This weeks topic was chosen thanks to another blog follower’s feedback.
... I've been reading about, and struggling with, trying to not become obsessed with food as a consequence of trying to change habits and clean up our menu. For instance, I've learned that I can't track calories or the like because it consumes my attention. I truly couldn't focus on anything. It's an interesting study in balance between not thinking about food choices at all and thinking about nothing else.
There was so much to say, that I’ve broken this up into two blog posts. So stay tuned for next week’s continuation of the discussion.
Such a great topic - Balance and Food Struggles
My favorite way of thinking of balance these days is “Effort with Ease”.
We learned in yoga that muscles and the overall body will actually perform much better without forcing and straining. The body automatically reacts and stiffens to protect when we overextend.
Easing into a further extension, with exertion but not pain, and being able to breathe smoothly and deeply while doing so, results in the body allowing the added stretch. It really works and is one of the key reasons so many athletes use yoga to improve their performance in sports. Another key reason is the balance that yoga fosters.
IN OUR PURSUIT OF BALANCE - WHY IS IT SO HARD TO CHANGE HABITS?
When we are unhealthy and out of balance, our bodies crave unhealthy foods, drinks, substances and little to no physical activity.
A body out of balance seeks to remain out of balance. A healthy body seeks to remain healthy.
Changing food or any habit is challenging. I've found some interesting stats and a story to share.
How Long Does it Take for a Habit to Stick or to break an old Old Habit?
A myth since the 1960’s was that it took 21 days to form a new habit. Researching, I still found self help sites and experts who claim 21 days as the rule.
Here's the scoop behind that FALSE ‘FACT' of 21 days,
A plastic surgeon during the 1960's, by the name of Dr Walz noticed that it took about 21 days for a patient to start accepting a new nose and the look of their face or stop having feelings of their phantom limb after amputation of an arm or leg. He also noticed with himself, that it took about 21 days to form a new habit. He mentioned the findings in a book, Psycho Cybernetics that became a best seller and sold 30 million copies.
He noted the minimum was 21 days, and others repeated the information in telephone fashion - and the new ‘Self Help Rule’ became 21 days to form a new habit.
And I must admit, that until I began to do the research for this, I too thought that 21 days was correct.
How Long it Really Takes to Build a New Habit
Phillippa Lally is a health psychology researcher at University College London. In a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, Lally and her research team decided to figure out just how long it actually takes to form a habit. These findings were reported in numerous publications recently.
On average, it takes more than two months before a new behavior becomes automatic -- 66 days to be exact. And how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances. In Lally's study, it took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit. 
The main takeaway from the story, besides noting we have been taught many untrue ‘facts’ - changing a habit is a process, with no quick fix. You won’t become healthy in 18-254 days, but you can change your food habits in that timeframe to be on a path toward good health.
I can tell you that I have been through the pain of dozens of diets. There was NO EASE in the diets. Diets were always short term fixes for me, and a big part of the problem - my focus was on "weight loss” - not health.
At the end of a diet, I was not healthier. I weighed less. There is a difference. In a rush to lose weight, dieters inevitably use unhealthy practices to get the weight down. We want quick fixes.
Thinner people are NOT necessarily healthy.
Once I reached my goal or close to my goal, I’d generally celebrate the loss with foods I’d given up to lose the weight. It wouldn’t take long before I’d be right back where I started.
Then once again, when I was fed up with how I looked, OR how my clothes fit OR if some big reunion, wedding or social event was coming up - Yep, then I'd start another Diet. And the cycle continued for most of my adult life.
I’ve never been extremely heavy, but have routinely been overweight and on some kind of diet. I think I’ve tried them all.
For a focus on health, Lifestyle changes may be in order.
To put the Ease back into this balance discussion, start by simplifying.
Stopping things I had done for years made way for a fresh outlook and approach:
A few Suggestions to try:
Do your clothes fit comfortably? When they don't, there's a problem. There’s much less stress when you don’t daily look at a # that can fluctuate up and down depending on whether your body held more water from one day to the next. Even if you are on a weight reduction program, going to a gym or doctor's office and weighing yourself once a month is better than daily.
3. Stop the negative energy inherent with “in case I get Fat Clothes”. (think of the space you will save and the help you may provide by giving away unused clothes to someone else)
I had a total closet purge about 6 months ago - topic for another blog posting - and that has been a significant lifestyle change, moving toward simplicity and feeling like I want to feel every day when I get dressed. Definitely helps with balance.
***Note: women who plan to get pregnant should keep a variety of sizes, as they will need them.
Simplify by checking three things:
Added Salt Content
Added Sugar Content
Real Food Ingredients
Whole and naturally grown foods that are not processed will have few and recognizable ingredients - easy to check the labels when it says “Carrots” or “Rice” or “Sweet Potatoes” and has no or as few as possible preservatives and chemical additives.
When a food has a list of ingredients you can’t pronounce or have no clue what they are - don’t buy it! When vitamins and minerals have to be artificially added in the form of ‘food additives’, it means there is little to no food value in the product. Choose real food.
Cereals have been heavily marketed, and most of us bought the hype. I ate them and fed them to my kids - I just didn’t know better. Now I do know better. Eating processed cereal won't kill you, but know there are healthier food choices for you.
Even boxed granola should be eaten sparingly, as it is usually made with sweeteners and food additives. I used to think I was having a really healthy snack by eating handfuls of granola while sitting and watching TV - at least I wasn’t eating chips right?
Neither chips nor granola are snacks to eat limitlessly, as I did.
Small amounts of salt daily are necessary for life.
Most of the foods we eat are preserved and processed with Way Too Much salt.
Sugar is important for the electrolyte balance in your body. I learned the lesson of salt and sugar depletion when I became severely dehydrated with the flu.
Yet, added sugars, used in processing foods are not necessary, nor desirable. Those added sugars are what cause you to want to eat more in an hour or two.
Try to eliminate as much sugar as possible
Eat as few processed foods and processed ingredients as possible
Sweet is a necessary and good taste that we all should enjoy and have for good health. Generally there is natural sweetness that comes from fresh baked grain breads, sweet potatoes, squash and real fruits, to name a few. When we are in balance and healthy, these foods will taste sweet to us.
Processed foods and foods with chemical additives are the toughest to give up - but also the most harmful to us, in that they are addictive in nature.
Note that ‘sugar’ comes in many forms - check for High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sucrose, Dextrose, etc. - all forms of sugar to avoid as much as possible.
When the addictive cravings subside, it is much easier to choose healthier foods that are also flavorful, filling and enjoyable to eat. You won’t feel deprived because your body will be healthier, more in balance.
Balance isn’t a point you reach, and then you are always balanced. I learned this from Ayurveda (a topic for a future article)
Every day we rebalance based on our schedule, based on the weather, based on life’s circumstances. Approaching each day from a starting point of general good health makes keeping balance much easier.
To help with the transition to better health, Try out the 80-20 guide
80% of the time, adhere to the healthiest and most balanced way of eating, living and overall lifestyle. Then 20% is available for a special occasion or party or vacation.
The key is to not let one day such as Christmas turn into an entire month of sugar laden, processed and rich foods and drinks etc.
Retailers and the Food Industry have increased every holiday into an extended period of time. Remember, they are first and foremost Businesses trying to make money.
We allow others to influence our thoughts and actions. It's up to us to keep balance and health in our lives.
Part 2 on this topic will include more on positive lifestyle changes, plus reasons why we struggle so much with health and food issues.
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