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Creating A ‘Keystone Habit’

Quick results, that is what everyone wants. Making positive, sustainable changes takes time. There are no short cuts to good health. Some ideas on how to improve our health include creating a new ‘keystone habit’, counting, and thinking like your grandma.

As described by Charles Duhigg in his book The Power of Habit, keystone habits are “habits we develop that lead us to make better choices in other parts of our life.” For example walking 3 times a week for 30 minutes in the morning would be the keystone habit.

After our walk we are more inclined to eat a healthy breakfast and not a sugary breakfast cereal. Walking is the habit, but other positive side effects become evident in our life, like eating better. Positive effects can be seen from keystone habits even if only done once a week, although it is better if you do the habit 3+ times a week. Keystone habits do not have to be exercise, they could be eating better, meditating, or connecting with a friend.

Experiment and find what works for you for exercise. I love basketball and I joke that I am like my dog chasing a ball – I only run when I chase a ball otherwise I find no joy in running. One of my children won’t play basketball but he loves pickle ball. It’s the only sport that gets him moving and he plays for hours with his friends. You may need to experiment with different sports or types of activities, and you can make new friends as you experiment. When you find an activity you like, doing it in the morning leads to more positive effects from the keystone effect.

Count one thing, whether it be what you eat, how many minutes you walk per day, or how many times you look at the soda on your counter before you drink it. I was surprised when I counted how many slices of pizza I ate…some days I was eating the equivalent to one entire pizza. Once I realized how much pizza I was eating, it was easier for me to stop eating pizza sooner and include vegetables in my meal.

Do not count everything you do. Once a month pick something to count that you think could be effecting your health. I count on the same day every of the week, usually a Saturday. Count how many scoops of ice cream you eat, how many fruits or vegetables you eat, how many minutes you spend on your phone, etc.

Your grandma was right when she said moderation in all things. Find where you are excessive and trim back. When I found myself eating an entire pizza over a day, it was easier to cut back over time to half a pizza once a week. Especially when I correlated my pizza day to a 3 pound weight increase the next day on the scales. Remember balanced eating is important. Your body needs carbohydrates to supply energy to your brain, fat to help you feel full when eating, and protein to repair the body.

Some types of food give quick energy and others long term energy. If you only eat one or two of those food groups your body has to compensate and cannot function at full capacity. Do not look for a quick change and quick results that quickly fade. Look for a small change you can make, and positive changes will snowball to become big positive changes for your health.

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