You Are Your Own Science Experiment: Create Healthy Habits Your Way

science

You are your own science experiment.

There is so much advice out there as far as exercise and diet is concerned and it’s hard to tell what is right and what is wrong as far as your health is concerned. Some people tell you that you need to count your calories, others tell you that you need to run. Some tell you to eat more meat, some tell you to eat no meat, some tell you to do some sort of weird juice cleanse.

Truth is, none of it matters. Because most diet advice that they give is based on hearsay or scientific experiments or anecdotes, it’s hard to ignore it. If it works for other people, if it worked for science, why not for you?

The reason it doesn’t matter is because none of this hearsay, scientific studies or anecdotes have involved you in any way. Every single person and every single situation is completely different. No one else in the world has your exact body and your exact environment and your exact mind. No matter how many scientific studies they do, no matter how many people were successful using one technique or another – none of it will ever be 100% accurate for you.

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So what do you do with all this information?

You experiment on yourself. Only you know your own body and mind. Only you know what what affects them. Just remember two questions:

  1. Does this make my body and my mind feel good?
  2. Is this sustainable?

If the answer to either one of these is no, stop doing it and try something else. Most of us have heard Einstein’s definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Don’t keep doing something if it doesn’t work. Sometimes we grow attached to a specific way of doing something and even if it doesn’t work, we keep trying anyway because we’re attached to it. But if it doesn’t work, it’s just insane to keep trying.

My Story

For years, I counted calories and tried to control my portion sizes. I obsessed over how much toast I could eat and how many cups of vegetables I had and whether or not there was too much fat in my meals. I logged my food and exercise and in between, I would think about what I was going to do next.

I wasn’t satisfied with my food or my exercise. Often, I stopped doing it out of sheer boredom. Then I’d start again with the same results. For years.

I started really losing weight when I decided to concentrate on the quality of my food rather than the quantity. After 15 years as a vegetarian, I decided to try out the paleo diet. Obviously, going veggie didn’t work out for me. I was borderline anemic, I was borderline diabetic and I had a B12 deficiency. I knew how to eat “well” as a vegetarian, but I was still not healthy.

When I started the paleo diet, the pounds began to melt off. Even better, I had more energy and I felt stronger. My blood tests came back normal. I realized that grains and legumes and sugar had negative effects on me, so I cut them out.  I still struggle with the sugar at times – it’s addictive – but I’m still way better off than I was.

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Experiment

Am I saying you should switch to a paleo diet? Not necessarily. There are so many people who are happy and healthy on a vegetarian diet. There are so many people who are happy and healthy on a paleo diet.

I tried what I thought was universally healthy – portion control and vegetarian diet. There’s so much advice and evidence out there that suggests these things work, so why wasn’t it working for me?

Because I was not involved in any of those studies. No one out there knew what was good for my body and what wasn’t. I had to experiment on myself to find out what foods worked for me and what foods didn’t. I also learned that I didn’t have to eat the foods I hate to lose weight. I found out what foods I loved that had a positive effect on my life and I ate them.

It’s the same story with exercise. I ran a half marathon, I took bootcamp classes. Sure, I lost some weight, but I wasn’t happy. I found myself dreading going to the gym or putting my shoes on. I knew I was going to burn out soon because it wasn’t sustainable because I didn’t enjoy it. It wasn’t until I found out that I can get fit doing the things I loved that I realized I could stay fit forever.

Experiment on yourself, find out what you love and what has an overall positive effect on your life and do those things.

Don’t obsess

A little while ago I wrote an article about obsessing. Obsessing is terrible for you. It adds stress to your life and it generally makes you and everyone around you miserable.

As for things like counting calories and logging exercise – it’s fine to do those things if they work for you, but be careful.

It’s easy to obsess over these things. This could easily lead to burnout or even worse.

Remember, you only have one life, so why not enjoy it?  Don’t worry about your diet and exercise. Take it all as an adventure – something you look forward to, not something you have to be careful of.

trail sign

Tips for changing

If you’re ready to make changes in your life, but you don’t know where to begin, here are a few tips to help you get started.

  1. Start Small – Take the smallest change you can and start making that change. If you have a problem with sitting too much, start by taking a walk around the block every day. Or dance to one song. Or get on your bike and ride down the street. If you have a soda addiction, start by giving up sodas after 5pm or try a healthier version of a soda instead.  Find out what you love that gets you moving, that has a positive affect and take one small step forward until it becomes a habit.
  2. Be Mindful – Being aware of what you’re doing can lead to changes without much effort. If you’re aware that you’re sitting on the sofa too long, you  might be compelled to get up and move. If you’re aware that you’re on your second half of a pack of Oreos, you might put it down. Make it a habit of realizing what it is you’re doing. Don’t judge yourself. Don’t be harsh on yourself – that’s no way to live life. Just realize what you’re doing and that alone can be a step toward change.
  3. Get support – The biggest impact on your life will always be the people around you. Look for supportive family, friends, neighbors or online communities that can help you stay on course and can push you in the right direction. Though your friends can never know what works for you and what doesn’t, they can be a wealth of advice and motivation for you. I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to surround yourself with supportive people. Just one supportive friend can make all the difference in the world.

Once you begin your journey to making changes, you’d be surprised how other areas of your life start to change as well.

Leo Babauta, founder of zenhabits, started with giving up smoking and from there he completely changed his life.

A friend of mine, Trampas Whiteman, recently made it a habit to start walking every day. Now he’s getting compliments on looking slimmer and healthier. All he did was start walking, and the people around him can already tell the difference. His friends are noticing how often he speaks positively of going for walks. Now he’s thinking about the food that he eats. His mind is already in the zone for a healthier life.

Making one small change can create a domino effect of health and happiness.

Just remember, you are the only one who can make that change. No amount of advice out there will do the work for you. You have to experiment, you have to make the changes and you have to start now.

 

What do you struggle with when it comes to health and fitness? What has worked for you in the past? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Photo sources: Wooden Sculpture of Science Genetics by epSos.de, Glute: An entire magazine about the butt by James LeVeque, B&W chemistry by blondyimp, Hiking trail sign in winter by Loren Stzajer

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Devyn

4 Responses to “You Are Your Own Science Experiment: Create Healthy Habits Your Way”

  1. Jenn Website

    I still struggle with the sugars… damn white powder…

    but yeah I agree with baby steps…. and incremental improvements… some of my improvements have been in such tiny increments that they are BARELY perceptible

    Reply
    • Devyn Website

      Yeah, sugar is a problem for me as well, but there are ways to overcome it. I know you’ve come a long way even if you’ve taken tiny steps to get there.

      Reply
  2. Tracy M. Website

    Unfortunately, logging calories (I use MyFitnessPal) is quite literally the only thing that works for me. I’m a binge/compulsive eater from way back, so I require a lot of accountability to keep me on track. Tedious, for sure, but it works.

    Reply
    • Devyn Website

      It works differently for everyone. Sometimes logging calories works. I’m not in the business of telling people what they should and shouldn’t do – especially if they found something that works for them. But I know that for some people, counting calories can become an obsession that is almost just as bad as an eating disorder.

      I’m glad you found something that works for you!

      Reply

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