Overcoming Barriers

Recently, I decided it was time to start living healthier by changing one unhealthy habit at a time. In going through the first habit – stop drinking soda – it made me think about all of the reasons why someone might struggle with these habit changes.

So here’s what I’ve decided: Since Thanksgiving is this week, I’ll offer some insight into how to overcome those barriers, give myself another week to stay strong on not drinking soda, and then post my next habit change challenge next week (and it’s a good one!).

OK, so – barriers – the pesky little obstacles that could derail success.

Here are a few barriers that I noticed when attempting to quit drinking soda, and what I expect will come up with each habit change:

  • I need an explanation pitch.
  • Changing this habit has made other unhealthy habits more obvious.
  • By changing this habit, there’s potential to create new unhealthy habits.

The Explanation Pitch

Realistically, I haven’t actually told many people that I decided to quit drinking soda. I didn’t drink it very often to begin with, so it wasn’t a big deal. But on the rare occasion when it did come up, there was the question of: Why?

Anyone who has ever tried to make a healthy change knows that this can be a deceivingly tough question – not because they “why” is tough to explain, but because of the responses you get. For example, I said, “Because it’s an unhealthy habit, and I’m trying to make healthier choices.” The response? “Yeah, because two sodas a week is so much.”

Sarcasm is just one type of response, but it’s a big one. People tend to think that because the unhealthy habit is small, it doesn’t matter as much. But for me, I wanted to start with something I knew I would succeed at. And knowing that I would succeed didn’t make it any easier of a habit to change.

So, moving forward, I’m working on my explanation pitch. Granted, I’m proud of my response. However, I know I didn’t sound as eloquent and confident in person as it sounds when I write it down. For the explanation pitch, I’m going to try to keep it a little simpler: “I’ve just decided it’s time to start making healthier choices.” Done. If they ask why: “Because I think it’ll be good for me.” It addresses the question without inviting further awkward conversation. (Though, some people will continue to pry – but that’s a whole separate issue.)

Other Unhealthy Habits Become More Obvious

What became blatantly clear when I quit drinking soda was when I typically drink soda: when I get fast food or dine out. Yep, there’s another bad habit – I can be a bit of a fast food junkie. Other than when going through a drive-through, I don’t usually buy or drink soda. As a result, it brought this habit into the spotlight.

And that’s not to say I wasn’t aware of this unhealthy habit before. I’ve been aware of it and have tried many ways to break it – I even succeeded for a little while. But now I’m mega-aware of it, and this is on the list of habits that I will work toward changing. For now, I remind myself: One thing at a time.

In a way, this is one of the great things about changing one habit at a time. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, and since a lot of unhealthy habits link together in some way, it’s nice to be able to recognize them and know that you have time to address those. It gives you greater insight into your habits and patterns and helps you unlock potential where you might not have recognized it before.

Identify Other Potential Unhealthy Habits

When I found myself in a situation where I would normally order a soda, I had to stop and ask myself what I wanted to get instead. As I mentioned in my blog post, I’m one of those weirdos who really loves ice water, so this wasn’t too difficult. But anything can get a little boring, and I found myself tempted to get a lemonade, or something like that. The thing is, lemonade isn’t really all that much better for you. Sure, it’s sort of an improvement. But depending on how you look at it, it’s more of a step sideways rather than forward.

Where this could be a good thing is if water just sounds too dull to go with the meal I had expected to get, it may persuade me to choose a different meal where water doesn’t sound so bad. This is also one of those times when ice tea, or something like that, would also be nice… if I liked ice tea.

Don’t Let the Barriers Stop You

Barriers – identifying other unhealthy habits, and discovering other potential unhealthy habits – these are the instances where if you don’t hold strong, you could lose sight of your goals and progress lags or halts entirely. By recognizing these barriers and being prepared to overcome them, you improve your chances of succeeding.

Of course, there are lots of different kinds of barriers. I’m sure there will be plenty to say about the others as I continue to chug along. But for now, this insight will help me when I prepare to change my next unhealthy habit. Stay tuned!

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