Have you ever put off something you know you should do but would rather not? Delay, stall, hesitate, dilly-dally – whatever you want to call it, there’s a name for it, and it’s called procrastination.
Blame it on busyness, habit, or being overly distracted, chronic procrastination can profoundly affect many aspects of your life. Financially, socially, even your health and well-being may feel the brunt of your procrastination. Speaking of health, want to harm your health? Procrastinate. Start by delaying health checkups and preventative screenings, stop trying to lose excess weight, keep drinking sugary beverages, and be sure to postpone kicking your cigarette habit.
By now you understand, procrastination is a major contributor to harming your health. Delaying or postponing good health habits only sets you up eventually for facing considerable health challenges. If you consider yourself a procrastinator, you’re not alone. All of us from time to time procrastinate. We do it in our family life, our work life, and sometimes how we take care of ourselves physically and mentally. The trick is to be aware of your procrastination tendencies and how to break that cycle.
Getting and staying healthy is partly good luck and good genetics but the biggest factor is routinely practicing healthy habits. People who refrain from procrastinating find time to exercise, choose healthy foods, get sufficient sleep, refrain from smoking or using illicit drugs, and they keep stress under control most of the time. But if you’ve been saying for years, “I want to lose weight to get in better shape and in better health,” but little has changed, you may be a persistent procrastinator. Very likely, you know you need to make positive changes but you always find an excuse to keep it from happening.
The million-dollar question to ask is, “Why am I avoiding getting into better shape to regain back my health? There can be several reasons:
- To avoid something you may perceive as being unpleasant and takes work to do
- You have low self-confidence
- Taking back your health takes time and you like immediate gratification
- You’re easily distracted and find it hard to keep motivated
One way procrastinator’s reason with themselves or others for not embracing better health habits is by making excuses. For example, adopting healthy food choices can be a struggle. If you’re used to eating unhealthy highly processed foods or relying on dinner from a drive-thru window, change can be difficult. Here are common excuses for not eating healthy:
“I will have to cook more from scratch” or “It will cost more money to eat healthily” or “My friends who love to eat lots of unhealthy food will give me flack for eating fruits and vegetables.”
Exercise is another great example of how procrastinators avoid it. Setting up a regular exercise routine is often easier said than done. Some individuals may make excuses to avoid exercise by making statements such as:
“It will take time away from other things I enjoy more” or “If I have to pay for a gym membership it will cost me the money” or “I will feel uncomfortable exercising around others.”
Breaking the procrastination cycle
Every one of us can come up with reasons why we shouldn’t or can’t do things that we should be doing, particularly when it comes to our health. The more we put off making positive healthy changes in our lifestyle, the less likely we will ever take the initiative to make it a reality. This only sets the wheels in motion increasing your risk for chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and stroke.
Here are ways to break the procrastination cycle:
- Create a pros and cons chart regarding both the eating and exercise behaviors or any other health goals to work on you keep avoiding
- Undereating healthier, if a “con” is having to cook more, learn ways to make quick, healthy meals
- Under exercise habits, if a “con” is that paying for a gym membership is too expensive, start instead with a walking program finding an area you can go do this at for free. Check into walking at a high school track, a nature trail, or a park.
- Set specific mini-goals. For example, set a specific goal to eat breakfast daily or set an exercise goal to walk 20 minutes 5 days a week.
- Find ways to overcome barriers. For example, start shopping for more high fiber foods, nonfat milk or fruit.
- If you don’t own a pair of athletic shoes, buy a pair.
- Learn to enjoy immediate benefits. If you eat breakfast and walk daily it will give you more energy while helping you manage your weight better.
Another way to keep pursuing your health goals is to have reminder prompts to keep you enthused and to stick with your program:
- Keep fresh fruit in a bowl on a table to remind you to eat more produce
- Have a water bottle with you at work to remind you to drink more water
- Keep high protein, high fiber meal replacement bars in your purse or briefcase so you won’t skip a meal
- Layout gym clothes the night before
- Write down or remind yourself with your smartphone when to exercise
- Purchase cookbooks or search the internet for recipes creating healthy meals
Reward yourself for practicing a healthy lifestyle
When you do achieve small successes and you are no longer making excuses or procrastinating, reward yourself to keep the momentum going:
- Do a fun activity with a friend
- Take a vacation
- Go get a massage
- Have a romantic night out
- Attend a sporting event
- Enjoy a concert
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.