Subtraction Additions

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Month of Little Steps to Health FitessJanuary is BlogHer's Month of Little Steps to Health & Fitness, and we want you to share your favorite easy health tip! Click here to see how to play along. And check out all the tips so far in the Month of Little Steps to Health & Fitness series.

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Sometimes, in order to move ahead, you need to actually subtract -- to take away some of your food, some of your exercise routine, or some of your options. I know, it's sort of counterintuitive -- we're raised to believe that more is more in this country. But I like to think of it more akin to a snake shedding its old skin in order to grow a new one. I've found that it's easier to move forward sometimes when I'm leaving something behind.

Half the Plate

The first one is easy. When you order your meal at a restaurant, ask the wait staff to bring you a to-go container when they bring the plate. Before you take a bite, put half of the meal into the container and close it. And then proceed to start eating. Believe me, it's much harder for your brain to be convinced to stop eating if you leave the food on the plate and tell yourself that you're not going to touch it. The meal then becomes more about a struggle of self-control than it does about enjoying the food you do have. Removing it from the plate becomes more a statement of "out of sight, out of mind." And tell yourself that no, you can't open up that container and fish out one more noodle. It's your lunch for tomorrow, and if you steal from it now, you're going to regret it tomorrow at noon.

Exercise Less

My goal is to exercise every single morning. I'm usually pretty good with Monday and Tuesday, but by Wednesday, I'm dragging from waking up at 6 am to run. By Thursday, I'm having a ten minute internal monologue with myself about how much I don't want to wake up. And by Friday, I'm simply hating the world due to lack of sleep. I also found that if I didn't run one day, I would use it as an excuse to write off the rest of the week, figuring that I'd already broken my running streak. It helped tremendously when I told myself that I only had to run three days a week. Three days a week? That's nothing. I can still sleep in two days a week. (You know, sleep in to 7 am!) It has helped me keep a groove, and if I miss a day, I just tell myself that I'll run the next day and still hit that 3-times-a-week goal. Having a realistic goal means that I feel better about myself because I usually reach it, and that's a great motivator rather than feeling like crap about myself.

Pack Your Lunch

Back when I worked out of the house, I packed my lunch in the morning and whatever I brought was what I ate. Now that I work out of the house, I have a tendency to have good intentions and poor execution. For instance, I will tell myself in the morning that I'm having a salad for lunch. And then lunch time rolls around and I'm in the middle of something with no time to chop up vegetables. So I pull out a bowl of cereal instead. I graze during the day, grabbing a handful of pretzels or crackers (or G-d help us if there are baked goods in the house). In the end, I've eaten a lot more than I ever would have packed for myself before leaving the house. Therefore, in order to remove all of those options, I've started to pack myself lunch in the morning in the same way that I packed it for myself back when I worked out of the house. Cold stuff stays in the refrigerator, but my little reusable snack bags stay on my desk. And when they're gone, they're gone. Just because I have access to more doesn't mean that I should take more.

What are your best subtraction additions? What healthy thing (food, exercise, etc) have you had to take away in order to have better success?

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her novel about blogging is Life from Scratch.

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