I do not currently do this)…turn on some tranquil music…I can’t stand trickling water though.

Now…just go to sleep…preferably in the ten o’clock hour.

If you’ve got any successful tips to add…comment below…I’d love to hear what folks do to wind down in the evening.