Why diet, NOT exercise needs to be your keystone habit.

I keep reading about keystone habits. These are the habits discussed in Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit, defined as: small changes or habits that people introduce into their routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their lives.

Very often exercise is used as an example of a keystone habit that results in better eating, better sleep, more mental toughness, even better relationships. I’m sure it does all that.

I’m a very regular exerciser. I row 60 or so kilometres per week and walk about 30 km a week in addition to my real life. The effects of this exercise are noticeable in my now visible muscles and my much improved aerobic capacity. The non-physical benefits are, well, a bit more subtle. I don’t think exercise for me is a keystone habit.

When I was sick, walking drained me. I chose to use my limited energy on walking, but it did not make me better.

Even when I was sick I walked. I walked slowly and often not that far, but I walked. I needed to get outside no matter the weather. Often, feeling the weather on my face was my confirmation that I was actually alive and living on planet Earth. When I was sick, walking drained me. I chose to use my limited energy on walking, but it did not make me better.

Doctors seem to have an overblown certainty in the power of exercise to heal. Every doctor I saw during the period of my illness told me to keep exercising and try to exercise more. For me, exercising more today meant feeling worse and exercising less tomorrow. This was not a keystone habit.

Changing my diet made me feel like a new person in just a few weeks.

Dramatic changes for me did not happen until I changed my diet to whole plant foods. Almost immediately my mood improved. I felt lighter and more energetic. My angina started to lessen. I wasn’t itchy all over anymore.

Changing my diet made me feel like a new person in just a few weeks. I felt like someone who was strong and moved joyfully so I set out to make myself strong. I bought an indoor rowing machine and started logging hours and metres. I won’t say the exercise is effortless, because that’s not the point of it, but fuelled by plants, exercise is enjoyable, and recovery is quick and endorphin soaked. I don’t love rowing all the time, but I love being the kind of person who rows.

The cascade of good habits continues. I’ve started meditating first thing in the morning, and I sit down to write immediately after that. I’ve even decluttered my closet.

My keystone habit is eating a whole foods plant based diet. There is no doubt in my mind that the physical changes that resulted from that one thing have enabled me to exercise and transform my entire being.

Make it easy on yourself by fuelling your body and your mind with plants.

Starting an exercise program is great, but don’t put the cart before the horse. Make it easy on yourself by fuelling your body and your mind with plants. Get the sludge out of your system then watch yourself go.

 

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