Recently I got the results of some blood work, and my cholesterol was high.
It wasn’t astronomically high, but higher than I wanted it to be, and I was so confused. So I asked my doctor what could this mean? How could this be happening? Tell me more.
And she mentioned a few things, such as cutting back on fried and fatty foods and increasing the amount of cardio I was getting.
I was still puzzled. I don’t eat many fried or fatty foods, and I exercise regularly.
As I left her office and went through the rest of my day, I started thinking through what had changed in the last six months for me in terms of food and lifestyle that could be causing this change in my cholesterol.
As I reviewed, I thought about my exercise habit. During Covid, working out at Orangetheory was not possible because it was closed, and then after it reopened, it was much harder and less convenient to find a class.
So my consistent three to four-day-a-week Orangetheory habit turned into once, maybe twice a week, often with a week in between.
The workouts just got farther and farther apart until there was a whole month in the summer where aside from walking, I didn’t really exercise at all.
Aside from my workout habit fading, I also noticed my water habit had faded a bit in the last six months. Of course, I’m still drinking water, but I started adding in other beverages — Pepsi Zero, iced tea, et cetera.
The more I drink other things, the less I drink my water. So it has gone from water being my primary beverage to water being a more supplemental beverage.
Also, for the past few years, I have limited my sugar intake. I would typically have dessert or a treat one or two times a week, sometimes more, sometimes less. Well, guess what else has changed in the last year? My treat consumption.
It seems like it has turned into treats multiple days a week, usually just a bite here or there, but just not being as careful, as conscientious, and it’s not aligned with how I want to be feeding myself.
So it was interesting to look back and think, wow, some of these bulletproof, black and white habits that I have established over the past few years have faded to a little grey.
“I exercise consistently,” “I drink mostly water,” “I mostly eat food my body loves and needs.”
I felt like those were non-negotiable pieces of my identity.
But how we take care of ourselves is a series of habits and choices that require conscious attention, lest they fade from view.
Have you noticed this in your life?
Maybe you were consistently walking as a part of your morning routine for a year, and then one day you recognize you haven’t been on a walk in weeks. Or you were planning consistently and meal prepping for the week, and now you’re ordering out every meal.
We are operating on a couple of fallacies here.
First of all, that habits are bulletproof and unchangeable once established.
Habits become more effortless for sure with repetition and consistent practice, but they don’t necessarily become automatic to the point that we don’t ever have to think about them again.
They don’t get relegated entirely to our subconscious so that we can just sail through life on autopilot.
And second, this phenomenon of habit fading doesn’t happen all of a sudden as it seems to.
It typically happens so gradually and incrementally that we don’t notice it happening until we notice it has happened.
So if we correct these fallacies in our minds, then we can prevent this habit fading in the first place, but also be more compassionate and solution-minded when it happens.
I like to get curious and investigate. I want to know how and why things are the way they are. I like to unwind things and follow the threads back to the beginning to learn and move forward differently and create a different outcome.
So, in this case, I had to ask some questions.
Why did I stop working out consistently?
I wanted to blame Covid and Orangetheory being hard to get into as a result of Covid. But Orangetheory isn’t the only place on Earth to exercise.
I have a Peloton bike and lots of running and walking trails all around my house. There are endless apps and resources to work out at home. So why didn’t I do those things consistently instead?
Well, because I told myself that I only like Orangetheory and that I would get back to it once it got easier again.
So how do I move forward differently and create a different outcome in the future?
It starts with my reason. It’s true that I love and prefer Orangetheory, but it’s also true that I love exercising in general. I love moving, strengthening, and challenging my body.
“I exercise consistently.” can always be true with this expanded definition. Exercise can be done at Orangetheory and any number of other ways three or more times a week.
Going through the process of identifying your reasons, examining them, looking at their efficacy, and then adjusting them to move forward and create a different outcome in the future is one piece of the puzzle when it comes to keeping our habits from fading.
Assessing your habits
The other piece is a regular assessment of what’s important to you, your values, and looking at your day-to-day life and how aligned it is.
I think once a month is the regularity that would be most useful for me right now, just to check in with my health habits.
How’s my food life? Am I eating foods that nourish me most of the time? Am I drinking mostly water? Do I like how I feel? How am I sleeping?
I’ve already defined for myself what most of the time looks like, so if you haven’t, make sure you know exactly how you define whatever these markers or metrics are for you, so it’s really easy to measure and assess.
Just a note, new, unestablished habits will need more conscious effort and probably more frequent assessment — daily or weekly, maybe. So this kind of monthly looking back is for those things you’ve already established a pretty good record of.
Had I done this more regular assessment with myself, I could have kept these habits from fading without my recognizing it. Instead, they could have remained in full bright color in my life.
So check in with yours.
Anything you notice that you used to do that was black and white that felt non-negotiable, bulletproof, that has faded to grey?
Are there things that are important to you that have fallen by the wayside?
Investigate and assess.