I need to stop drinking Cokes! How to change a habit – there is science for that.

 

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I went to Chic-fil-A and got a Coke.

Roger was working late and the Honda magically navigated to the drive thru.

What. the. heck?

 

 

I love Coca-Cola. My numbers are out of whack, Coke is the devil and sugar his alluring mistress but whomp, there it is, in the drive thru again.

Pulling up, I whisper,  large Coke with light ice.   Somehow whispering makes it all make-believe and the sugar is ghostlike!

The lady in the mystical box shouts way too loudly:  Hey girl! 

Hey, I whisper back.   These are my people – they know me here.

The reality show playing in my head has a camera hidden in the bushes right behind the speaker.  Me and the woman on TV who eats Big Macs and hides the wrappers.  I don’t judge a sister.

Committed to getting healthy, kicking sugar is tops on my list.

Habits are the truth -there is Bill Nye science for that.  Kicking a habit isn’t as easy as we think it should be.

There, you are justified if you’ve been working to stop smoking or drop that bag of Doritos and you reach for just one more.

Do you have a habit you want to leave behind?  Do you find yourself in the drive-thru or yelling at the kids when your inner zen should shine through?  You are not alone, brave one.

Repeated behaviors create ruts in the roads of our brains – the neural pathways hidden in the Basal Ganglia.  I picture a dirt road packed down with tire tracks.

Rut-in-the-road

We use the term “in a rut” to be a mindless pattern of behavior.

Free Dictionary.Com defines “in a rut” to be in an established habit.

According to science – this is more true than we knew.

 

 

Headed to the grocery, I’ve gotten there wondering if I stopped at all the lights, went the speed limit or ran over a cow.  Ever been a little frightfully on autopilot?

Such are the ways of habitual behaviors.  We are in a rut – literally and figuratively.

Animals, us included, repeat behaviors.  Running over the path again and again until the ruts are deep and the habit entrenched!

So how do I stop drinking Cokes and get to the Y every morning?  There is science behind that too.

Begin a new behavior and add a reward- we are more likely to stay with it…creating a new pathway. Repeating the motion makes the path deeper with every repetition thus becoming the new normal – the path taken without thought – like the regular trip to the grocery or the Chic.

Here’s the rub –  until the new path’s ruts are deeper than the old ones, it is easier to slide back into the more deeply rutted road. Doesn’t that make sense?

Science tells us behavior changes, particularly long-term, are difficult – just look at the booming weight loss industry – $6.3 billion in 2015!

See why it is so hard?  BUT not impossible!

How do we make the new behavior really, really sticky?  Connect them to as many positive emotions, senses and experiences as possible, say the experts.  And have rewards.

So…if one of my health goals is to get physically healthy, two action steps I want to implement are giving up Coca-Colas and getting my tookus to the Y in the mornings.

 

Here’s my stickiness plan.

  • Get up early, walk to the Y and exercise before the day begins;
    • Sticky #1 – reward: Early is hard for me – I will add a small cup of frozen blueberries to the ritual. Eating these while walking gives a sweet fix and something to look forward to in those wee hours when the alarm goes off.
  • Drop Coke and substitute unsweet tea (I am not quite ready for a cup of morning water);
    • Sticky #2 – experience & emotions & reward: After the Y, I will walk  and get an iced tea on the way home.  I still get the experience of getting a fast food drink without the sugar, which fills the need of the experience.
  •  General reward
    • Sticky #3 – emotional/self-esteem & reward: I will surely begin to drop some weight and will reward myself with the new pair of shorts I want when I drop 10 pounds.

 

It takes about 3 months of regular activity to dig deep enough ruts in the new neural pathways to create a habit. Then we take the new road and not veer off on the old one.

When I go on autopilot, I will order an unsweet tea and not a Coca-Cola! Here’s hoping and putting stock in science!

Good luck to you and I would love to hear your story of healthy habit changes!

 

If working with an Integrative Health Coach to make healthy changes would be helpful, you can look here for more information.

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