Thursday, March 8, 2012

Don't Fence Me In

When Robert Frost wrote “Mending Wall” and penned the phrase, “Good fences make good neighbors,” it’s a sure bet he wasn’t talking about food. He was talking about barriers.

Fences can be a good thing. They provide boundaries, or the perception of limits. They can promote a feeling of safety and security. They define our spaces. They keep things in and they keep other things out. They also create walls. And, sometimes those walls get in the way of choices we need to make.

We are creatures of habit. We do things the same way, day after day, and we become comfortable with our patterns and our walls. But sometimes the walls are unnecessary. They become barriers and that’s when the fences need to come down – and now we are talking about food, and food choices and lifestyle behaviors and habits

Work, family, time constraints, cost, and maybe just not knowing are all real barriers to creating healthier habits and healthier choices. Yet, when each of these fences holding us in is carefully scrutinized, those barriers fade away. Our existing patterns of comfort are habits which we can change to form new, healthier, sustainable replacements.

But just like a fence or a wall, you don’t just knock it down—you take it apart board by board or brick by brick. And, that’s the secret to creating your new barrier-free choices. Start small. Don’t do it all at once. Ask yourself  “why” you want to change. Define your motivational triggers. Be aware of situations and circumstances that set you up for failure (popcorn at the movies comes to mind). Have a new response ready. Get support from family and friends. Involve them in your choices to create healthier lifestyle behaviors. Congratulate yourself on each success. Stay with it. You didn’t build your old fence or form your old habits in one day, or week or month, and you won’t dismantle them that quickly either—but you will transform them over time.

When the fences come down, there’s a whole new field to explore, and an opportunity to expand into new territory. That would be the territory of healthy choices, healthy substitutions, and a new outlook on what might have been holding you back from making these choices in the first place.

So, here’s something to ask yourself . . . Are your personal fences holding you in or keeping you from discovering new territory? Are they creating boundaries it’s time to cross? Without that fence, are you ready to explore healthier lifestyle options?

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