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Author Topic: motivation for healthy habits?
girlofglass
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Member # 75077

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I wouldn't say that I am unhappy about the way my body looks. I am five five, and 145 pounds (give or take, depending on the day). I am pretty curvy but unlike most of my friends, I don't consider myself fat.

I am, however, unhappy with some of my eating habits. I want to start a diet and exercise routine not only to shed a few excess pounds and to tone up, but also just so I can have healthier eating habits... the problem is that I don't really know how.

I have tried everything under the sun to keep myself motivated on some 'plan' but it never works. I don't know if I am completely defective, or what, I just know that there has to be some way I can motivate myself to stay with a certain plan of action when it comes to being healthier. I don't eat terrible unhealthy. I already make it a point to eat tons of fruits and veggies throughout the day because I love them, I just feel like I also combine this with tons of sugary and fattening foods.

Every time I try to start a new plan, I'll map it out over a course of days, but within a few days I'm finding ways to cheat by sneaking in a brownie here, or a soda there. I always feel so guilty but I have such a hard time stopping myself. I know that eating sugary foods here and there is okay, but I can't seem to stop myself ever, and I want to gain more self control. As for exercise, I always plan to exercise every day, but my schedule ends up being exercising every day for a week and then not exercising again for two weeks.

I've tried going to inspirational websites, but they seem to be promoting more body hatred than anything else. One website was basically just tearing down any girls who weren't bone thin, and using tactics like yelling at yourself and calling yourself fat. I just want to know how I can motivate myself without hating my body first, and I thought this was the best place to ask.

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Redskies
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Hi, girlofglass.

I think that "self-control" is probably not a very helpful way of thinking about food. It's totally ok to enjoy the taste of food and the experience of eating, so it seems odd to me that there's so much talk about needing to deprive ourselves of it, and there being such virtue in the "self-control" of denying ourselves this pleasure. Those "inspirational" sites do indeed sound quite unhealthy.

I totally understand the point about wanting to be healthy. Things I've come across that seem to be a healthy approach to this - very much including mentally healthy - is to eat more consciously. Barring certain medical conditions, there's nothing unhealthy about the odd soda or brownie [Smile] In fact, for most of us, trying to completely or mostly deny ourselves food we want is probably mentally unhealthy, and also not likely to be successful. If we find we're eating an entire large packet of brownies, we might want to consider if we're maybe extremely hungry and would be better off making pasta or toast; or maybe we're actually bored, or something else, in which case brownies won't help all that much. But if we just really, really feel like eating a brownie, that's great. Conscious eating would mean taking time to eat the brownie, and really noticing that we're eating it, the flavours, the textures, and going "mm mm yum brownie".

If you genuinely feel that your diet should be a bit healthier, some people find that thinking of general changes helps more than trying to follow a strict plan. For example, if someone usually ate burger and chips for dinner 4 times a week, they might think of a range of options that they'd like to eat instead that's practical for them to buy or make, and then when they're about to automatically go for the burger, think "maybe I could have one of the alternatives instead" and begin to establish the alternatives as habits. (Edit: *grin* I'm British, so by "burger and chips" I mean, of course, "burger and fries" to Americans and others. I'm sure that a few folk eat burger with crispy potato chips/crisps, but it wasn't quite what I meant [Smile] )

With the exercise, there are a few people who do well with exercise for exercise's sake, but most people do much better with something that they enjoy as an activity. It's much easier to keep doing something that we enjoy than it is to "make" ourselves do something! So, did you choose exercise that you thought you'd enjoy or that interested you? Some people like variation, and other people like to focus on, for example, gaining skills in a particular sport. If you just need a push to get out of the armchair, finding a buddy can help.

Also, if you've not been particularly active, then going straight to exercising every day might be a bit much. It depends what you mean - barring any relevant disability/condition, a mile's walk every day is probably fine, but starting with an hour of heart-racing activity every day would be overkill. Perhaps there's an organised sport activity that you're interested in, or a dance or gym class, or something like that, that you could go to a couple of times a week to give you some structure?

Sometimes, motivation is easier when we have more specific goals. So, for example, rather than a general "become healthier", you might think of a few specific points that you want to achieve with your body. That could include things like getting to a particular level in a sport, running a certain distance or length of time, or simply feeling stronger. What would you like to achieve with your body, how would you like it to feel?

[ 10-15-2012, 05:29 PM: Message edited by: Redskies ]

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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girlofglass
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Very interesting view points and ideas. I didn't even consider these. Thanks so much! I'll try to keep them in mind [Smile]
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Redskies
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Happy if I'm helpful [Smile] Also, good for you for being ok with your body and not wanting to try body-hatred as motivation.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Claire P.
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Hey again girlofglass,

So, Redskies is definitely right on about "making general changes" vs "trying to follow a strict plan." Doesn't it seem like the body/mind can act out more when it feels like its being deprived of something? Seriously, my mother has the best self-control/sense of discipline of anyone I've ever met, and she's been on a string of unsuccessful diets for years for that exact reason. The statistics generally reflect that idea- most diets are unsuccessful.

Also? The vast majority of dieters who lose weight gain it back. I think that really speaks again to promoting moderation over abstinence where your eating habits are concerned. I think in order to become a healthier eater, you really just have to change a few important things- and these changes need to be permanent.

Have you read anything by the journalist Michael Pollan? He published a tiny handbook-type thing a few years ago that was pretty popular- called "Food Rules." It consists of a whole bunch of "rules"- which are each a specific suggestion that can help you grocery shop (e.g. Don't buy any products your grandmother wouldn't recognize aka only real food), cook (butter is a sometimes food), and eat (always mindfully, paying attention to the act of eating, preferably sitting at a table while not distracted by things like TV- that could distract you while you're consuming greater quantities than you realize).
Those are just a very limited sampling- the most important thing to remember is his book's "abstract" which is pretty much a eating habits mission: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

I can go more into that if you're interested in learning more, but will stop for now.

Re your worry about "sneaking" in certain junkier food items? Not letting yourself have the occasional treat seems pretty extreme, to be honest (which I guess goes back to the short-term diet thing). I don't think there's anything wrong with treating yourself sometimes, I think that should actually be encouraged. Food that isn't good for you isn't going to destroy you when consumed in careful moderation. Plus, part of eating is that it can be delicious! So why deprive yourself of the less-healthy foods you find delicious once in a while?
I know you said you're aware that sugary foods once in a while are okay- but it wasn't clear to me that you knew this idea is actually meant to be taken in context of a person's general diet- not a short-term restrictive plan. So yeah, generally, the important thing in developing a healthy and consistent eating routine is making sure that you don't overload on *anything*- moderation is key.

Are you at all interested in learning/do you already actively cook your own meals? Becoming familiar with raw/basic ingredients and how to create your own meals can often help with health, because you not only know what's going into each dish, but you're actively in control of it.

And/or do you frequent your school's dining hall- and if so, what is the quality of that food like?
Cooking in college can sometimes be hard, I realize, depending on your particular living situation- but that in no way makes healthy eating impossible at the dining hall or generally.

Actually, when I was in college, I started this healthy eating and cooking blog (that's been sitting untouched for a stretch of time, but is here if you want to get a quick idea of the kind of eating I'm talking about: http://eleganteating.wordpress.com ). Also, I write a column in a university newspaper for students who want to learn how to cook things that are cheap, delicious and healthy. So I can definitely help you out with more questions bout this if you have them!

[ 11-22-2012, 06:36 PM: Message edited by: Claire P. ]

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
Member # 3

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And if you haven't seen it already, you might want to take a peek at this: http://www.scarleteen.com/article/body/the_scarleteen_doit

[Smile]

It should also be added that it is always advised to have a general visit with a healthcare provider, if you can, before starting any big diet or exercise changes. That's doubly important if you're in your teens or early 20s, because that's a time when undereating or overexercising can really wreak havoc on your long-term health.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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