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Breaking the Habit of Cheating Your Health

by Lynya Floyd

A roller coaster ride and a 4×5 slip of paper. What do these two things have in common? The power of positive transformation. Each of these seemingly unimportant items represents a powerful turning point in one woman’s journey to better health. The moment she went from surviving to thriving. A moment that may inspire you. I’m thinking of a 30-something mother who took her son to an amusement park for the day. He was finally tall enough to go on a roller coaster ride, but she was devastated to realize she was too overweight to fit into the seat next to him. It was time for a change.

Then I’m reminded of a 40-something working woman who hadn’t been to the doctor in years. Symptoms she’d been ignoring or explaining away left her doctor about to write her a prescription for diabetes medication. She stopped him by promising a return visit after modifying her diet and exercise habits. Again, it was time for a change.

Most people, like these two women, are motivated to adjust their behaviors after catching a glimpse of the unhealthy life they don’t want to live. They’re forced to get off a roller coaster ride, they discover they have a preventable disease, they see a photograph of themselves that’s less than flattering, they watch a loved one fall ill.

But there’s also tremendous power in imagining and creating the healthy life you want to live before a disaster strikes. Want to harness both energies to start your own health transformation? Begin by thinking about your wellness and. . .

. . .what you’ve been told you’re doing wrong—but haven’t gotten around to fixing.

Maybe your MD has already warned you about your rising cholesterol levels or your aunt has been urging you to get a mammogram after her battle with breast cancer. Instead of ignoring those red flags, eliminate them. Set aside just 10 minutes today to schedule that doctor’s appointment you’ve been avoiding or search online for cholesterol-lowering recipes. Then do it again tomorrow. You’ll be amazed by how little time it takes to reclaim your health.

. . .what you know you’re doing wrong —but don’t want to fix.

Ever find yourself thinking: “Who wants a life without lasagna, cheeseburgers and chocolate chip cookies?” No one’s denying that sometimes butter does make everything better or suggesting you forsake all the foods you love. The road to health is paved with moderation, not deprivation. Start by taking baby steps away from the bad habits you know you have. Skip bringing junk food home on your next supermarket trip. Commit to spending 20 minutes working out tomorrow (not an hour of intense training). Small changes will blossom into big ones over time.

. . .what you don’t know you’re doing wrong—but need to fix stat!

It may be that you’d burn more twice as many calories walking hills on the treadmill as you are hitting the elliptical trainer. Or that your morning coffee drink contains all the calories you should be consuming for breakfast and lunch combined without you realizing it. Sometimes you have to call in the pros to comb over your food journal, walk you through a workout routine or answer your questions about busting stress so you can get to You 2.0. Don’t expect that you should have all the answers. One consultation with a nutritionist or session with a personal trainer could reveal easy secrets to better health you’ve been searching for. Ask a friend for a recommendation, negotiate a price and uncover the fitness faux pas we all unwittingly make.

Once you’ve confronted these three barriers to better health, you’ll be able to not only form a picture of what a healthier version of yourself looks like, but you’ll also have the perfect roadmap for getting there. Ready to get started?

Lynya Floyd is the health director at Family Circle magazine, wellness expert, fitness enthusiast and award-winning journalist. She’ll speak at the 2012 MA Conference for Women on a panel titled Embracing Our Ever-Changing Body.


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