Category Archives: Habits

The Excitement of the New Year

It’s the New Year which is my favorite holiday. The New Year brings excitement and hope, and, most importantly, action! We act upon our feelings of hope and desire. “This is the year that I’m going to get healthy!” “This is the year that I’m going to start my own business!” “This is the year that I’m going to write my novel!”

Unfortunately, the fire that fuels us at the New Year will die down to an ember and will no longer push us forward to our goals after a few weeks. We must find other ways to motivate ourselves, and we only have a few weeks to put those other motivators into place before the New Year’s magic disappears and we lose its power.

I’m going to share with you the two things that help me stay motivated as the excitement of the New Year grows stale, and we have to find that impulse deep within ourselves to keep going.

First, have an achievable plan in place. The key word absolutely is “achievable.” Our immediate desire almost always outstrips our abilities. We want to be fit now! We want to be an accomplished artist now! We want a successful business now!

We want to skip the journey and get straight to the result. We believe, falsely, that the result will make everything perfect. Once we are a certain weight or make a certain income or can perform a certain feat, then we will be worthy. Everything will finally be okay, and we can quit hurting, feeling less than.

But nothing exterior to you will ever make you feel worthy. If you were magically transported to your goal weight, you would still hurt. You would still feel less than.

The journey is the key. The journey transforms you. You learn and grow and become. You’re not the same person at the end that you were when you started. So when you’re finally healthy at whatever weight that may be, it’s not the way you look in the mirror that makes you feel worthy; it’s everything that you learned and experienced – your internal transformation, not external – that makes you feel worthy.

The journey is hard and long. And it starts with an achievable plan that takes into account “failure.” You’re going to fail. You’re going to make mistakes and wrong turns. You’re going to be thrown curve balls by life. Course correct and keep going.

I have found that most goals are actually built upon habits. Do you want to get healthy? Get into the habit of exercising and eating well. Do you want to be an artist? Get into the habit of drawing everyday.

And this is where your achievable plan begins: work on one small habit at a time and use a trigger. And be consistent – practice drawing the same time everyday or in the same place everyday.

One small habit. One. Small. Consistent. Move slowly and change slowly. Live your journey and inhabit your story.

The second thing that helps me is to stay positive. The negative self talk in my head can be debilitating. To combat this tendency, I listen to uplifting YouTubers. I have uplifting quotes littered around my house and placed all through my planner. I listen to positive music. I try to be a positive person, complimenting and saying kind things to others. All of these practices set up a feedback loop that keeps me from spiraling into a negative headspace.

Stay positive. It’s how you win.

Good luck. And Happy New Year!! May 2019 be wonderful!

Change Only One Habit at a Time

I don’t use cuss words a lot. They’re not terribly eloquent. But every now and then they are absolutely perfect for conveying sentiment. And now is one of those times, I feel.

Changing habits is a fucking bitch.

After the birth of my second child, I had become very unhealthy. Given the endless work of two small children, my husband and I resorted to a lot of fast food and processed food for quick meals. Eating these poisons disguised as food, our health declined rapidly. By 2009, I would spend days in bed because I felt too miserable, had no energy, and was in too much pain to get out of bed.

And then, I had That Moment. We all have That Moment in our lives. It has only happened to me twice in my life: once when I was 19-years-old and once in 2009 when I was 40-years-old. It’s when you wake up and say, “I’m not going to live like this anymore. I don’t want to be like this anymore.” It’s when you decide that you’re not going to be in an unhealthy relationship anymore, or you’re not going to stay working for a terrible boss doing a job that you hate anymore. For me in 2009, it’s when I decided that I didn’t want to spend everyday sick in bed and in pain anymore. I wanted to be healthy.

Now, fast forward three years to 2012. You would think that I would be the perfect example of health by now. I’ve been working towards this goal for three years. I should be glowing, strong and full of energy.

Did I mention that changing habits is a fucking bitch?

First I had to learn about nutrition. That was a journey in itself and one that I continue today. Then there were tons of attempts, failures, false starts and wrong turns. I’m much healthier today than I was in 2009. I don’t spend everyday in bed and my body isn’t in a constant state of low-level pain anymore, but I’m not anywhere near my goal of abundant energy and beautiful glowing health.

And here is my first bit of advice to you as I distill three years of experience into a single sentence: Change only one habit at a time. This statement is so simple and will be disobeyed time and time again by so many people, including me, and yet it is the cornerstone of change.

You see, when you change an ingrained habit, you spend the entire day in fierce battle with yourself. It is exhausting and you don’t always win. All of your effort and energy needs to be channeled into a single significant habit change. If you try to change more than one habit, your energy becomes diluted as you spread yourself too thin, and you lose the battle.

Recently along my continued journey towards health, I tried to change three habits at once. In my impatience, I lost everything and now am back exactly where I started at the first of the year. I’ve made no progress except to learn a very valuable lesson:

Be patient. Enjoy the journey. Quit counting down the days. And change only one habit at a time.

The Mental Shift of Delayed Gratification

Photo by Matthew Bowden

Me and Instant Gratification are lovers. We’ve been intimate with each other for a very long time, and I am fiercely loyal.

But then my husband decides to do the Master Cleanse diet as a way to reboot his body and his focus towards a healthier lifestyle. Basically, while on the Master Cleanse, you drink this spicey lemonade concoction and natural laxatives for 10 days… and nothing else. I did it with him for 24 hours before I cracked and told him (and I quote), “Fuck this shit! I’m eating food.”

But my husband, with his indomitable willpower and laser focus, has just completed day five of the Master Cleanse and is still going strong. He is going for Delayed Gratification.

Delayed Gratification: To give up something I enjoy now for something that I will enjoy even more in the future.

I have read about delayed gratification for many years. My brain processed the words and understood the concept, but I never grokked the concept until I watched my husband go through this Master Cleanse diet. I went through one of those mental shifts where something finally clicks, and you exclaim, “Oh! That’s what they mean!” If I don’t eat that donut now (or any donuts for the forseeable future), I will get to have abundant energy, general contentment and clear skin and get to wear the fun clothes. The donut, which I would enjoy very much, must be sacrificed for the future health and playfulness, which I would enjoy even more.

So now I understand — truly understand — delayed gratification and all the wonderful things that can come from it. I haven’t kicked Instant Gratification out of my bed yet; one does not change overnight. But I have seen a different, and perhaps better, way to act.

A Family of Butterflies

Image by iammi-z

I love Leo Babauta. I love his blog. I love his book. I love his rockin’ uncopyrighted awesomeness. And in his book and blog, he offers the advice of laser-focusing on one goal at a time so as to not dilute one’s effectiveness.

Taking his advice, my one goal at the moment is Wellness. Wellness to me is a healthy diet, exercise, and an uncluttered home. Currently, my cluttered home, filled and spilling over with stuff, is causing me a lot of stress. I have a deep desire for an uncluttered, peaceful home. That’s why it’s on the Wellness List.

So for the past few months, and more intensely in the past few days, I have been trying to stay on the vegan raw food diet. Also, in the last few days, I have been getting up at 5:00am in an attempt to exercise.

And that brings us to the heart of this blog entry: It is hard! Gosh, I think I need to write that again because those simple words don’t seem to do the act justice:

It is incredibly — in a soul-wrenching, punch-in-the-gut kind of way — hard. I feel like a drug addict trying to give up her dope. Passing by the donuts in the grocery store, not going to McDonald’s when I get hungry, getting up at 5:00am even though I’m still really sleepy — each one of these things requires an upheaval of the soul followed by industrial-strength commitment. And I’m tempted over and over throughout the day, and, needless to say, I do eventually cave into my old unhealthy habits that feel like my favorite pair of pajamas on a Sunday morning.

But, you see, those pajamas are not quite so comfortable anymore. In fact, they’re kind of itchy and thread-bare and don’t feel very good at all anymore. So, after giving into my old habits and eating that lunch at McDonald’s and then feeling incredibly sick afterwards (if you eat lots of healthy food and then eat fast food, you feel really sick afterwards), I pull myself up off the ground (clutching my stomach which, of course, is cramping now after all that poisonous non-food), dust the dirt off, and start working doggedly, decisively, willfully on my new habits.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: I know it’s hard to change yourself — your habits, your routines, your personal comfort zone, your personal culture. I’m in the middle of it right now too. It’s exhausting, frustrating, and unfortunately, sometimes even depressing. After a long day of standing up against your old unhealthy habits, you crawl into bed feeling like you’ve been in the ring all day with Muhammad Ali and all you have left is maybe a shred of dignity because you went up against such a strong and unrelenting opponent and you’re still able to move. I just don’t want you to feel alone on your difficult journey. There are a lot of us — an invisible but tangible family bonded by the desire to each be a better person — quietly (or sometimes quite loudly) encouraging each other.

What I Have Learned -or- 21 Days to a New Habit is a Crock


For the past year — that would be one year — my primary goal has been nutrition. When I started, I didn’t think it would take a year. I thought it would take 21 days: 21 days to quit eating fast food and 21 days to prepare healthy meals at home.

It didn’t quite work out that way. A more accurate description:

  • One year to quit eating fast food and prepare healthy meals at home.
  • One year to get into the habit of consistently keeping the kitchen and dining area clean as I was much less likely to cook the next meal if the kitchen was dirty.
  • One year to get into the habit of keeping the pantry stocked as I was much more likely to make bad food choices when I was hungry and there was nothing nutritious on hand.
  • One year to get into the habit of planning my family’s meals.
  • One year to read and educate myself about nutrition (that’s still ongoing actually) as our basic knowledge of nutrition as Americans is severely lacking.
  • One year to learn how to buck the system as our entire culture — in which ourselves, our friends, and our extended families are completely immersed — is a well-oiled machine geared towards quick and unhealthy food.

One year to change my lifestyle.

I had been reading about raw vegan food for the past year, but it wasn’t until two months ago that Matt and I started eating more raw vegan food. Twenty-one days to eating healthy, mostly raw vegan food? No.

For the past two months, my entire routine has been turned upside down as I learned how to prepare new food and how to fit this radically new way of eating into my household’s routine, culture, and lifestyle. All maintenance duties, with the exception of paying bills, were put on hold because we were making such an extreme change. Our routines were completely discombobulated. Matt and I had to stay laser-focused on our new way of preparing and eating food as chaos reigned around us.

Now, two months later, as eating more raw food feels normal and routine to us and it slips easily into our day, I have spent the last week bringing the house back under control. The backyard is still insane from lack of maintenance. It took two months for our new habit of eating raw to settle.

Perhaps you can make something like “make my bed in the morning” or “brush my teeth after lunch” stick in 21 days. But, as I discovered, a lifestyle change takes concerted effort over a long period of time. And it requires a determined persistence to continue whenever you have setbacks, which you will by the way. You will always have “failures” along the road to long-term goals, and you always have to get right back in there after you have caught your breath.

It took a year, which included many moments of discouragement and weariness, but my family is finally eating healthy. It was so worth the requisite time and persistence.