I used to be able to eat anything I wanted when I wanted to. Every now and then, I read some promise that I can do so again by following just one wierd trick. I know that isn’t going to work. Nothing is ever that easy. But I love to find evidence that weight gain isn’t my fault. Like this article describing the bliss point that food labs and scientists seek.
We’re fundamentally responsible for our own decisions, healthy or not. But in ways many of us don’t appreciate, the companies that produce our favorite snacks are using science and a deep knowledge of our vulnerabilities to get us to eat more than we intend, sometimes even fooling us into thinking we’re making healthy decisions.
I am looking for solutions, not shortcuts. And since I was recently advised that my blood sugar and A1C tests split on whether I meet the diagnosis for diabetes – my blood sugar levels are too high, but my A1C test is below the threshold – eating right and getting exercise every day is more important.
My nutritionist advised that the exercise doesn’t have to be sweat-inducing in intensity, so I can live with her advice that I get in at least 30 minutes a day. But turning down all the food temptations is a much bigger challenge. It isn’t just that I have a loving husband who feels it is his job to offer me something he knows I like several times a day. It is that developing a habit takes consistent effort. Some resources say that consistent effort must continue for at least three to four weeks. I can see that developing the habit of doing something new, like getting at least 30 minutes of exercise each day will take a month or more to form. But getting rid of a habit – like eating whatever I like when someone offers it to me – isn’t so easy to get rid of.
So I did more research. According to PsyBlog, the much touted 21-28 day timeframe is much underestimated. In a study that followed individuals who attempted to establish a new simple habit – drinking a glass of water each day – the average length of time required was 66 days. That’s the average. In some cases it took as long as 254 days for the behavior to become automatic, i.e., for someone to perform the action without thinking about it. That same study had a kernel of good news, however, in that skipping a day now and then didn’t appear to be detrimental in the long run. I will keep that in mind so that if I slip up one day and don’t get that 30-minute walk in, or accept that one treat out of the half-dozen my husband has offered me, I can stave off the feeling of guilt or failure.
My nutritionist told me the story of one of her patients who arrived for the first session seriously overweight and then arrived one year later having lost much of that excess weight and much better blood sugar test results. She asked the patient how she had done it. The response was that she followed the nutritionist-provided diet six days a week and then on the seventh day she took her mother out for dinner and had whatever she wanted to eat. That plan gave her something to look forward to each week, a reward for sticking with the plan the rest of the week. That’s a success story I can emulate.