I’ve read it takes eleven to thirteen repetitions, twenty-one days and sixty-six days to create or break a habit. No consensus. Smoke a little smoke, drink a little drink, munch a little chip whatever the vice; many, lots, millions of us are faced with trying to undo a bad habit. On the other hand, likely as many of us work on the other end of the spectrum trying to maintain positive, productive habits. On the third hand some of us may be chasing both: dropping a bad habit while chasing something productive to replace it. I find myself among the latter. Whether it be a couple handfuls or a couple months of repetitions it’s tough to make these changes.
Recently a foundation, America’s Health Rankings, released a ranking of the U.S. states by health. I wish hard, factually reported, widely impactful information such as this would receive as much press time and space as a lot of the drivel that seeps into the headlines and front pages. Heightened awareness of our successes and failures can lead to even more awareness and potentially result in action of some type. Based on the way the survey breaks out categories it’s easy to see areas where higher visibility of the results could lead to public pressure in a variety of ways. Pressure on legislators, vice-corporations, even potential political candidates by adjusting their platforms. Giving airtime would allow, or ease the path for people impacted by either the difficulty in overcoming poor choices or unavailable resources to share testimonials, often a powerful driver of action.
AWeb admitted the other day she’d be making a swing by a favorite fast-food shop for breakfast. I understand. I’ve been unable to fix her a hot, fresh, decent breakfast (her favorite meal of the day) for weeks. Who can blame her? Something unrelated brought out this confession and I, of course, took it a direction that could be perceived as judgy(sp) or preachy. It wasn’t meant to be but in light of having just read the healthy states article I’m certain it came out as such. We talked about it a bit; I briefly mentioned the survey. Maybe I shouldn’t have. Either way, we agreed we can’t let my condition take us down a road that could lead to bad habits. End of conversation and at least we had the conversation.
Months ago, maybe a couple years by now, I bought a digital food scale. Measures in pounds, ounces and grams. Good for routine cooking and baking. Great for my current condition as I’ve been measuring and weighing various foods for weeks. I was shocked to learn how oversized we prepare our servings. I had never thought twice about (mostly) filling up a bowl of a ‘healthy’ cereal a couple times a month and drowning the bits in low-fat milk. Grabbing a couple hands-full of nuts and dried fruit and a sizable bit of lean jerky or fixing a popular brand of peanut butter sandwich. Each of these products pretty standard for an athletic-type household to stock. Each of these products should be consumed in a fraction of the commonly thought-of amounts for those of us with a typical-to-slow metabolism even if we are active.
Often it’s about the calories. Also about sodium and specifically sugar. Sodium and sugar play direct roles in some of the problem conditions in the health rankings report previously mentioned. Some states have what should be shockingly high rates of obesity, physical inactivity and public health funding. Without close attention paid to some of these simple things—a serving size is 29 grams, not a bowlful!!—how can we ever expect to break bad habits when we might not even know we’re committing them. When we find ourselves within a cycle or chain of bad habits and without guidance or awareness our ability to break the habit is absent.
In order to prevent myself from ballooning over the course of the countless weeks of sitting on my ass I’ve learned to approximate, with a good degree of accuracy, portion sizes that add up to my recommended daily calorie count. Still working on, and improving, my sodium and sugar count estimates. I’ll be targeting an equal amount of time that it took to hit the bottom of the barrel to climb back out. Once that time expires I’ll have another CBC to make sure I’m in line with where I need to be.