The Power of Habits

17 October 2016 by Thomas Kohut

The Power of Habits

Over 50 years ago, cosmetic surgeon Maxwell Maltz wrote a short book called "Psycho-Cybernetics"

In the book, Maltz noted that, despite helping thousands of patients, many of whom had terrible disfigurements, he couldn't effect change in the way a person viewed themselves until they themselves had come to terms with their new appearance. That is, even though patients had undergone remarkable cosmetic transformations, they still strongly identified with their previous self. 

Maltz explained that this 'self-image' can be the key to human personality and human behavior.

However, if the person changes their thoughts then the person can change their personality and the behavior.

Thoughts become habitualised over time, and our habits are formed through repetition. Much has been written about habits and I won't go into the subject too deeply here, but suffice to say that habits are like a double-edged sword. Habits help us function efficiently in life. Habits allow us to operate on autopilot so that we can get on with the more important things, like working out complicated algebra or playing fruit ninja on our iPhones. Most of us tend to operate on autopilot most of our lives until something goes wrong.

That's when we tend to examine our habits and ask the tough question - "Is this working for me?"

You may have heard that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. Why do we do this to ourselves? Horace Man gives us a clue with his quote:

"Habit is a cable. We weave a thread of it every day, and at last, we cannot break it."

To see the truth of this statement, think of the smoker you know who puffed their way into the grave. I have known more than a few. Or the alcoholic who pays for their habit with more things than I care to mention. The thing they both have in common is that their habits control them, rather than them being able to choose what habits they wish to follow.

Oftentimes, our dietary choices become habitualised in the same manner. We tend to eat the same foods week in week out. If we eat out, we tend to frequent the same restaurant and order the same meal as last time. I've been guilty of this, and still am at times! The point is, if we allow ourselves to go on autopilot, we may not be making optimal choices when it comes to our diet. We may not be getting the full complement of nutrients our bodies crave unless we identify the need for a varied diet.

Even worse, we may develop food sensitivities to certain foods because of our lazy habits.

So how do we break these bad habits and form new, more healthy ones? This is where Maltz offers us an answer. In his book, Psycho-Cybernetics, Maltz tells us that it takes approximately 21 days for us to reprogram our brains and adopt a new behaviour. Perfect! To me, this means setting up a 21-day meal plan where no two meals (Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner) are the same. It means knowing what you will be eating on day 15, and being aware that you wouldn't be eating that same meal for another 21 days. It means adding new foods into your diet, even foods you don't typically eat.

Personally, I can't stand cauliflower.

It tests fine (you'll learn what that means when you work with a Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner) but I don't like the taste. Never have. Probably never will. But as a fermented food, I love it! Fermenting it changes it just enough for me to find it super delicious. So be creative. Developing a 21-day food plan will challenge your habits and it will ensure you get a good macronutrient variety. You will approach your food consciously and your body will thank you for it!

Happy Chewing!


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Thomas Kohut

Thomas is an FNTP with a special interest in soil biology. He helps people with severe Ulcerative Colitis make the same remarkable recovery through nutrition.