Yet every few weeks someone brings donuts to the office and plops right in the spot I walk by over a dozen times each day. Often times I can resist their sweet seduction. Sometimes I give in an have one. Why do I do that when I know how they make me feel? What tests my willpower so much that even when I know all the reasons for NOT doing something, including my own experience, I still find myself reaching for that donut?
The answer has to do with habits. Habits, even some of the earliest ones formed in life, live on in the wiring of our brains in the basal ganglia and brain stem. There is evidence that these old habits never really go away. They're merely covered up by the layers of new habits that we set for ourselves. Given the right conditions, the old habits can drive us to act in ways that don't make sense based on our new ideas or ways of living.
Getting kids to eat healthy early in life sets habits that be the groundwork for a lifetime of better, healthier choices. We all hear the numbers of kids suffering from diseases. But we still fall into the trap of looking at a skinny kid eat three scoops of ice cream covered in hot fudge with sprinkles and think it's okay. Not only does that affect that child now (any researcher who says sugar doesn't affect kids must not have any), the habits that are being formed in the most substantive period of their lives can affect them for the next several decades.
My family spent almost every Sunday after church going to the local donut shop and having breakfast together. We'd each have two donuts and sit together. It was a time of connection, being close to one another, and relaxing. Charles Duhigg, in his book Habits, says that emotional states drive many of our habits. When I thought about it, I realized that donuts suggest relaxation, connection, and family to me. So in my "weaker" moments, longing for one of those feelings, I reach for a donut and have to deal with how it makes me feel afterwards.
What we do early in life matters. Giving children the chance to form healthy habits early on is critical. Simply believing that they'll change when they get older is wishful thinking. After all, how many adults do you know who are readily able to overhaul a bad habit with ease and grace? What if we started on the right path and build wiring that sought out healthy solutions? What would that look like?
In the next post, we'll discuss three ways you can get your kids to start forming those early habits. So if you're ready to help your children begin a path to a lifetime of energy, health, and happiness, tune in for tools that will help you and your kids get there.