Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

5 Lessons on Developing Better Habits

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I never thought it was possible. I didn’t think I had it in me. But several years ago I started not only to eat, but to like eating vegetables.

Changing habits is hard. I was used to eating foods that were high in calories. And my waistline was beginning to show it. I knew something needed to change.

Eventually I developed the habit of eating vegetables. Making this one small decision every day changed everything for me. It made me feel better. It helped me to lose weight and then once it was lost to control it. It helped me to make other better choices about my life like exercise.

And now my life is on a different path.

Why should you care about what I eat? I don’t think you should. The point isn’t to talk about my path, but to help you change yours.

In this process of developing better habits, I learned five important lessons about how to make lifestyle change work.

photo by Henrik Johansson (creative commons license)

photo by Henrik Johansson (creative commons license)

1. Say yes to something better.

My first two goals in changing my eating habits were to eat fewer foods high in calories and to eat smaller portions. Like most dieters, I failed miserably. Every effort to stop ended in frustration and guilt.

Eventually I was able to quit eating the bad foods only by replacing them with good foods. I focused not on saying no but more on saying yes to something different. I focused on saying yes to something better. At first it was hard, but eventually I started liking the new habit.

Once I saw the results of my better choices, saying yes to vegetables became easier and easier.

2. Write down your choices.

To help me keep track of how I was doing, I recorded everything I ate. I used an app called DailyBurn Tracker. All I had to do was type in the type of food and the app did all of the hard work for me.

Every New Year countless people sit down and right down their goals and resolutions. They write down the choices they want to make instead of the choices they do make. While goals can help you know which direction to head in, they do not give you an indication of where you are today.

Writing down your choices forces you to own them, whether good or bad. Knowing this, you will think twice before making undesired choices. Record keeping also helps you to see what you are doing which can help you to determine what you might need to change.

3. Measure outcomes.

With my weight loss there was one simple tool I used to keep track of how I was doing. I weighed myself. And I did it constantly. Almost every day. I still do in fact.

Writing down your choices helps you to see your habits. Having some way to measure outcomes helps you to see if these habits are adding up to what you want them to.

Find some way to keep track of your progress. Measure it frequently. Keep track of how you are doing. Measuring outcomes helps you to know if you are in fact headed down the right road. And once you start to see results, the positive outcomes will encourage you to keep going.

4. Reward yourself.

Before making this change in my life, I would always eat too much whenever we went out to eat. The dinner would end and I would feel guilty about my choices.

When I started counting calories I would purposefully leave room in my daily calorie allowance for eating out. I would eat a little bit less at lunch the day of or the day after. I could eat anything I wanted and my total calorie count would still be okay. Going out to eat transitioned from a guilty pleasure to a reward.

I enjoyed going out to eat more than I did before developing better habits. By having some way to reward yourself, you can make it more fun. The more fun you have, the more likely your habit will stick.

5. Good habits beget good habits.

I didn’t anticipate all of the side effects of developing one simple good habit. Yes, I wanted to lose weight and feel better. Yes, I wanted to enjoy eating more and lose the feelings of guilt.

But in my development of the better habit of eating vegetables, I did not anticipate that it would be easier to develop other good habits.

Once you begin to see results sand enjoy the benefits of your good choices you will inevitably find other ways in your life to develop better habits. You might stop watching TV and read more. You might even read poetry. You might find yourself exercising more. You might find yourself buying less stuff and start saving money.

One good habit will lead to others.

Have you learned any secrets in the development of good habits?

About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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2 Replies

  1. Love this. I need to eat more veggies and just eat better. I know I always feel better when I eat better.

    Is it true all of this weight loss was REALLY so you can fit into some leather pants when you play guitar? 😀

  2. tight leather pants. very tight.

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