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The Impact Of Habitual Behaviors

Here is a definition of “HABIT”: a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.

We all have habitual behaviors ranging from what shoe we put on first in the morning to how long we brush our teeth to what online sites we check out first in the mornings.  Habits provide a comfort of sorts as well

Neuroscientists have traced our habit-making behaviors to a part of the brain called the basal ganglia, which also plays a key role in the development of emotions, memories and pattern recognition. Decisions, meanwhile, are made in a different part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex. But as soon as a behavior becomes automatic, the decision-making part of your brain goes into a sleep mode of sorts.

Turning to the weight control arena, habitual behaviors play a large role as to whether we have a significant weight control problem or whether the weight is a healthy one. If our habitual behavioral patterns include planning/prepping meals, getting to the gym regularly and carrying around a water bottle ensuring at least 64 ounces of intake a day, these habits will greatly help our weight control efforts.  

Conversely, if our habitual behaviors include drinking 2-3 alcohol containing beverages at night, eating ice cream as we watch our favorite TV show at night and/or finishing the carb-based foods left over by our children, then successful weight control will become much more challenging.

Are habits difficult to break and change to other routinized behavioral patterns?  This depends on what sort of “rewards” are provided by the habitual behaviors.  In the case of high caloric/high-sugar food and/or alcohol intake, this is difficult because those habits play into the reward systems of the brain that cause us to seek immediate gratification. 

Take a step back and write out YOUR habitual behaviors that may be damaging your weight control efforts.  Once you identify these habits, think through how you can change these behaviors and morph into healthier ones.  An easy task?  Heck no…but a needed one if you want to look younger, feel more energy, rid yourself of medications and live longer to enjoy your loved ones.

And the music group Chicago sang a song about how hard it is to break habits.  In the case of deleterious eating/drinking habitual behaviors those are Hard Habits To Break.

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