April 8, 2010

Habit Forming

I was at my boxing class yesterday when I overheard the instructor talking to one of the more rotund kids about starting to eat more healthily. He explained that if you suddenly totally switch your diet from junk to uber health food you could cause yourself all sorts of problems. The change needs to be gradual. I had to contain myself and not barge in with a rant about how much I agree with that sentiment.
            When I first started getting really interested in fitness, I wasn’t eating particularly healthy- lots of pizza, peanut butter, cheesy greasy foods, and not many vegetables. I stopped eating a lot of cheese after I realized that the deli meat slicer was covered in rotting deli meat and being used on the cheese as well. (I was at a boarding school at the time.) Then I started splitting the weekly personal pizzas with some one else and loading up on salad as well. After that seemed like less of a hard decision, I stopped eating the artificial butter product because all of the chemicals freaked me out. (I mean stopped eating in a relatively loose sense- I still ate the “butter” on things like popcorn, and if I was really hungry would eat the whole personal pizza. I just cut down on these food items. All things in moderation, right?) This went on until I was eating lots of the offered vegetables and sneaking slices of the delicious whole wheat bread. My transition from eating a lot of junk to eating more nutritious foods took at least 8 months- I didn’t try to drop all of my eating habits in one day and miraculously stick to an unfamiliar diet. Hell, I didn’t even really set out with a desire to eat better, I just would randomly decide that a certain food was gross (the “butter” and the cheese) or that I didn’t really need a whole personal pizza, and then cut back on those foods while filling that void in my diet with something that I felt better about eating.
            This concept applies to fitness as well. Later that same night I was talking to one of my friends about this workout I was going to try, and she replied that she wished she wasn’t lazy. I definitely didn’t suddenly one day say, I’m going to make up really hard workouts and try to push myself until I’m a limp noodle. (Actually, I still don’t really say that…) I just started out doing something that I enjoyed consistently, and then began noticing things that I could improve and working on improving them. I also had several really intense friends that led by example. (If I just did half as many reps as them and I want to quit now, imagine what they must be feeling…)
            I mention all of the above with slight hyperbole- I definitely don’t eat perfectly healthy all the time (I LOVE Sonic), and I definitely have my days of not wanting to work out at all or the days when I make only a halfhearted effort. I just somehow manage to eat well most of the time and work out zealously 75% of the time. After two years, it’s just a habit.

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