Got Bad Habits?

If you do, you might want to lose them. Because a new study shows middle-aged men who avoid such risk factors as smoking, being overweight, and drinking excessively, have a better chance of reaching old age—and reaching it healthier! Shari Roan of The Los Angeles Times reports:
The chance of survival to age 85 is as high as 69% in men with no risk factors at middle age and as low as 22% in men with six or more risk factors. Grip strength — a measure of physical fitness — was associated with longevity, while not having a marital partner was associated with death before age 85.
To be honest this does sound like commonsense, but in our “I have a family history of it” culture, it’s good to see something encouraging people to take control of their health and ditch pesky habits. But as Dr. Fuhrman points out breaking old habits, especially food addictions, is hard work. From the January 2005 edition of Healthy Times:
It is difficult to break old, addictive eating habits and form new, healthy ones. One of the difficulties is the immense power of addiction, which makes the human mind hungry to rationalize and attempt to justify the bad habits. As a result, people often fail before they even attempt to change. They either use denial about the vital necessity of change—the need to improve their health and happiness, or they simply give up without even trying—thinking that change is too difficult.
I relate to this all too well. Early on in college I had a major diet cola addiction. A twelve-pack of cans would last me two to three days, tops! Hey, I’m not proud of it. And I guess in a world filled with temptations I could have been hooked on something a lot worse. But in the end I kicked my addiction lickety-split. How’d I do it?

First, I recognized how displeased I was with my habit—I’ve never trusted artificial sweeteners—and second, repetition, repetition, repetition. Every time I wanted a diet soda I just reached for a bottle of water instead. It’s been almost three years and I haven’t had a diet drink of any sort since.

Dr. Fuhrman considers repetition and recognition critical steps towards breaking bad habits. Good to hear, because back then I thought I was just driving myself crazy with habit-breaking neurosis. There’s more about breaking bad habits in the September 2004 edition of Healthy Times too:
Identifying the cause(s) of your problems, eliminating your bad habits, and learning what is necessary to reestablish great health are tremendous first steps. But they are only 50 percent of the overall solution. Before you can achieve true success, you must practice, repeating your new beneficial behaviors over and over until they become part of you. Repetition will make these positive actions feel more and more natural. Soon, these new good habits will make your previous bad habits things of the past.
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