Friday, February 4, 2011

Is my mess making me fat? -insights on behavior, habits, and health

We've all heard it over and over again: eat healthy, exercise, yadda yadda to lose weight. We've also heard about the benefits of slowly changing our habits to accommodate a healthier lifestyle, such as working up to exercising more often, substituting unhealthy food for healthier food, etc. Habits are powerful things! Some interesting recent behavioral research suggests that overall lifestyle habits and personality types contribute to people being a healthy weight or overweight. For example, people who are better at waiting for "delayed gratification" are less likely to be overweight, less likely to be in debt, more likely to be financially stable, and tend to have cleaner, more organized houses. Evidently, balancing the checking account, taking care of our homes, and taking care of our bodies go hand in hand! It is unlikely that having a clean house causes a person to be healthy, rather, these habits are the result of persistence and discipline.  There is an abundance of reading on this topic, notably the book "Does this clutter make my butt look fat?" by Peter Walsh, and others.  Looking at this the other way around, people who go for instant gratification (like splurging on a new purse, or electronic gadget, or eating a giant cupcake) without considering the long-term consequences pay dearly with their credit score and their waistline. More disciplined folks are better at using household budgets, managing time, planning healthy menus, squeezing in exercise, and adhering to dietary restrictions.

So what is a procrastinating, disorganized, indebted person to do? Start somewhere! Habits can be changed, but it takes a lot of discipline to do so (which that person, by nature, doesn't have!). You can trick yourself into changing your habits, or enlist external forces to MAKE you do it. One resource is, which enables a person to make a commitment to do something (run a 5K, clean out the garage, pay of debt) within a certain timeframe or quite literally pay the price for not doing it. Announce lifestyle changes to supportive family members or close friends to make you accountable and add peer pressure to follow-through. Use positive reinforcement (i.e. rewards) for sticking to your goals. Notice and celebrate your progress! Take a "before" photo of yourself and the messy closet/garage, and compare as you go. And remember, not all things are changeable. Use your strengths to prop up your weaknesses. Example: The SL will NEVER be a Morning Person. It just ain't gonna happen. Despite all the "expert" advice about exercising first thing in the morning (those experts are definitely Morning People), the SL will continue to exercise in the evening, thankyouverymuch.    

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