There is a great quote by Anais Nin: “…and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

You see, there is no magic motivation pill to make us eat better, or exercise or de-stress. For most of us, it is exactly what Ms. Nin said; that we are uncomfortable where we are, and to stay there and do nothing is more difficult to our psyche than to work on changing habits which we know will create a sense of empowerment. Having said that, I also know, that each of us will stall at some point. Life will get in the way and it seems so difficult to get back on the path of healthy eating and regular exercise, and not spending as much time on our tablets or in front of the T.V.

Step one in whatever endeavor it is you want to change is to find just one thing that you need to focus on. Sometimes, trying to make a major change and being consistent with it day by day can create stress, and we give up. When it comes to food habits, I like to focus on those unnecessary snacks first. It might be when we finish work, or during the evening, but these are usually times when we are eating not out of hunger, but simply to relax away from the demands of the day. Ideally, these would be the times to go for a walk, or move our body in some way. Surprisingly, physical activity, even mild, can take away that tendency for mindless eating.  One challenge I throw out to people is to choose just two days of the week where they won’t snack, whether that is at 4 pm or 8 pm. See how hard (actually how easy) it is. Learn not to reach for food when you aren’t hungry, even if it’s only 2 days per week. Gradually this might translate into 3 or 5 days a week. Similarly with wine. If your habit is 2 glasses per night or even one, try 2 days a week not to have any.

As an aside, I also challenge you to get rid of the word “starving”. It’s a dramatic word and no one is actually ‘starving’. Even the word ‘hunger’ creates a desire for food, usually too much. Have you ever been asked, “Are you hungry?”  Our immediate response is often, “Yes.” However, I would be willing to challenge you to define your feeling of hunger. Is it growling of stomach?  Is it weakness of limbs or shakiness? Growling stomach hunger and shakiness are often exacerbated by blood sugar ups and downs, which are triggered by eating more carbohydrates.  So, interestingly, the less processed carbs and sugar we eat, the less “hunger” we have.

Even if you have a mild hunger pang in your stomach area, how painful is that? How much food do you need to settle that little “pang?” The stomach is actually not very large in volume in the resting state; we just tend to like to distend it too much.

If lack of activity is an issue, try and avoid pressuring yourself to go to do something intense 5 times a week for an hour. Start with a small goal. For example, twice a week, go for a 10 minute walk when you finish work or after dinner. If you have equipment in your house, just get on the treadmill or bike for 10 minutes. Starting is always the hardest part. Once you are done, you will feel better for having done something other than sit. It’s important to cultivate feelings of pride around our accomplishments; these feelings in fact help our stress hormones and help us feel more motivated.

Once you have begun to work on one habit then look in another area.

Baby steps. Always baby steps. This goes for all of us. We might do very well for a while but then get off track, and getting back on track seems overwhelming. Remember to start small and simple. Getting back our health and maintaining it is a lifelong journey. The small, simple changes we make now will ultimately stay with us forever if we just keep working on them!

All I ask is that you keep trying.  Never give up. I know you can do it.

Dr. Doug