Today I was pouring myself a glass of water, and this memory of me in high school came whooshing back–a flash of me on one of my health kicks, and not the one where I had two shakes and a sensible dinner or even the one where I attempted to run a mile and promptly threw up upon its finish — no, this was going to be gradual, manageable. Like every other living being, I had been told all about the health benefits of drinking eight glasses of water a day. It seemed easy enough to tackle, so I got to it — guzzling bottles of water in and between classes and asking for hall passes to use the bathroom in five-minute intervals. I was obsessed immediately, and yet, I was also well over 200 pounds, eating a diet rich in Burger King and high in Double Stuf Oreos…and now somehow panicking over the state of my hydration.
Shaking up our habits–adding new ones, amending old ones–is always hard, but if you want to make meaningful change, you should consider working big to small.
Identify the biggest problems negatively affecting you. For instance, are you addicted to something (food, smoking, alcohol, drugs, shopping, sex, the list goes on…)? Are you in a toxic relationship? Do you have mountains of debt and you’re falling behind on bills? Are you bingeing or restricting (with food) almost everyday? These issues are major energy-sucks, they can hurt us physically and mentally, and we can lose years of life to them. Focusing on removing, or at least dealing with, these obstacles should be the priority, and then from there, you can work your way down to the minutiae — like finally creating a capsule wardrobe (can someone come over?) or organizing the mess under the bathroom sink (and do this, too?).
It isn’t always necessary to take drastic action — and it’s not for all of us. But even if you favor slower, more methodical change, your starting place should always be the big stuff, even if you break it down into smaller, more manageable goals. Why? Let’s say you have crippling credit card debt. Cutting out your daily Starbucks habit is absolutely a good step to take, but it’s not going to make much of a difference if you go home to an online shopping habit that’s going unaddressed. See what I mean? Similarly, staying hydrated is a fantastic health goal, but water isn’t able to wash away 3 Whoppers a week.
Sometimes when we feel stuck, any movement feels good. And while it’s true that doing something is better than nothing, we can trick ourselves into thinking we’re making progress when we aren’t doing anything meaningful. When we’re just doing the minimum and checking the small projects off of our To Do lists every day, at a certain point we have to stop and ask ourselves, Am I growing? Am I moving toward my goals…or am I just getting by?
Let’s never just get by. Complacency is the couch that you think you’d love to sit on forever…until you find yourself three days into a Netflix and nacho binge with bed sores and a sinking feeling that you won’t take action ever again. How many times can one person relearn this? So let’s tackle our big stuff. Let’s be those successful people who aren’t simply good at the work they do, but are good at doing the work. And we can do that, can’t we?
Of course we can.
My memoir, It Was Me All Along, has been nominated for a 2015 Goodreads Choice Award in the Food & Cookbooks category! If you loved the book, please vote! I love sharing my life with you, and writing like I do in this post — talking about weight loss, finding balance, and the struggles we all have — and I hope to keep doing that in book form :)
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