My wife and I have a plant in the house that sits a couple of feet away from a large window. It has grown significantly and looks great, but the one issue we have with it is its tendency to grow to one side.
As it sits in the same position day after day, it slowly and imperceptibly grows toward the window, and it isn’t until weeks later that we notice that the plant is crooked.
If we turn the plant frequently, so that one side of the plant is only occasionally facing the window, we’ll likely never see the plant grow crooked.
As humans, we are a lot like that plant in the sense that we aren’t impacted much by what we’re only occasionally exposed to. Rather, we are mostly impacted by what we are most often exposed to. Whatever we habitually do is what affects us the most.
That said, my question to you for this column is, what kinds of eating and exercise habits do you have? Do your daily habits align with whatever your health-related goal is?
Whether you desire to lose fat, avoid disease or just feel healthier, it is very important that you honestly ask yourself these questions.
Say, for example, that your goal is to lose extra body fat. A common complaint that people have is that regardless of how dedicated they are to reducing calories, they still cannot seem to be successful at losing the weight. Again, in instances like this, it is important that you take honest inventory of whatever your daily habits are, as they will almost definitely point you to whatever obstacle is holding you back from your goal.
To continue with the fat loss example, common habits that prevent people from losing fat include:
Drinking coffee (sweetened), soda or artificially sweetened beverages all day: Beverages are perhaps the biggest culprit when it comes to holding onto extra weight. And you’re not home free with artificially sweetened drinks, because recent studies have shown that artificial sweeteners have a similar effect on insulin in the body as sugar does.
Skipping meals: I’ve talked with many people who have expressed with bewilderment that they only eat one meal a day, so they’re confused as to why they cannot break weight loss plateaus. While it is true that consuming less calories helps you lose weight, there is a point where your body’s survival mechanisms kick in. When you eat just one big meal a day, your body may store more of those calories to protect itself from perceived famine.
Eating processed “health” food instead of focusing on fresh fruits and vegetables: Fresh vegetables and fruits are better than processed foods for weight loss. They’re naturally low in calories, and they’re pure, so your body already knows to do with them. Processed foods, on the other hand, may be low in calories, sugar and so on, but they’re often filled with stuff that makes your blood sugar spike; therefore, you keep the fat.
This is my encouragement to you today: If you find yourself consistently failing to reach health-related goals, take careful stock of all of your habits. Scrutinize everything.
Just like my plant, chances are that there is something you’re habitually exposing yourself to that is holding you back.
Shawn McClendon is an ACE certified personal trainer and owner of the health/fitness blog www.YourHealthAtTheCrossroads.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.