Do you have to?

January 31, 2011

Growing up in an authoritarian culture, it is tough to get away from the feeling that you have all these things in life that you “have to” do. I had a discussion with a friend a couple a months ago who I raised this point to, and she came up with a couple of objections:

“I have to pay my rent!”
My answer: “No, you don’t. You can put in a 30-day notice to leave, or you can just not pay. Of course there are consequences to everything. But you have a choice. You can get a cheaper place, or sleep on a friend’s couch, or move back in with your parents….”

The “have to’s” in life typically just stress us out and don’t help us get to our goals. Let’s look at making lifestyle changes.

Let’s say someone smokes & drinks regularly, and is 20 pounds overweight.

They might think to themselves: “I have to get healthy and get in shape!”

So they will proceed to quit smoking, quit alcohol, start exercising, and cut out carbohydrates- all at once! Most people that do this are setting themselves up for failure. Why not tackle one thing at a time? Maybe you feel you have to make all of the above changes to get healthy. But “chunking it down”, as Tony Robbins would say, may be a lot easier than to go cold turkey in all areas at once!

Diet itself is no different. When I first realized I needed to make dietary changes, I knew there were some things I could cut out. I started with 3 things at first: soda, cereal, and pasta. These changes led me to actually WANT to start cutting out more bad carbs and replacing them with healthy protein and fats, because I started associating those carb foods with feeling tired and sluggish, and having a gut. They weren’t serving me, and this became obvious.

One thing at a time seems to work well for a lot of people. What has your experience been with making positive lifestyle changes?

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4 comments on “Do you have to?

  1. Small steps are definitely the way to go.

    After I graduated college and stopped swimming competitively, I started running a lot more to keep my weight down. But I ran too much and incurred stress fractures in both my tibias, which sidelined me from any real exercise for 5 months.

    During this time, I gained close to 20 pounds because no one every told me how to eat properly. I had always been able to eat what I wanted since I was swimming several hours everyday. Once I could start working out again, a friend and I decided to lose some weight. I started with swapping processed food for more fruits & veggies and then worked on portion control. I ended up losing about 25lbs.

    Unfortunately, I have just moved to London to study and have had a hard time finding healthy food to eat on a student budget. So, I am now back to trying to incorporate more fruits & veggies.

  2. I like your idea about dieting and I agree to what you have said. We need to take it one at time. We cannot do all of the things that we want to do at once. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. Thanks for the comments everyone!

  4. Hope you’re finding some good deals on healthy food across the Atlantic, Erika. I had a hard time with that in Australia too. My cousin and her husband said that their trip to England a few years back was the most expensive ever. Hopefully, there are probably some decent food markets, though.

    In any event, Kev, psychologist Albert Ellis called this mental phenomenon “MUSTerbation,” also known as “tyranny of the shoulds.” Imposing emotional straight jackets on ourselves doesn’t help matters, and it’s likely contributed to the various not-so-healthy habits in the first place. Dealing with things in a self-empathetic and manageable way enables specific, life-enriching actions.

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