How to break a bad habit


(The following post is a guest submission from Ashley Skelton, who’s not only a Registered Dietitian, but a total fitness fanatic.)

Last week I asked you to define what being healthy means to you, and suggested that you write down a few simple rules to help you meet your definition. Let’s talk more about lists, rules, and goals.

When it comes to your health, the best way to take control is by writing out your own plan. Now don’t get me wrong… It’s not always easy. And going to a dietitian to help you get started is something I recommend if you’re struggling with this “assignment.” What I can tell you is that a good dietitian will start a conversation by asking you what is a realistic to meet your health goals. It’s so important to be honest with yourself.

Let me give you a real life example:I used to be addicted to diet coke. I was drinking 2 cans a day and hated how much I needed it. Not to mention I didn’t love the fact that I was drinking so much artificial sweetener. When I wanted to stop drinking diet coke, I had to come up with a game plan that would work. I had tried quitting cold turkey, but it never lasted long. I tried not keeping it stocked in my fridge, but I just ended up spending more money buying fountain soda daily.

What ended up working was replacing my diet coke with sparkling water. Above all I loved my daily pop because of the bubbles, not the extra caffeine. So I started with 2 cans a day of sparkling water that was mildly flavored. It didn’t quench my thirst right away so I started adding half of a fresh squeezed grapefruit to it… Delicious!

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Slowly I was able to eliminate the fruit juice. These days I’ll have a can a day of sparkling water that has no artificial flavors, but I can also go without it completely! Diet Coke is now something I drink with pizza or popcorn and that’s it. It only took one week to break my addiction… Well 2 years of failed cold-turkey quits and one week of a real plan. See what I mean?

It’s so important that you’re honest with yourself when deciding how you’re going to meet you goals. Maybe you are training to run a half marathon or lose 10 lbs or increase your vegetable intake. Whatever your plan is, I encourage you to be thoughtful when you design it. Think about other times in your life when you’ve been asked to reach a goal. When you were in school, each class started with objectives and a syllabus. When you’re getting an annual review at work you’re often asked to set new goals for the year. So why wouldn’t you set goals when you’re trying to live a more healthy lifestyle? In my opinion, this is of great importance.

My last piece of advice on this topic…When you sets nutrition goals that are lofty and fail to reach them it’s a step back and sometimes that discouragement is enough to make you stop trying. When I tried to stop drinking diet coke cold turkey and it lasted only 2 days I didn’t try again for almost a year. If you do break your rules occasionally, don’t let it knock you down. Think of it as a learning opportunity, and maybe a point to evaluate if you need to tweak a rule. So if you didn’t write down your definition of health last week, I hope this post is having you run for a pen and paper. And when you finalize your list put it on the fridge.