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Lifestyle changes are hard and require continuous committment. While there is a whole field on how to effectively change your lifestyle and “bad habits” using behavioral change there is a common issue I often see in my patients that I would like to share with you.

This is not a moral issue: It is a fact of life that priorities shift from week to week. Having an “I just need to get my act together” view only allows for short term gain because it makes you think of the lapse/relapse as attributed to personal weakness. In reality, unhealthy behaviors are a part of our lives for several reasons, of which determination and personal discipline are a very small part. Having a resolve is only the first step! A time will come (often sooner than you expect) when you will have a crisis (perhaps at work) and find yourself at that familiar “forbidden” place (If your goal is to eat healthy, perhaps you buy yourself a slice of pizza). Now, this is a critical moment. What do you tell yourself during this moment of relapse?

  • Scenario 1: you tell yourself “well, I already had one slice, might as well just have 2 more. And oh yeah, I’m clearly not cut out to be a skinny person.” Then followed by the fateful look at yourself in the mirror the next morning. The self-hatred, and the cycle continues. Your exciting journey full of hope just came to a crashing halt.
  • Scenario 2: you say, “well one slice isn’t too bad…everything in moderation right?” Believe it or not, this is a hotly debated word. Some might argue that one slice of pizza causes physiologic changes that cause you to crave and eat more and more. Just ask award winning journalist Michael Moss: how much of an addictive substance are you allowed to have? Regardless of how you feel about the issue, you just lost this opportunity to find a way to resolve your craving.

A helpful way to tackle the above scenario is to use Failure as a Problem Solving Opportunity. This is what health coaches do with their clients. As a health coach myself, I have seen this work over and over again. Think about the process. What led you to pick up that slice of pizza? Was it an emotion? Can you think of other ways to deal with that emotion? Do you find that each time you are in a similar situation (maybe it is that damn TPS report), you have to eat pizza to comfort yourself? Is there a way to improve your current situation? Perhaps changing your work space will help to cut the pizza eating cycle.

Remember that failure is part of the process. Tobacco is one of the most addictive substances in the world. To quit, it often takes an individual 7-10 attempts. The key is to realize that every attempt at quitting brings you closer.

– DS