a peek inside the fishbowl

01 Jun, 2015

Habits, and the things we see when we take the time to look

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life

This past week has been both slow and busy. SLOW, because I had a touch of food poisoning and found myself lying on the couch with stabbing pains in my gut, and BUSY because the time I had to take for myself threw a wrench into my entire week and later left me wondering what day it was. The thing about my work life is that the deadlines come, no matter how ill I am feeling. It’s times like this that I worry about things like a lack of benefits and disability insurance. What if I got REALLY sick, and couldn’t work? This has happened to people around me. It’s a fear I push away because I’m too afraid to think about it.

I collected a bunch of pine cones the other day. There’s something about them – the shape, the symmetry – that appeals to me on some level. This is how I came home with these:

Pinecones: closed

I had no plan in mind, although I did see a great idea on Pinterest that used pine cones in the bottoms of planters instead of stones and shards of clay pots. (Smart eh? They help with drainage and eventually decompose, which would be quite helpful at the end of the season.)

In the past I’ve kept pine cones in pretty jars, but I’m out of jars, so I just left them where I left them. One day I walked by and noticed something was different.

Pinecones: open

They had opened. I had no idea that this happened to pine cones after they fell off the tree. Did you?

I read a really great article in Maclean’s about habits the other day and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. It’s not a new article, but give it a read, because it may change your perspective about a few things.

There’s also this blog post by Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, the founder and medical director of the Bariatric Medical Institute which provides non-surgical weight management. Where do habits fall into all of this? I’d love to know what he thinks of that Maclean’s article and if it changes anything. (In fact, I might just ask him.)

Here’s what I think: it’s nearly impossible for most of us to make big sweeping changes, even at the best of times, when we’re feeling happy and strong. Dr. Freedhoff is correct when he says that it may not be a good time to make big changes in our lives, because if we do, we might just be setting ourselves up for failure and get even more discouraged in the long run. MANY of us would find it very hard to lace up our shoes, sign up for a gym, and keep going for the rest of our lives. Or stop eating fast food. However, I do believe that most people are capable of incorporating tiny tiny changes in their lives, the kind of habits that result in positive health outcomes.

The Maclean’s article mentions a researcher who does two push ups after a trip to the bathroom. It sounds comical, but two push-ups is entirely doable. And if you’re not in a hurry to develop some washboard abs, why kill yourself at the gym if you can get some decent results over time in a way that’s a whole lot less unpleasant? Change can happen gradually without even noticing. Which begs the question, what other tiny steps can we do to make a health change? One meatless meal a week? Taking the stairs two at a time? Having a big glass of water before dinner?  I guess the trick is to figure out what you want to achieve, and then think about the tiny steps you can take to get there.

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2 Responses to "Habits, and the things we see when we take the time to look"

1 | Ovenbird

June 1st, 2015 at 1:47 pm


Yes, I did know that pine cones open as they dry. I pick an ikea bag every spring, to start my bonfires.

Important lesson in that article about habits. I guess we all know that old habits are hard to extinguish. So the lesson is to MAKE important new habits. I’ve done this. It works.

2 | Lynn

June 2nd, 2015 at 11:58 am


Oh I love the idea of making tiny changes. I have come to accept the fact that I am just never, ever going to be able to commit to any kind of exercise pattern. I hate it, and no amount of intellectualizing about how much I SHOULD do it will get me out the door. But two pushups a few times a day? Doable. A piece of gum instead of a bowl of chips after dinner? Doable. That’s awesome.

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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