Tipping the Scales
According to one recent study, it can take an average of 66 days to form a new habit. Or break an old one. So it takes some perseverance, focus, and most importantly, motivation to alter one's habitual approach to anything in life. In my case, I wanted to get healthier, lose some weight, and regain the "locus of control" when it came to my own well being. But how do we tip the scales between what we are used to doing, and what we want to be doing, as far as our good and bad habits? Some would say, you just gotta "get 'er done!" I know from experience that this idea only works for some of us, and I wasn't one of them.
I believe it starts when you find what your motivation is, and keep that ultimate reason at the forefront of your mind when making choices. I think it helps to make it a big one. Make it one that tears at your heart strings, brings you to your knees, overcomes you with emotion. For me it's the simple idea that I want to be there for my kid. I want to be healthy and active, on the sidelines at every swim meet or soccer game, or chasing her around the playground without needing an extra supply of oxygen. I want to be old and grey, grandkids on my knee, going for bike rides, climbing hills with whatever amount of knee cartilage I have left. I believe when you find this motivation, it can help you get through those 66 days. Once the new habits get settled in, it's like you're in a whole new world.
The harder question is, how do we get there? In my experience so far, it's one small step at a time. Making one pot of lentils on a Thursday night makes it easier to boil some brown rice on a Friday night, which can possibly lead to a delicious tempeh dish on Saturday. The key is not to get overwhelmed. Just jump in and realize that you get to set the pace.
You can go cold tofurkey, and pour out all the milk in the fridge, or experiment and bring home some veggie burgers and see what you think. There's no right way to do it. Your body, and mind, will need time to adjust. I know for me it helps to feed my brain with lots of information. I watch TED Talks by plant based doctors and heart surgeons, wellness coaches, vegan chefs, and activists. Once I made the switch, I was hungry to feel part of the world wide community of others on this path, and thankfully the internet has made that extremely easy.
There is large amount of dedication, or some would say obsession, it takes to go off the beaten path and leave the standard American diet (S.A.D.) behind. But the science and evidence proves that it works. You can increase your chances of avoiding heart disease, type-two diabetes, and cancer, to name a few, if you adopt a whole food plant based diet. Yes, I'm beating that drum again. But I encourage you, if you haven't already, to look into it for yourself (it just might save your life.) In my opinion, the flavors are rich and delicious, the variety of food is incredible, and you get to eat a lot of it!
To finish things off, I want to tell you about my moment. The moment when the scales tipped. There was no angelic light from the clouds, or heavenly choir whispering in my ear to "do what's right," or "heal thyself." No, it started when I ate a McDonald's quarter pounder with cheese. It might have even had bacon on it. But the next couple days were not pretty. If you've ever had food poisoning, you know what I mean. It was then that I realized that I was handing over control of my own health and well being to some underpaid teenager in the back of a greasy drive-thru who maybe just didn't change his gloves enough, or left the fridge open too long. That became my symbolic moment, and my turning point. So as you can see, I didn't start this journey with lofty intentions, or on a crusade to change the world. I had all the "good reasons" to do so packed away in my brain, but I didn't want to hear them. I just wanted to keep on doing what I was doing, consequences be damned. But boy, I sure am glad I ordered that quarter pounder that day. Now I can finally feel the scales tipping in my favor.