Often we get motivated to change our bad habits by a good book, impactful blog, eye opening conversation or incredible motivational speaker, but how do we support our lasting success?
When riding on the coattails of inspiration we try to make many changes at once.
Your body is built NOT to make drastic changes! It’s actually wired to resist change and keep things the way they are according to your old habits and routines. If you go cold turkey, your body will fight desperately against it.
You don’t want to find yourself in a battle between your body and your mind! (Your mind craving change and your body resisting it.)
The key is to make changes very slowly so the body has time to transition from old patterns and expectations.
Why your body is as conservative as a RepublicanIf you throw a frog into boiling water, it will try to jump out. But if you put the frog in a warm bath and heat the water very, very slowly, the frog won’t notice that the water is getting hotter until it is has been boiled. My apologies to all the frog lover out there, I promise no theoretical frogs were harmed in the writing of this blog.
The point is that your body likes homeostasis. This means it wants to stay in balance. You might be not consider yourself to be conservative but your body sure is. It has to be because it experiences sudden change as a threat.
Eating pastries for every meal might not be good for you but it you replace those pastries with broccoli, your body will throw a tantrum worthy of a two year old. That tantrum might manifest as a headache, upset stomach, depression, fatigue, anxiety, rashes, or intense craving. You can’t reason with your body (or a two year old) because it doesn’t care, it just wants things to stay the same. That’s why drastic, cold turkey approaches are bound to backfire.
Stop battling your body
You can get past your body’s protective mechanisms by taking it slow and steady. Small changes sneak past your body’s warning/resistance patterns.
If you are an extremist, like me, slow change might not come naturally, but I invite you to try it. If you are distress and discomfort or have a food allergy, going cold turkey might be easier to maintain because the alternative is also painful. The pain of falling off the wagon can keep you on track and ignore the detox or cravings.
Changing a habit is one of the most uncomfortable things for humans to do. We like our habits, they make us feel safe and comfortable.
Balanced approach to change: some examples
Goal: Quit refined sugar (one of the most addictive substances known to man)
Balanced approach: Instead of giving up the white stuff, you can find small ways to reduce it daily. Aim to stop putting it in your coffee or eat dessert three times a week instead of every night. It might seem like an insignificant change but if you’re consistent with tiny changes they are more likely to take root and become habits, (your new homeostasis!)
Goal: Eat less processed foods and more natural whole foods.
Balanced approach: Instead of removing the bad food, add in the good stuff. Eat your pasta with cream but throw in veggies. You can add veggies of all kinds to stews, chili and even mac and cheese (broccoli goes great). Eat a small salad before your regular meal. The idea is not to deprive yourself of your favorite foods but to crowd them out with the healthy stuff. You can eat it all but you will eat less of the processed food in the process. If you don’t like the bitter taste of greens it is ok to mask their flavor with clarified butter (ghee), spices or salad dressings.
As your body gets exposed to better nutrition it will start to craving less processed food and more nutrient-dense food.
Goal: You want to cook at home and eat more whole foods but hate spending lots of time in the kitchen.
Balanced approach: Find ways to get around the time consuming kitchen work (the slicing/dicing prep work). Buy prepared frozen meals or canned sauces that you can mix with pre-diced fresh or frozen veggies. I am a very lazy cook and take a ton of short cuts in the kitchen. No one who eats my food knows this. Well maybe now they do if they are reading this blog!
Once you get yourself in the kitchen you will discover more ways to save time or may find that you start enjoying the process if you can do it your way. Cooking at home is a priceless habits for your health and your wallet! And it can eventually be a creative outlet.
Goal: You want to reduce caffeine, candy bars and TV all at once.
Balanced approach: You should probably tackle one challenge at a time. Taking on too much is not going to set you up for success. If you are dead set on doing all three at once then make sure you have something to replace all these old habits with. Increase water or start drinking veggie juice. Replace your morning caffeine ritual with something warm and soothing herbal coffee like Techinno. Take a daily walk when you usually watch TV.
Try to balance energy zappers (caffeine and sugar crash) with energy givers. Its easier to wean yourself off bad habits if you have good ones to replace them with.
Don’t rely on willpower, it’s not a good weapon, it’s like a battery that will runs out of juice one day. Instead pick very small and manageable goals. Click to tweet
The desire to be extreme speaks to our need for mastery and control. The truth is that our habits often control us, especially when they morph into compulsions, cravings or addictions. Click to tweet quote
Give up your need for speed. Slow changes stick.
It is hard to get rid of an old habit completely unless you have something to replace it with. Click to tweet
Abstinence and deprivation often lead to binging and feelings of shame.
Your body craves what it already gets. Find sneaky ways of putting more of what you want to crave into your diet. Click to tweet
Celebrate and honor your small successes. They weren’t easy. Click to tweet
I would love to hear your experiences with making drastic versus small changes! The more you practice this method of change the easier it gets. Eat a few more veggies, have one less drink and get to the gym when you can, but feel good about it when you do!
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Angela Privin is proof that IBS is NOT an incurable disease or a disease at all. IBS is a body out of balance. It’s an invitation for change. After solving her own IBS mystery more than a decade ago Angela trained as a health coach to help others.
Angela uses both science and intuition to help people figure out what’s out of balance in their body. She works with lab tests, dietary changes, supplementation and nervous system rebalancing. Get help rebalancing your digestive system and solving your IBS mystery here.