Day 3: “Keystone habits”

Day 2

In my Day 1 post, I mentioned Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business. I wrote that he explained that one habit could change your life. In his book, he calls this habit a “keystone habit” – a habit that has “the power to start a chain reaction,” but he states that keystone habits aren’t just any habits, they’re the ones that offer small wins and have the ability to disrupt other parts of your life. Duhigg uses exercising as an example of a keystone habit. He writes that someone who starts working out regularly will likely begin to make other changes in their lives. They may start sleeping better, feeling more energetic throughout the day and therefore may become more productive at work. They may start eating better and possibly smoking less. That one decision to be more active, has the ability to change the person’s entire life.

It’s this concept that was the underlying motivation for the 15,000 Steps Challenge. You see, last year, when I began losing weight after years of starting over week after week and failing over and over again, I started the loss with one small change. At that time, I hadn’t read Duhigg’s book yet, but I knew the vicious cycle I was stuck in of striving for perfection, only to fail, binge, and start over, was causing my steady weight gain. I needed to try something new, so instead of starting a new workout program or diet, I decided to just log my meals every day. That’s it. No changes to my diet, no new workouts, no striving for perfection, just one thing: log each and every little thing I ate into MyFitnessPal.

And that’s what I did. I had originally planned to do it for two weeks without making any lifestyle changes, but as I saw the numbers add up significantly higher in MyFitnessPal than I had anticipated them to be, I found myself trying to figure out how many calories I should be eating. Once I knew what my calorie limit should be, I started to make different choices to cut back on how much I was eating. This change was unplanned, it just sort of happened. Over time, my habits continued to change, and while it was a very slow process, those almost 20 lbs came off.

The problem with habits is that you never really get rid of the bad ones. If you don’t stay on top of them, their old triggers can push you right back into your old ways. My old, anything goes, vacation habits took over this summer and getting back on track since returning home has been hard. I tried the whole logging my food thing again – it worked once before, so shouldn’t it work again? It didn’t. It felt too hard to track my food on vacation, and I just haven’t been able to motivate myself to stick with it, until yesterday.

After my “small win” on Day 1, I was feeling pretty pumped yesterday. I decided to go for a short run with the little kid and figured I’d at least try to log my food. My husband and I took the kids to the park and played with them, instead of watching them from a bench. I even volunteered to walk the dog again (my husband usually walks him). By the end of the day, not only did I surpass my step goal, I actually managed to log everything I ate (and drank). Granted, I ate and drank a lot, but that’s not important just yet. Baby steps.

Final step count: 17,170

Day 3

Riding the high of yesterday’s success, I’ve decided to try to keep logging my food every day. I don’t plan on making any diet changes just yet – my priority is my steps, not logging my food – but I figure I might as well give it a try. And if I fail, that’s ok because my primary focus is walking 15,000 steps a day, nothing more.

That being said, I will fully admit I was disappointed when I didn’t see the scale move this morning. I have this “smart” scale that works with an app on my phone. I try to weigh myself daily. When I do, my weight is recorded in the app and then averaged out. While I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, weighing myself daily has helped me understand how my weight fluctuates from day to day. I know I shouldn’t have expected a change based on how much I ate yesterday; people smarter than me say that you can’t out-exercise a bad diet, but still. I couldn’t help but want to see that number get just the teeniest bit smaller since I’d done so well with my steps for two straight days. Oh well. I’m not discouraged.

I don’t have any intentions to do any actual exercise today, but starting tomorrow I plan to restart Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove’s Strong program. If you’ve never heard of it, you can check out my post tomorrow for more information. With that, have a happy Sunday!

Current step total: 847

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