Monday, July 25, 2011

Habits vs. Routine

Last week, at my Weight Watchers meeting, a person in our meeting made a statement along the lines of "Well, that's just my new routine."  My leader stopped and looked at her and then asked, "What is the difference between habits and routines?"

I'll admit it, I was a bit stumped.  I mean, I know that there is a difference (there had to be, or she wouldn't have asked the question, right??), but in truth I couldn't think of a meaningful difference.

After a bit of what can only be described as wrong answers from the members, our leader helped us with the difference - at least as she saw it.

Routines have to do with time - they're what you do every morning, afternoon, or evening.  They're the bowl of Cheerios you have for breakfast because you know that they're only X number of points.  They're the five mile run you take every morning so you feel better.  They're the bag of carrots that you have each afternoon to stave off hunger.

But habits?  Well, habits are a broader way that you actually live - and they really don't have a lot to do with fixed time frames or specifics.

For instance, your routine may be the bowl of Cheerios, but your habit may be to work whole grains into breakfast.  The end result is the same, but the habits are more likely to get you to change who you really are. And when you actually change your habits, you start to change yourself.  If you're the Cheerios eating skinny lady, what do you do when you visit other people or go out to breakfast and there are no Cheerios in sight?  Your routine is gone and you're more likely to throw the whole eating healthy thing out the window.

BUT if your habit is to have whole grains at every breakfast, you'd shrug off the Cheerios-free morning and choose something that was equally as hearty.

Can we lose weight by changing our routines alone? You betcha'.  I'd be willing to wager that this is how most of us have lost the weight - time and time again.  You get motivation and you change your lifestyle.  You throw out all the junk food and dive right into a great new eating plan or exercise regime.

But if we only change our routines, it's probably harder to have the will power to stay on the track that we've laid out for ourselves.

In order for all of us to live the healthiest that we can, we must be willing to change our habits - not just our routines.

This subtle difference made me change the way that I looked at my own life, especially as it pertains to my weight loss.

I have a few habits that I'd like to change - like sleeping in as late as I can every day of the week, brooding by myself when I feel particularly blue, and worrying about things that are outside of my control.

But I have a few habits that I'm kind of proud of too - like working in a veggie at every meal, trying a new food when it's presented to me (pertaining to veggies or fruits that I'm unfamiliar with), and working on getting more fiber into my daily intake.

I think the habits were formed by routines that I had put in place.  I used to not want veggies, but the points values when I added them made things lower - and therefore it was worth the veggies.  After years of this, I noticed that my body felt better when I ate more veggies.  And (gasp!) when I didn't eat as many, I kind of missed how my body ran.  So now I look for ways to make my body feel better - at least in terms of fuel.

It's a small distinction, really.  But it's helped me be more aware of the choices I make and the reason why I make them.  Sometimes they're out of habits and sometimes they're out of routine.  Neither is bad, per se.  It's just another thing that I'm noticing and felt like it was worthy of sharing.


Lou said...

'click' - funny how such simple concepts can help so many things fall into place. Really good post - agree that my routines are forming good habits too. Exercise is a biggie for me. My current routine is to walk every day after work and am already noticing that I actually want to move more on weekends even tho it's not part of the routine. Win!

Anonymous said...

Wow, I liked this post. You put a lot of perspective into it. It's wonderful to learn from others and really see how we do things. What makes the tick, tock. Thanks for sharing!!

Karen@WaistingTime said...

Okay... thought provoking. Hmmm. I'm still thinking.

Lily Fluffbottom said...

That sounds like a pretty deep subject. I wonder what my habits are versus my routine.

Hope all is well.

Sam said...

Hey girl! Just wanted to give you a shout out and let you know I'm back to blogging. I've never stopped reading your blog, and I'm happy for you that WW is helping again. We need to catch up! Hope you're doing good!