Organize me so I can be healthy?
July 29, 2007 1:08 PM   Subscribe

Help me form healthy habits to last a lifetime, so I can maxamize my enjoyment of life?

I'm 21. I have no major illnesses or injuries, a fairly intelligent brain and a body that's severely out of shape and a tendency not to look after myself in general.

What I do have is poor impulse control and a tendency to get demoralized easily, probably from a delicious combination of not-giving-a-damn and being high strung. I’m also clueless to how a lot of little things like riding a bike are done thanks to a sheltered childhood.

Youth and genetics mean that nobody can tell what lousy shape I'm in (people tend to fixate on fat, and I'm still non-bulgy through no fault of my own), but I'm not content with my inability to look after myself when it comes to remembering to brush my teeth, go to the gym, study, get out enough, not eat unhealthy non-food,

I must be capable of some level of self-motivation, because I can study enough to do well in my classes and religiously eat my birth control pills at the correct time, but I want to do preventative maintenance now, lest the later half of this decade, and my subsequent years beyond it be tarnished by a squandered youth.

What seems to be my stumbling block is organization. If my life has a mess or an obstacle in the way of my ideas, something doesn’t happen. For example, getting to the gym or out to run is near impossible, because if there are any details like needing to do laundry between it and me, it does not happen and neither does the laundry. Healthy eating falls by the way side when presented with cheap convenience food or immediate hunger, even though I’m perfectly capable of enjoying my broccoli and whole wheat when I get them.

How can I be my own mummy and remind myself to brush my teeth, start projects before the last minute, pack healthful lunches and actually have the patience to work myself through repetitive activities like lifting weights?
posted by Phalene to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
One quick fix is to put a to-do-list on the mirror every night. When you wake to a new day you're greeted with a note from "mum".

The list could contain one or two messages: "Walk to work/university" - "Have two apples today" - "Drink lots of water" - "No fries today for you, young lady" - etc.

Seriously: If there's only ONE habit I could magically transfere to you it would be - WALK.

It's the single most beneficial exercise I know. And it's easy to incorporate in daily life. And you already know how to walk, you just have to do some more of it.

Take care.
posted by Rabarberofficer at 1:17 PM on July 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

To-do-lists doesn't work for me. Instead I've developed a healthy level of neurotic behavior. For instance:

* Public transportation is a bit evil and icky and I don't want to ride the same train as those "other" people so I'll rather walk or bike instead.
* I've convinced myself that I hate fast food and that if I'm not feeling well it's because of a lack of fiber in my diet.
* If I don't exercise I'll become fat and people will start to hate me. Who can respect a fat person after all?

None of these beliefs are probably true but it's easier for me to delude myself than to follow a stupid to-do-list.
posted by uandt at 1:37 PM on July 29, 2007 [2 favorites]

The key is not to try to do more than one thing at a time. Start with making sure you are eating a healthy breakfast every day. After six months of doing that, start eating a healthy lunch too. Go through one at a time and eliminate each unhealthy thing.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:45 PM on July 29, 2007

"Sow an act...reap a habit; Sow a habit...reap a character; Sow a character...reap a destiny." - George Dana Boardman

Start small, establish habits, build up on them. Maybe set you alarm clock and wake up at the same time everyday, establish a routine. Wake up, eat, brush teeth. Do it over, and over, and over again. Eventually you will be on autopilot for the little things,
posted by blue_beetle at 1:56 PM on July 29, 2007 [3 favorites]

Instead of looking around at other people "effortlessly" taking care of themselves and wondering why it's so hard for you, accept that you're congenitally flawed and you must expend enormous mental effort if you're to feed yourself daily in a healthful and frugal way. Say it as satirically as you want to, but say it: I will do what it takes to develop a lunch-carrying habit, no matter how hard it is. I tell you this from my own airheaded, self-defeating experience.

Making a decent lunch sounds simple, but for a person who lacks organization it holds plenty of opportunities for scewing up. Do yourself a favor and set your standards low at the beginning. Decide to take the same damn lunch every day -- and if you're able to vary it, that's just a bonus. And, even though it's embarrassing to to say it out loud, admit that taking a lunch every single day is a primary goal for the coming 28 days.

A to-do list will be useless to you unless it's specific about what you need to do and when. For the lunch-making, you order yourself to buy, on a particular day, a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, a week's worth of apples, refillable water bottle, plastic wrap, and a reusable lunch container. Then put these things conveniently at a lunch-making station. Commit to cleaning out your lunchbox and waterbottle, and getting your lunchbox and its into your backpack BEFORE you go to bed at night. You're not allowed to retire before that's done. When you have two slices of bread and one apple left, you know it's time to get more raw materials. Or if it works better for you, decide that Sunday will be your lunch-shopping day. Switch to banana or orange the next week, but be dogged in getting that lunch made every night. And when you finally do get on track, recognize it as a major achievement, because for you, it is.

To those people who think I'm talking down to Phalene: forgive me, but you just don't know what it's like to be disorganized.
posted by wryly at 3:08 PM on July 29, 2007 [2 favorites]

2 things to start till i get more time to post later.

Please take care of your teeth. You end up with horrendous problems you won't like if you let them go for even a year or so. So do whatever you have to to brush and floss well before bed and after breakfast. Don't ask me how I know this.

The other thing is, look into where your time is going. Too much TV or internet time will disorganize the rest of your life. Use the time more productively for the things that are important.

gotta go now.
posted by DarkForest at 3:34 PM on July 29, 2007

Not sure where you live, but if it's in a city (or really, anywhere that you don't use a car to get to work), I've found that getting a gym membership near work and packing up a gym bag the night before to bring on the metro with me made an enormous difference in how often I actually went to the gym. In the morning, I could grab the bag without actually being motivated to work out right then--after all, I was just bringing it for exercising after work, and I'd *surely* be motivated then--and by the time the end of the day rolled around and I was tired and felt like going home to just sit on the couch, the though of dragging that stupid heavy bag all the way home for no reason often was enough to get me to the gym. If I didn't go, all that discomfort was for no reason! Better to go for 10 minutes and at least get some use of it.

The general principle probably holds for other things, as well. Set things up so that whether you're motivated or not, it's more of a pain in the butt to *not* do the healthy thing.
posted by iminurmefi at 3:59 PM on July 29, 2007

stretch stretch strech
posted by mrmarley at 4:15 PM on July 29, 2007

- Sign up for an exercise class. If you're paying, you know you'll be motivated to go, even if you have to go in your pajamas. Once you're there being surrounded by people doing the same exercises will keep you doing reps until the instructor calls time.

- Find more convenient healthy(ish) food. Granola bars, healthy cereals, the healthier offerings in the cafeteria... Even the fresh prepared foods at, e.g., Wegman's or other snooty grocery store of your choice.

- Find a buddy to do things with, such as cook up enough food that can be stored so you have healthy lunch and dinner for a week, going jogging, or even (if you live on campus) doing laundry (really).
posted by anaelith at 4:34 PM on July 29, 2007

Eat protein bars instead of candy bars. That's an easy adjustment. These are pretty good, if you like candy bars.

If you don't like doing laundry, start swimming to get exercise. Then you can rinse your trunks while you shower. No extra laundry. Very easy.

Buy the low sodium variety of your favorite foods, if available.

Not having the time to eat healthy food is a cop out. McDonald's sells salads, as does almost every other fast food chain.

You will definitely save more time by being healthy. Sure, going to the gym sucks. But you'll get sick less and you'll spend less on heathcare. Wouldn't it be nice to use your sick days from work to hang out with fiends at the beach, rather than use those days because you're sick and unhealthy?
posted by HotPatatta at 5:25 PM on July 29, 2007

McDonald's sells salads, as does almost every other fast food chain.

And sometimes, the salads have more calories and fat than the sandwiches (especially if you're doing the creamy dressing, meat, cheese, egg, etc). Be careful- it's not necessarily "healthier" if it has the word "salad" in the name.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:04 PM on July 29, 2007 [2 favorites]

nthing the "little bit at a time" suggestions. Start with one good habit, or stopping one bad habit, and work from there.

With regards to disorganization, it does pay to write things down. It's something I tried, and I'm still not fully there yet, but I'm writing more things down, and it helps me to remember to do those things that are written down. A daily list of goals helps, too.

I'm guessing you're a college student. If you're anything like me, the lack of structure form classes is making life difficult. All I have required of me each day right now is to go to work, any four days from Sunday through Thursday, six PM until nine PM. Normally, I'll end up sleeping until four in the afternoon, eating fast food before work, and stay up all night, perpetuating the cycle. Instead, I'm making a concentrated effort to get up when I'll have to when the semester starts, and doing things with my day.
posted by SansPoint at 7:45 PM on July 29, 2007

When I am unmotivated and feeling lazy, I pretend my future self is standing over my shoulder telling me to take care of myself.

"Don't eat that!"
"Call your mom"
"Go outside!"

I have to get off the computer now, an old lady just smacked me with her cane and told me to go to bed.
posted by idiotfactory at 12:41 AM on July 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

@Hot Patatta

I don't eat at McDonalds. My buy food options are limited to a few dollars at most, which tends to put me below budget to afford cafeteria salads. Which by the way, mostly consist of stale lettuce, and thus have the nutritional content of my sneakers. Normally all I can afford is vending machine crap or Tim's unhealthy things. This really is an organizational issue, because the only way I can eat healthy is to cook free food from home and haul in tupperware. And I just can't seem to fit in the extra hours it takes. If I had money this would be easy.
posted by Phalene at 7:05 PM on December 19, 2007

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