the hardest advice to follow

12 Oct

I have been thinking a bit about why it’s hard to foster certain healthy habits. It’s different for everyone, of course. Maybe your vulnerable point is exercise–hard to remember to do it and make yourself stick with it, easy to stay home or stay on the couch. Maybe it’s diet-related (can’t resist a certain junk food, have a hard time with portion control).

For me, the #1 hardest thing is this: when you’re eating, sit down and enjoy your food and don’t do other things.

I know this seems like it’s not very important. I certainly believe that choosing healthy foods and being active are more important lifestyle changes than this.

But this is also the one thing that I find it hard to do even for a few days. In fact, it’s hard for me to do this even for one day.

In theory, I know that this would be good for me. It would force me to be mindful about eating; it would give me a more relaxed dining experience and make my day less stressful; it would remind me that food is something to be enjoyed, not something to be frustrated about.

But I still end up eating 80%–maybe 90%–of my at-home meals on the couch, with a book in hand or the laptop next to me. And breakfast, plus sometimes lunch, is eaten in the car or in between the classes I’m teaching.

So, thinking about it today, I came to a staggering (and embarrassing) realization.

I think the reason I struggle so much with this is that I am incapable of keeping our dining table cleared off. It’s always covered in junk; it never seems worth clearing it. My spouse works fairly late, so I usually eat with the kids, and it’s easier to ignore the mess on the table and eat in the living room.

It would seem, at age 31, that I should be old enough and responsible enough to keep the table cleared off, but it’s very difficult for me. Now that I’ve made this connection, though, I’m going to make more of an effort to do this, with the goal of being able to sit down and eat dinner there with my kids. I want them to develop the habit of eating mindfully, too.

The most interesting thing about this observation is that the real problem isn’t what I thought it was. I assumed that I avoided sitting down to eat in peace because I was too busy, or too stressed. I am sure, however, that I would sit down and eat at the table much more often if I didn’t have to move a bunch of books and papers to clear a space.

The moral of this post is that you, too, should think about why you struggle with some habits more than others. If you find it almost impossible to drink enough water, for example, is that because it interrupts your day? Or because you don’t like the taste of your tap water? Or because you’re not in the habit and you haven’t figured out how to remind yourself? Once you figure out why it’s hard for you, you’re in a better position to solve the problem.

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