Unhealthy Behavior is Hard to Erase

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • Today I had an epiphany…actually a few.  I was working on my re-launched website, which has been like a never-ending pregnancy, and I was learning about the new administrative panel that had been installed.  It was like a lesson in learning Chinese….seriously, I am forever challenged with the daily updates I need in order to stay on track with evolutions on the Internet. 


    My tutor was showing me how to drop in new content and photos in my personal blog section. So he created some “fake” blogs for the lesson.  He then hyperlinked them to my homepage and asked me to undo all the work, so I would have a hands-on experience with the technology.   I sat there and was able to begin the process only to find myself suddenly staring at the screen with several windows open, feeling that slow rising panic of “what do I do now?” 

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    A little nudge from my tutor, and I was able to maneuver and undo the hyperlink.  My tutor then pointed out to me that though the hyperlink was now gone, the content still remained in the system, waiting to be deleted.  And in that moment I had great clarity.  This experience had huge crossover to my work with clients and their serious weight and food issues. 


    You can guide someone to change a habit and assume that they grasp the information that supports the behavior changes.  But the ingrained “content,” or unhealthy behaviors, are still there until they are completely erased.  Depending on the individual, that can take days, months or years.   Sometimes the content doesn’t disappear, no matter the effort to remove it.  What I do know is that you cannot just “click” it away.  Using this analogy might just help me with some clients who are cocky enough to think that after four months of weight loss, they have somehow conquered decades of poor lifestyle habits; statistics show that is rarely the case.   Despite a client’s conviction that they have everything under control, bad habits and old food relationships are lurking in the background doing pushups to maintain their strength!  And in a vulnerable moment, these old behaviors will push their way through and undermine your journey to healthier eating and weight loss.


    As a Health Coach, I often find that metaphors and analogies help to reinforce certain concepts.  I often use balancing a checkbook, or maintenance on a car, to help a client grasp what is at play during serious lifestyle modification.  To balance "energy in with energy out," I use the example of deposits and withdrawals at a bank.  You can’t spend money if you don’t have I, right? 


    So you need a certain number of calories to fuel a workout.  Write a check for more money than is currently in your checking account, and the check will bounce.  Eat more calories than you burn and you will gain instead of losing weight.  You maintain a car by changing the oil, rotating the wheels, changing the battery, and you do it with a certain timed mindfulness.  That’s the sort of effort weight loss requires, especially once you hit goal weight.  You need to keep certain behaviors in play on a regular basis, like weighing yourself, measuring portions, and figuring out the number of daily calories that will keep your weight stable. 


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    This will be my newest entry to my list of analogies.  You can make a habit change or swap out an unhealthy habit for a healthier one.  But remember that original behaviors remain deeply ingrained and may threaten to pop up during challenging moments.  Knowing that can help you to prepare to pounce and intercept.  Forewarned is forearmed.


    Amy Hendel is a Physician Assistant and Health Coach with over 20 years of experience.  Noted author, journalist and lifestyle expert, she brings extensive expertise to her monthly shareposts. Her most recent book, The 4 Habits of Healthy Families is available for purchase online, and you can watch her in action on her shows Food Rescue and What's for Lunch?  Sign up for her daily health tweets or catch her daily news report at www.healthgal.com.

Published On: March 04, 2014