Baby Steps 6: New Habits – New Rewards

January 1st is a tough time to make a change.  I mean, how many of us still have Christmas cookies in the house?  Fudge?  Candy canes?  Chocolate…. no wait.  I always have chocolate in my house.  In my defense it is dark chocolate and I limit myself to about 150 calories worth a day.  What?  How can you stop eating chocolate you ask?  I’ll answer that in a second, but would just like to point out that although the holidays bring all sorts of unusual treats into our homes, most of us always have a lot of ‘food’ on hand that is not healthy food.  Food is a habit that is hard to break.  No wait, that sounds ridiculous… Poor food CHOICES can be a hard habit to break.  Habits are hard to break.  Time to develop new healthy habits.  They can be hard to break as well!


That is my segue back to the chocolate.  I used to adore Reese’s peanut butter cups and all manner of sugar-filled treats and candy.  Switching to dark chocolate took time.  I had to start with some in-between chocolate…, kind of dark, kind of milk / wishy-washy Charlie Brown kind of chocolate.  But as I developed new habits for snacks that were lower in sugar I began to find the more sugary versions WAY too sweet.  In fact, when I imbibe in a high sugar treat now I feel really bad in about 10 minutes.  No kidding.  It’s a great motivator to stay away from the crap, but it took some time to develop that sensitivity.

So my answer about having chocolate in the house without eating it is this.  The less sugar in the chocolate, the more deeply satisfying is eating a reasonable amount, AND the less sugar, the less likely to cause craving for more.  That is my experience.  And it is experience that has driven Little Sis and I on our quest to eat more healthfully, and to achieve a degree of success towards that proposition.  Experiences of wellness and satisfaction.  Repeated experience develops habits.  Paying attention to experience helps us develop healthy habits.  We would like to help you have experiences that will drive your own success towards healthy eating.  We suggest that you can develop new habits and new rewards.

If you are new to the Baby Steps series, I heartily recommend that you take a click back to the beginning and follow through the steps we have outlined thus far.  (Brief synopsis to follow)  If you are not new to the series – scroll on down to the next section which includes some tips for breaking habits.

Baby Steps Series (All offered with love and encouragement during successes and slip-ups):

Introduction: Baby Steps Down the Road to Better Health
a little why should ya for ya and links to recipes

Baby Step #1 – The Ol’ Switcheroo
Swapping out one or more of your worst choices for better ones – One Item, One Switch
some suggestions for where you might make a swap if you’d like suggestions and links to recipes

Baby Step #2 – Be Fearless, Be Honest
Facing up to what you are currently eating – we’ll still love you, I promise.

Baby Step #3 – Pantry Perusal
We help you assess what’s in your pantry.  Taking a hard look at what and why you find what you find.

Baby Step #3b – Peeping in our Pantries
A Peep into our pantries.  What are good items to have on hand for quick, healthy meals along with links to recipes

Go Back Jack – Baby Steps Check in
Encouragement to keep at it, even if you mess up.  Everyday provides new opportunities to make good choices about food.  We are with ya!  Hang in there!

Baby Steps #4 – Adventurous, Experimentation and Gratitude
So you’ve decided to improve your eating and your health, how do you get the rest of the family to come along?  Suggestions here!

Baby Steps #5 – It’s Time for a Plan
The name says it all – helping you make a plan after all your hard work preparing and experimenting.

Baby Steps – Happier, Healthier Holidays
Suggestions to eat as healthfully as possible during the holidays – or anytime when you know you will have tough choices coming your way!

Baby Steps – Don’t Say Diet
Reminders and encouragement that you don’t need to diet, you need to change what you eat.  You can learn to be satisfied and energized by healthy food.

And now Little Sis and I both have some things to say about New Habits – New Rewards….

I heard this guy interviewed on the radio the other day.  He had some really interesting, specific, and helpful things to say about habits.  I immediately thought of changing the way we eat in terms of habits.  So much of how we feed ourselves is habit driven, routine, doing what we’ve always done.  Habits can be hard to break.  We want to help and so does Jeremy Dean.  He gives 10 tips for habit change here that he covers in greater length in his new book Making Habits, Breaking Habits.  I was delighted to see how many of his tips sounded like the kinds of things we suggest in our Baby Steps to Better Health series.

Dean’s very first suggestion is “For Big Results, Think Small.”  He discusses the importance of making change in small, incremental, manageable and achievable bits.  Sound familiar?  Other themes that we both stress are repetition, tweaking (the same plan won’t work for everyone), and replacing an undesirable behavior with one that is desirable rather than just trying to suppress the “bad” one.  Yay!  These are just a few of his tips – there are a total of 10 in the article, and like I said they’re all from a larger book.  If you’re trying to make some healthy changes, this guy just might have some insight for you. And there’s nothing like having your advice validated by an official smart guy. 🙂

Indeed we do like smart guys, don’t we Little Sis?  I would like to add that we have cultural habits about using food as a reward.  We deserve’ a treat at the end of a hard day.  We ‘earned’ a chocolate milkshake by cleaning out the garage.  Only problem is we are hurting ourselves with some of these choices… what kind of a reward is that?  Rewards aren’t supposed to hurt, are they?

Make yourself a list of non-food rewards.  One of mine is to step outside (when possible) smell the air and look for some birds or other wildlife.  That always makes me feel better.  A little break, no harmful intake.  Then if I am really hungry, I can eat something that will nourish me in all my bird-loving glory ;-).  Seriously, make a list.  Little things, little treats… treats you can pay attention to like a cup of flavorful herb tea, a game of cards with your sweetie or friend, a flower or two to put in a vase where you’ll see it, a bath with scented water.  Make a list because options are good and options can help you overcome old, harmful habits.

Another benefit to the list of non-food rewards is that when the habit rears its head, if you go get the list, or read your list, you have a chance to move beyond the initial impulse.  Habits are in a way trained impulses.  Given a little bit of time to think about the consequences of our habitual actions, we might make a better, or less bad, choice.

Close your eyes when you’re sure that you ‘deserve’ that bag of Doritos or Reese’s peanut butter cup, breathe and count to 10.  Then look around you wherever you are and decide what you are going to do next.  Maybe the treat won’t seem so important anymore, or you will acknowledge a healthier choice and ‘treat’ yourself well.

Congratulations for reading a Baby Steps post.  That is a Baby Step right there!  You deserve a pat on the back and a healthier body!  Let us know how you are doing developing new habits and new rewards.  Please also let us know if there is specific information you’d like from us.  The Steps continue down the road to better health.