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  • Writer's pictureKathie Scalf

Baby Steps

Now that we’re on the other side of December 31st, it’s safe to say most of us feel the need to prioritize our health. Between numerous food-focused holidays within weeks of one another over the last 3 months, plus increased opportunities to indulge in alcohol, I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels like my insides are made of high fructose corn syrup and Bisquick. The mistake I make every year like most everyone else is trying to make too many large changes at once and falling off the wagon before February. It’s unrealistic and detrimental to success to attempt a complete life overhaul; the key to lasting change lies in the baby steps.

There’s just something about January 1st that brings out the motivation in people. I’m certainly not poo-poo’ing on anyone deciding to better themselves regardless of what the date is, although in my opinion there’s always no time like the present. But if you are feeling particularly inspired to shape up some aspects of your life where you’ve been slipping after the first of the year, I’m proud of you. To be honest, if you’re like 99.9% of the population, there’s probably at least one unhealthy area of your life that could use improvement, whether it’s mental, physical or financial. I myself have countless opportunities to shape up before I ship out to Destitution Island. But in an effort to not bite off more than I can chew and choke, this year I plan to master the discipline of the details and implement small almost unnoticeable changes which will gradually serve to make greater changes overall.

For example, I would love to entertain the idea of signing up and running a 5k by February, but considering I’ve not been disciplined in my workouts at all as of late, that will be a recipe for disaster and ultimately just make me feel worse about myself because I missed my mark. It seems that setting a goal of just hitting a thousand more steps per day than my current average, every day, until I am consistently walking 10,000+ daily is much easier. A thousand steps is only a half mile, so shooting to build up to the recommended 5 miles a day 0.5 miles at a time doesn’t sound nearly as daunting as jumping off the couch and hitting it all at once. Especially when you consider it only takes roughly 10 minutes to walk 1,000 steps. Break that down how you want, but 10min 10x, 20min 5x, 30min 3.5x, sounds way more achievable than 10,000.

It’s all about speaking to yourself in a way that can trick yourself. The human animal typically doesn’t like change; biologically speaking, sudden change for our ancestors was never a good thing. Extreme weather fluctuations or a chance encounter with a predator could be deadly to our predecessors and thus has conditioned the same fight or flight response within us all these years later. Consistency is comfort, but unfortunately most growth comes from the uncomfortable moments. So we have to microdose our misery until it’s just another part of our daily minutiae. If your goal is to save $10,000, don’t expect that to happen overnight unless you anticipate a winning lotto ticket. Instead break it all the way down to a daily goal- it’s roughly $27 a day or $192 a week to save $10,000 a year. If you wish to lose weight, set a goal of no more than 0.5lb a week. That number seems insignificantly small, however, that is the recommended amount of weight that equates to real fat loss and not just water weight, aka the kind that lasts. And if you lose 0.5lbs per week, that’s 26lbs in a year! If you want to eat healthier, don’t waste tons of money buying healthy foods if you’re already in the longterm habit of eating poorly. Instead pick one area at a time to master before moving to the next. First replace soda with water, then reduce your sugar, next replace starchy carbs with leafy vegetables, etc. If you successfully tackle one task at a time you won’t shock your system into failure with too many changes at once.

I know we all want to have that “New Year, New Me” attitude, but how about instead we aim for “New Year, Better Me” this time? If you give two people the same far-off distant finish line and one of them bursts off with a sprint while the other is taking a leisurely stroll, sure the runner is going to cover more ground up front. But their chances of becoming winded and collapsing are astronomically higher than the person stopping to smell the flowers along the way. It’s great to have big ambitions, but they must be cut up into bite-sized pieces to be palatable. Happy New Year and happy improving!


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