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At Professor Wellbody's Academy of Health & Wellness, we understand there's only one thing harder than making healthy behavior changes: Sticking to them! We all need a little help from our friends, and that's the purpose of the Wellbody Blog, a friendly online gathering spot--a community well--where you can dip into health news; wellness tips; recipes; latest research about nutrition, exercise, sleep and hygiene; plus, real stories from virtual neighbors who are also trying to change their lives for the better. Start from wherever you are; share ideas, information, inspiration. At Pacific Science Center, we believe each of us can do something everyday to improve our health and well-being.

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Dilbert Creator Shares Secret To Health and Happiness

Dilbert

Resolutions Out, Habits In

Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, admits it might be wacky to get health advice from a cartoonist, but his recent essay about happiness in The Washington Post is a thoughtful look at how knowledge trumps willpower when it comes to health, an apropos message during this season of resolutions.

He writes: "As far as I can tell, people usually experience the sensation of happiness whenever they have both health and freedom.

"It’s a simple formula: Happiness = Health + Freedom"

As for health: “The most important thing to know about staying fit is this: If it takes willpower, you’re doing it wrong. Anything that requires willpower is unsustainable in the long run.

". . . My observation is that you can usually replace willpower with knowledge. That isn’t an obvious point, so I’ll give some examples.

"Imagine you are hungry and I offer you a delicious but unhealthy dessert. It would take a lot of willpower to resist. Now imagine the same scenario, but I simultaneously offer a healthier food option that is also delicious. Suddenly it is easy to pick the healthy alternative over the dessert. The dessert was only irresistible when the alternative was starving. So the trick for avoiding unhealthy foods is to make sure you always have access to healthy options that you enjoy eating. Your knowledge of this trick, assuming you use it, makes willpower far less necessary."

Knowledge can make you loathe french fries, help you understand which foods make you feel good and bad, and learn how to make veggies taste great. Adams observes that the fittest people have systems, not goals.

Mark Bittman, New York Times Food Guru

 Over at The New York Times, food guru Mark Bittman also advocates ditching extreme resolutions and instead making tiny changes, habits, that last more or less forever.

“Eat nothing but foam packing peanuts and lemon tea, and you’ll lose 30 pounds in 30 days. Then what?”

Bittman shares some easy food-related resolutions: Cook big batches of grains, beans and unseasoned vegetables. Buy half as much meat and make it better quality meat. Buy frozen fruits and vegetables. In his post, he shares simple recipes for Thai beef salad and dark chocolate ganache. Sounds like great habits! 

Erica Strauss of Northwest Edible Life 

Closer to home, on Northwest Edible Life, Seattle blogger Erica Strauss writes about shifting from goals to habits—and losing about 100 pounds in the process.

“I don’t even remember what Resolutions I’ve made over the past decade, but I do know that changes that have stuck haven’t actually come from my obsessive, tunnel-vision, goal-obsession, but from consistent, boring habits.

"Go for walks as often as possible. Breathe extra deeply when you are near the water. Eat vegetables. Load the dishwasher. Shine the sink. Feed the cats. Make dinner. When these things get inside you so much that you don’t even think about them, you just do them, then they become part of you, a habit.”

Visit Wellbody Academy to hone your knowledge about healthy eating, sleeping, exercising and washing. We have tools and tricks that could help even Dilbert create S.M.A.R.T habits for a healthy and happy life.

What habits are your trying to hone? Share your tips and stories by commenting below or emailing professorwellbody@pacsci.org.  Thanks and Happy New Year! 

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Guest Friday, 01 August 2014