Making a resolution? Start with your bad habits!

Dr Gary
By Dr GaryCA Latest Reply 2011-01-08 19:41:42 -0600
Started 2010-12-27 12:19:34 -0600

Making a resolution? Maybe to get your diet on track, to build more exercise into your daily routine, to stop procrastinating, to stop smoking, to get more rest? Or, you might be one of those for whom past New Year’s resolutions have led to frustration when you started all gung-ho and then ran out of steam early on.

The key to making your resolution a success is not to jump in with expectations of completely turning your life around all at once. Instead, start with a realistic plan, based on an understanding of what you are doing that’s not working for you along with what you want to do differently. In other words, start by taking a look at the bad habits that seem to get in the way of the good ones.

Here’s how to get started:

1. Identify the behavior. You can’t break a bad habit unless you know when and why you perform it.

Want to change your diet? Start by taking a hard look at what’s unhealthy about your eating habits. Are there times of the day when you are most likely to overindulge? Certain events that push you toward the junk food? How are you feeling emotionally when you eat healthy? What about when you don’t?

What about your exercise routine? Think about the times when you do something to get yourself moving. Now, compare it to those times when you end up staying on the couch. What’s the difference? What gets in the way?

It might be helpful to keep a daily bad habit log to track how often you give in to your bad habits and what’s going in with you during these times.

2. Evaluate the risks and benefits. A habit has positive and negative appeal. Maybe it offers pleasure or relieves stress. But it also holds you back or undermines your health. So what are you getting out of it?

Let’s be honest. If you weren’t getting something out of your bad habit, you wouldn’t be indulging in it. So ask yourself: What is really good about my bad habit? What are the short-term benefits? Maybe it’s just fun to do something that you enjoy, like digging into that piece of pie and feeling the sugar rush. Or snuggling up on the couch and avoiding having to think about something that’s bothering you. Basically, being in control, doing what you want, turning off the nagging voices, one of which may be your own.

But what about the long term? That’s where the disadvantages come home to roost. Think about the effects of your bad habit on your physical and mental health. Wasted time. Missing out on meaningful activities. Feeling depleted. Risking health consequences over time. And the way you end up feeling like you have let yourself down.

Now that you have identified your bad habit, you might want to make a list with two columns, advantages and disadvantages. Which side wins?

3. Prepare for change. Figure out what you need to help you to avoid the bad habit and have some alternatives ready to replace it. Willpower is not enough.

People fail in their resolution to break a bad habit because they don’t have a plan. Instead, they think that they can grit their teeth, go cold turkey, and just tough it out. That may sound like a good idea, but chances are, it’s also a recipe for failure because, when you take something away, a vacuum is left behind. And if that vacuum isn’t filled – preferably by something equally or more attractive – you will find your way back to your old behavior. Instead, be the man/woman with a plan.

Each of us is unique in terms of why we indulge in certain behaviors and what we need to break out of them. Be proactive by creating an environment that is more conducive to good habits. Look around your home and office and wherever else you spend time. Isolate where your habits get triggered and look for ways to remove them. Any healthy food in your refrigerator? Keeping temptations like cigarettes around? Got the day ahead of you with no plans? Who are the people in your life who can support your change? Who get in the way?

Build your own toolbox . Fill it up with alternatives to your bad habit – activities, ideas for healthy food, enjoyable exercise, supportive people. Visualize the new you. Give yourself positive messages with self-encouragement and without self-criticism. Stop playing old tapes.

4. So do it already! Take the next step by substituting your alternatives for your bad habit. But go easy on yourself. This is a learning process – don’t expect overnight success.

Begin with baby steps. Remember habits are deeply ingrained. But if you did your homework in step three, you should have your toolbox filled with alternatives and supports to help you to begin to push your bad habit into the past and replace it with one that supports your well-being. As you experience small successes, pat yourself on the back, and ask your support team to give you an “attaboy/attagirl.” If you have a relapse or two, don’t beat up on yourself. Instead, retrace your steps and see if you missed anything. Again, this is a process. YOUR process.

Break a bad habit or two in 2011! And make it the year that you move a step closer to being the best YOU possible!

Any reactions? Stories? Please let me know!

41 replies

lkh6951 2011-01-02 00:02:00 -0600 Report

Dr. Gary,
I would like to exercise again, but have lots of other health problems…COPD, degenerative disc disease, which make it almost impossible. Any suggestions on some exercises I can do from a sitting position that will help me?

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-01-02 17:16:45 -0600 Report

Hi! Thanks for checking in. I am not a physician so I am unfortunately not in a position to give you advice on exercise. But to be honest, it's really important to work closely with your physician when you are getting ready to start an exercise program, especially if you have medical conditions that might be affected by movement or getting out of breath. I would totally recommend that you get in touch with your treatment team and find out what they would recommend. You are on the right path here -- it starts with being motivated. I hope you will follow up and get a program that will work for you. I will be interested to know how you come out on this, so please keep me posted. A great way to start the new year!

troublemaker27 2011-01-01 22:11:21 -0600 Report

hi there,tori here well i started exercising this morning and it felt great.
i check my blood sugar.
so how is everyone here on this site?
i hope there is a cure for diabetes.
i don't like being diabetic.
it hurts a lot.
i love sugar.
it makes me happy.
but now i'm paying the price.
when i was a kid sugar was my life.
see you all-tori

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-01-02 17:19:20 -0600 Report

Hi Tori, congratulations on building some exercise into your day. Your 2011 is off to a good start. And as Linda said, don't beat yourself up about your diabetes. Focus on the future. Take care of yourself, stay optimistic, stay supported, work closely with your healthcare team. Life is good!

lkh6951 2011-01-02 00:12:25 -0600 Report

Tori, it's not the sugar we ate as children. If that were true everyone would be diabetic. All food becomes sugar in the blood. That being said, I had a great Christmas and I plan on having a wonderful New Year. Congrats on the bg reading of 100. That is really good. I try to keep mine there or below. My A1cs are at 6.0, which is normal. I hope to cut back further this year and cut my Metformin back to a lower dosage again. Good luck and God bless you.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-01-02 17:17:46 -0600 Report

Linda, sounds like you are moving in a positive direction on all fronts. Congratulations. Your hard work is paying off. This is great to know!

CaliKo 2010-12-29 17:31:23 -0600 Report

Inspirational! Thanks Dr. Gary. I have a plan for losing a bit more weight, but still thinking of ways to get to bed earlier and get more rest. That one is difficult for me. Life is full. Have a safe and happy new year.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2010-12-29 17:45:32 -0600 Report

You are welcome! Thanks for responding. Rest is a tough one -- the hard we try to relax and sleep, it seems the more difficult it is. Willpower is contrary to the relaxed mind required for sleep. You might want to try relaxing at the end of the evening, reading, listening to music, anything that helps you to get into a relaxed state. Making a list of things you will do the next day, so that you don't have that to-do list bouncing around in your head, is helpful. Scheduling your winding down to begin at a certain time might help. Our bodies like routines. Getting up the same time each morning also helps. But I understand -- life is definitely full. A blessing and, sometimes, not so much. And you have a safe and happy new year, too!

Pynetree 2010-12-29 10:56:58 -0600 Report

Thanks Dr.Gary,…would love to print this advice out to read often. (but our printer doesn't like me!) so, I'll just jot down points. Yesterday I planned out a wise and stress wise…stuck to it, and it worked! So I just need to do it 364 more days. I'm trying to replace a bad habit with a good habit. Wish me strength!

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2010-12-29 17:39:25 -0600 Report

Hi, thanks for the update. It's one day at a time. See what works, and if doesn't, try something else. Each of us has our own process. And I DO wish you strength... and patience!

GabbyPA 2010-12-29 10:35:48 -0600 Report

"Let’s be honest. If you weren’t getting something out of your bad habit, you wouldn’t be indulging in it." Wow...that is deep!! I never thought of that. I think if I can find that, and replace it with something else that will give me that "pleasure" then I have a much better chance. What a great insight!

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2010-12-29 17:33:51 -0600 Report

Thank you! If you can look at a bad habit in terms of the need its meeting, and then the risks and benefits of getting that need met in that way, then you can get clear about what's going on with your habit. What do I need? What's a more positive way to get that need met? Or even, is that I need I have outgrown? It comes down to -- the right tool for the right job.

GabbyPA 2010-12-29 17:39:16 -0600 Report

Yep, we were talking about it at the dinner table tonight. It was an enlightening idea to us all. We may have a much more successful 2011 with this little tool.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2010-12-30 17:05:38 -0600 Report

Thanks for letting me know. You have made my day (well, evening at this point). I appreciate your feedback, as always!

troublemaker27 2010-12-28 22:48:45 -0600 Report

well i'm going to start exercising again-tori

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2010-12-29 17:46:30 -0600 Report

Great! Keep us posted!

troublemaker27 2010-12-29 22:05:34 -0600 Report

hello there,tori here well do you know more about type 2 diabetes?
i check my blood sugar it was 100.
not bad.
i check it everyday.
so how are you?
how was your christmas?
mine's was great.
ready for the new year?
i am and i'm glad.

kaylajo91 2010-12-28 18:32:42 -0600 Report

Dr Gary-

Thank you for the article, but yet what do you do if you have done all that but still can not seem to stick with it? I have been to DBT which talks about behaviors in another way, but it is usefull for this as well. My issue is the lack of energy plus maybe the lack of self care being a self harm thing. I would like to know how do you continue when you get to your last hope? I have wanted to lose weight since my first child, which is 8 years ago already. I have lived with diabetes for 7 of those 8 years. I have never gotten it under control and fear that it make consume me if I do not do something about it now. Unfortunatly I may have to lose something, (a toe, eyesight, stroke, ect) in order to wake up. Can u give me some advice on what to bring up to my medical professional team?

Susan foster
Susan foster 2011-01-08 13:06:37 -0600 Report

I feel concerned about you. You may need antidepressant(s). Once I got the correct dose my ability to address my diabetic needs was much better.

kaylajo91 2011-01-08 19:00:38 -0600 Report

Yep tried everything in the book. Nothing works so I go on nothing which is fine, just need to use other skills to get over the tuff stuff. Everyday is a daily struggle, but I have many people to help keep me on track. Right now I am taking a group therapy called Illness Management Recovery which is really good I like it. I hope for it to help me in both my Mental Illness AND my diabetic issues. Antidepressants can be great for some people, but not work for others. That seems to be my problem with many medical issues I have. Thank you for the concern, but I have a GREAT treatment team that helps me.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-01-08 19:41:42 -0600 Report

Glad to hear that you are part of a structured support group. I am familiar with Illness Management and Recovery and have heard great things about this approach. Having a good treatment team, and additional emotional support, makes a big difference.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2010-12-29 17:16:47 -0600 Report


Thanks for responding. I really like DBT and have used aspects of it with clients, it lends itself really well to bad habits, for example, saying you want one thing but behaving in a way that is contrary to what you want to achieve. Or, saying that you want to take care of yourself but doiing things that result in self harm. To be honest, in some ways, that sums up the human condition. The spirit is often willing but the flesh can be so weak.

I am concerned that you are using the term "last hope." Why the LAST hope? Thinking that way can be setting yourself up for failure. Thinking that you may have to experience a serious medical consequence in order to be motivated to take better care of yourself is self-defeating. I understand your frustration in not sticking with your diet. But, still. Maybe I am overly optimistic, but I believe that there is always hope.

Techniques like CBT and DBT are really helpful but only if you are able to work with these programs over time, so that you can learn to apply these principles to your own life and receive the benefit. It takes a lot of practice. You may have attended a DBT workshop. Are there any groups that you could join, or is it available to you individually? If you are feeling that your difficulty with compliance stems from having a self-destructive attitude, then the starting place may be to get help with your self-esteem.

You seem to have a lot of insight into yourself. Therefore, I think that you could really benefit from counseling. Body, mind, spiirit all work together. Is this something you might want to consider?

Sometimes it can also help to focus on the people you love, and who depend on you for their own care. Wating to be there for loved ones, especially children, can also be a strong motivator.

Having a sense of urgency can be anxiety producing but it can also be productive if it motivates you to make positive changes in your life. Sounds like you are ready to do that.

So, in terms of your treatment team. I would let them know what you are feeling, what you have been dealing with, and your concerns. If you are not receiving counseling, I would bring that up with them. I would also talk to them about working with you to create a plan to stay compliant that works with your lifestyle and preferences. Change doesn't come overnight. Having a diet, exercise routine, that works with you and not against you might also be helpful.

Find ways to motivate yourself. Small, healhy rewards that will help to keep you on the path. Visualize being healthy, and active in the lives of your children. Create self-talk messages around being a motivated, wothy, loving and lovable, person, that you respect and want to take care of. Think inside-out -- work on yourself and watch as the results manifest themselves.

Your insight into yourself and your motivation to create positive change are gifts, and the foundation for moving forward!

I hope this helps! Please keep us posted!

kaylajo91 2010-12-29 21:59:19 -0600 Report

Thank you Dr. Gary. I do work with a therapist and among other things I have talked about this. I am thinking about working with a nutrionist, but the nearest one is about 30 miles. Is there anything online that I could chat with someone? It s easier for me to do things online since I live in the middle of no where. Can you refer me to someplace or does Diabetic Connect have something like that? I do have tons of post it notes around my house for motovation, maybe I need to take a look at adding some about doing 5 to 10 min of exercise to start out with. Stay warm everyone cause right now we are in a snowstorm with possible ice soon.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2010-12-30 17:12:27 -0600 Report

Hi Kayla,

You are welcome!

I don't know a lot about nutrition advice online but I am wondering if this might be a good idea for a discussion that you could post. You might want to let other members know what you need and see if they have any ideas. I suspect you might get some great suggestions.

Post it notes are a great way to keep yourself reminded and motivated. I call it "Yellow stickie motivation." Even a few minutes of exercise makes a positive difference.

New York is still cleaning up after a blizzard on Sunday. I hope your storm is not too bad.

Thanks for the update and take care!

jayabee52 2010-12-28 22:14:38 -0600 Report

DBT. Diabetic behavioral training (just a guess)?

edit: I just read your profile page DBT is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy.

kaylajo91 2010-12-29 10:26:22 -0600 Report

Yes, it is for Borderline Personality Disorder as well as BiPolar disorder. It is a great group to be in.

jayabee52 2010-12-29 14:09:38 -0600 Report

My ex wife was Dx'd as borderline personality, but when the counselor confronted her with the Dx my ex went ballistic. She stopped seeing that counsellor, and started with another. Then within 6 mos she asked for divorce.

I met my 2nd bride, "Jem" about 6 yrs after the divorce. She was an LCSW and was a psychoanalyst. She told me a lot about borderlines in the 2 yrs we knew one another (she passed away in July 2010). I don't remember Jem mentioning DBT. From what I remember, Jem thought there was no effective therapy for borderlines. I just learned something new, and it is fascinating.

I read up a bit on DBT, fascinating!

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2010-12-29 17:25:54 -0600 Report

Hi James.

I also like DBT, it kind of breaks down behavior into terms and concepts that can, in turn, be taught. I think it is the standard therapeutic approach for individuals with borderline personality -- an extremely difficult group to treat.

Hope you are doing well!

jayabee52 2010-12-30 00:46:33 -0600 Report

I am well, staying with my son since my move. Am looking for an apartment of my own now.

The person with borderline personality has to accept there is something wrong with their personality before such an approach is effective, correct?

One24tickets 2010-12-28 13:50:34 -0600 Report

Love IT! we have to take responsilbilty for our bodies, what we do with them, and what we put in them! Sometime was have to truly deny ourselves and do what we know we have to do. We have to realize we control our body not our body controlling us. Stand strong!

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2010-12-28 15:52:20 -0600 Report

And thank you! You're right. The responsibility is ours. We all have the power to make constructive changes in our lives. The key is to have a manageable approach, taking things one step at a time.

BandonBob 2010-12-28 13:47:16 -0600 Report

This is very insightful and pretty much the way I have handled having Type 2. I only worry about what I can do in the next couple of hours and let everything else take care of itself.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2010-12-28 15:49:44 -0600 Report

Hey Bob, thanks for the feedback! That's a great approach to avoiding stress. We can only do what we can do, being anxious, and assuming that you can maintain control over every possible outcome, is unproductive to say the least.

RAYT721 2010-12-27 13:32:09 -0600 Report

Great tips and insightful article! Thank you for sharing this. Many of my responses have used the words "baby steps" in being the best path to take towards success. It is from "baby steps" that I have achieved and accomplished things that would have led to others burning out. I am too out of shape to run a marathon overnight but I have slowly worked on my mind, body and soul to reach little victories that have led to larger ones. Anything is possible if you believe in it; however, it's important to be realistic. Each day brings us new chances and challenges so that it's not only the first of the year when goals can be set and achieved but life in ongoing. TODAY is as good a day to start doing something, anything, to create that new you. Actions cause reactions … Lets all change something bad by replacing it with something good and let those changes transform us to all that we aspire to be. One step at a time. One day at a time!!!

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2010-12-27 20:48:16 -0600 Report

Thanks, Ray.

I couldn't agree more. Those little tiny, realistic, steps can lead toward awesome changes. You know, because you have proven this in your own life. It's when we overreach, and demand too much of ourselves, that we end up setting ourselves up for failure.

2011 is almost here. Out with the bad and in with the good.

Thanks and Happy New Year!

WHOA 2010-12-28 19:25:08 -0600 Report

Today is my first day reading this conneciton site. i like the idea of one day at a time and taking "baby steps.

Pynetree 2010-12-29 10:48:32 -0600 Report

Hi from one Theresa to another…welcome to DC…I was wondering if your DOB was a typo, or transposed ? If it's correct -1906…you should stick with whatever habits you have, 'cause they're working for you! I too like the baby steps plan, but the toolbox seems to be something that I need to work on to succeed this time.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2010-12-29 17:37:58 -0600 Report

Hi! It's all a process, and each of us has our own habits, our own needs that have let do those habits. Baby steps are the most direct route to success. The toolbox we build up over time as wel learn what works and doesn't work. So, more baby steps. (By the way, never too old to change -- LOL.)

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