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The Inconvenient Truth

Filed Under: Sexual Health at 8:37 am | By: Susan Coyle, Senior Editor
Stop SignDelayed gratification is a concept many of us have difficulty grasping. True, buying the small coffee rather than the venti mocha latte would save calories and money, providing us, in the future, with a leaner body and heftier bank account, but we want the mocha latte now. We are craving it presently, and so we have it. The purchase is a weakness, a bad habit and one of the many that haunt our lives.  Every day we make decisions that are detrimental to our health but have become so routine we cannot stop. We indulge in too much caffeine, eat six or seven cookies, skip exercise for television or even internalize negative emotions in favor of peace. Each action makes the current situation better but the future one worse.

The key to breaking bad habits is replacing them with good ones. This starts with recognizing what the detriment is, where it stems from and how it affects the rest of your daily activity. It may, for example, be skipping breakfast, an action caused by limited time in the morning that affects the rest of your eating schedule. By not jumpstarting your metabolism first thing and filling up your empty belly, you create a day plagued by unhealthy grazing. In recognizing the true source of your problem, you fight half the battle. You discover precisely what must be changed to create a healthier lifestyle.

Once you’ve established this, you must make the action inconvenient and unrewarding. You’re hooked on immediate rewards, so healthy habits should be followed by gratification and unhealthy ones should not be. The rewards should be tangible. “If I eat more whole grains, I’ll live a longer, healthier life” is a true statement, a legitimate benefit and far too abstract to be a strong motivator. Decide instead that if you eat the recommended amount of whole grains every day for a week you will treat yourself to a mocha latte or movie, something small yet special. And resist the urge to punish yourself. This will create nothing more than stress and negative feelings, both of which can only hurt your efforts. Focus on the positive, how well you’re doing and how wonderful that reward will be when you’ve finally broken the bad habit. 

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