It’s Easier To Add Than Subtract

January 3, 2014

I am revisiting and rewriting some posts I wrote years ago for another site. They are tidbits of advice and thoughts on healthy living and nutrition.

Healthy

When it comes to balance, it is easier to add than subtract.

Subtracting involves changing a habit. It means there will be emptiness. Something to miss. This is why I have always been better at exercising than healthy eating!

Adding may involve a shift in priorities or time, but it is an easier change:

- If you’re hoping to shed some calories from your day, would you rather skip an afternoon snack or go for a walk?

· If you want to eat healthier, would you rather ditch your favorite latte or add a salad to lunch?

· If you want to de-stress, would you rather cut out an extra TV show or add yoga?

Often adding a habit means you’re overdoing it for awhile. But that’s the trade off for keeping your vices. Soon enough you’ll start to feel better about yourself, motivation increases and then you’ll want to subtract the unhealthier habits. This likely will happen with the addition of exercise. On days when I have a great workout I find myself subtracting the chocolate, wine or other waist-widening habits subconsciously. Exercise then gets a snowball effect.

If you can’t add, at least replace. If you’re trying to give up smoking or boredom eating, tell yourself you can have whatever it is you crave if you do 10 push-ups first. Hopefully the replacement will help you banish the craving over time – and you’re doing something good for yourself in the process. {The push up trick worked for Gena who quit smoking in 2008!}

I realize this is all easier said than done, but at least keep the basic arithmetic in the back of your mind when you feel yourself resisting change.

What healthy habits have you all added or subtracted from your routine?

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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ali @ Peaches and Football January 3, 2014 at 9:49 am

Simple and wise advice Kath. It’s hard to give up our vices (I’m looking at YOU chocolate!) but that’s why we need to have the good habits to help balance it all out. The best part is that it’s always a choice. No one is forcing me to eat that cookie… no one is forcing me to go to the gym (although, sometimes I kinda wish someone would ;) ).

I’m hopeful I’ll develop some great habits in ’14.

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2 Katie @ Peace Love & Oats January 3, 2014 at 10:14 am

I love the push-up tip! I have a big problem with boredom eating, so I’m definitely using that one!

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3 Cortney January 3, 2014 at 10:15 am

I have been adding sleep! By default, that means there is less room for other things in my day (time management) but when I have had a good night’s sleep I don’t seem to miss them at all :-)

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4 Mary January 3, 2014 at 12:17 pm

I second this!

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5 Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs January 3, 2014 at 10:18 am

Such a valid point! Adding in a little health/fitness is mentally much easier than feeling like you’re missing out on something!

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6 Liz January 3, 2014 at 10:24 am

Water! I have a 1L bottle on my desk. And I can have my latte (or snack) only after drinking my whole liter of water. This has become an habit for me, drinking my minimun 2L of water during the day. The good thing is that after drinking the Liter of water, Im normally not in the mood for a snack :) And also, feeling full of water makes me take healthier choices for lunch and dinner.

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7 nikita January 3, 2014 at 3:06 pm

Absolutely agree on the water! It seems simple but makes a big difference. I aim for around 2.5 L a day. I eat breakfast very late (around 10, not a good thing), but I get in more than half a litre of warm water before breakfast.

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8 Livi January 3, 2014 at 10:47 am

Adding more veggies– which naturally leaves less room and makes it easier to subtract the abundance of holiday treats!

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9 Alison @ Daily Moves and Grooves January 3, 2014 at 10:47 am

I absolutely love this approach! I like to add in small bursts of exercise throughout my day if I don’t have time to go to the gym, and I like to replace SOME of my desserts with things like yogurt bowls with banana and nut butter.

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10 Jesse January 3, 2014 at 10:54 am

I’m trying to bring snacks with me more, and eat them before I become ravenous. I got into a bad habit with that over the holidays — too much running around and then overeating junk! I feel so much better now that I’m back to grazing on sliced apples,almonds and avocado with pita chips all day long:)

http://semiweeklyeats.blogspot.com/2014/01/biscuits.html

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11 Dana @ Conscious Kitchen Blog January 3, 2014 at 10:58 am

I love this mentality and switching to a more positive mindset. Adding in the good while eventually balance out and eliminate the bad. Well said.

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12 Christine@ Apple of My Eye January 3, 2014 at 11:05 am

Love this post! I’ve added taking away time in front of the tv to spend with friends and family and added in more enjoyable workout like hiking and tennis to my routine! :D

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13 @Simple Green Moms January 3, 2014 at 11:22 am

What a great post! =) definitely just shifting your mindset makes a world of difference!

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14 Becki @ Bites 'n Brews January 3, 2014 at 11:38 am

I find that if I take things/foods away or tell myself I’m “not allowed” to have them, I end up having even more. Now I tell myself that I’ll incorporate more veggies into my diet instead of something crazy like removing sugar completely.

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15 Amanda January 3, 2014 at 12:03 pm

I have added some races to my list of goals for the year, rather than remove my wino habit or love for baked goods. It helps offset those unhealthier calories, and also gives me great (healthy) goals to keep me motivated all year. Love the mental shift of adding instead of subtracting, it really does seem easier to upkeep.

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16 Michelle @ Esculent Dreams January 3, 2014 at 12:03 pm

Great post and absolutely true! I think we sometimes forget good habits (as well as bad) can have a snowball effect. My version of the push up trick comes in the form of stretching. It’s so hard to eat and stretch at the same time so I find myself focusing on one or the other – which makes me reconsider how much I want the chocolate bar in the first place ;)

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17 Alex @ Kenzie Life January 3, 2014 at 12:21 pm

As always, love these posts, Kath! I agree that it’s easier to add than subtract. Around the holidays, I like to add more green smoothies/juices, since prior to the holidays and finals rush I didn’t really keep up with them. It’s a simple thing that takes less than 5 minutes but makes me feel a lot cleaner in terms of what I’m eating.

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18 Florence January 3, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Great ideas, especially doing push ups! I usually do 25 jumping jacks before deciding if I want a snack or not. Sometimes the extra cardio actually makes me less hungry, and since I feel I’ve just burned some calories it gives me a chance to decide if I really want to add more calories. Thanks for the tips! There’s so much pressure with new years to remake all of your habits, but by adding instead of subtracting it’s much more doable to make change!

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19 Anna @ On Anna's Plate January 3, 2014 at 1:09 pm

l love this philosophy– it makes healthy habits so much more fun and encouraging, rather than something you “have” to do (and will likely end up dreading).

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20 Amelia @ Eating Made Easy January 3, 2014 at 1:33 pm

One of my favorite things to add is vegetables. Whenever I’m trying to reign in my eating, I just think about adding as many tasty veggies as I can to my diet. It doesn’t feel like deprivation and by default it lowers my calorie intake & boost nutrients.

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21 Meghan January 3, 2014 at 1:46 pm

I’ve added reading more to my healthy habits! Now that I’m on winter break from college, I have so much more time for “me”, so I’ve been reading a few books that I’ve put on the back burner in place of classes, friends, hw, work, etc.

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22 Christine January 3, 2014 at 2:42 pm

Great advice Kath! On a bit of an unrelated note did you see that General Mills eliminated GMOs from Cheerios? Not from their other products, but a great first step!

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23 KathEats January 3, 2014 at 7:38 pm

Yes! Awesome progress

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24 nikita January 3, 2014 at 3:11 pm

I recently found ur blog but never commented. I love the weekly food pictures. This is a great post and a good tip to remember!

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25 Shel@PeachyPalate January 3, 2014 at 3:18 pm

It sometimes means forcing yourself to do something you ate to put yourself indulging in the bad habit in the first place! Over time the two become associated…and ideally you fall in love with that thing you hate doing! :)

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26 Elizabeth January 3, 2014 at 3:29 pm

Love this post! I love the whole concept behind the adding and subtracting. I have recently subtracted T.V after 9 pm is out, and adding in reading or doing some mind games (suduko, crosswords).

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27 Heather @ Fit Mama Real Food January 3, 2014 at 5:33 pm

I try to use this with my hubby to eat more fruits! He loves his (not so healthy in my opinion) snacks, but goes through phases when he wants to eat better and I give him this trick – to add instead of take away, so that way he doesn’t feel crazy deprived and like he can’t ever have his favorite things again. It works… sometimes. :)

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28 Sagan January 3, 2014 at 7:05 pm

Ooh I like this concept. Especially the idea of REPLACEMENT – must start doing push ups to postpone my bad habits :)

I’ve been adding dark leafy greens a lot over the past couple of years. Smoothies, salads, pastas, you name it! It’s pretty easy once you realize just how many places you can add it.

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29 maria trains January 3, 2014 at 10:07 pm

Thanks for this post–exactly what I needed to read tonight. Struggling to find motivation to get back on track after the holidays.

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30 Jo January 4, 2014 at 8:16 am

Made commitment & got on track with healthy eating, and in 4 weeks have lost 10 pounds (even through the holidays). For now, I am walking 2 miles on the treadmill at 5:30am 4x week (co-worker and I play SongPop together while walking). I’ve gotten away from drinking enough water, so making effort to do that every day. My goal for exercise is to get back to some gym classes too. Going to get healthy this year!

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31 KathEats January 4, 2014 at 1:12 pm

Way to go!

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32 Rosie January 4, 2014 at 9:59 am

Love this way of looking at things…

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33 carrie January 4, 2014 at 11:38 am

I love this post. Such wonderful advice. I have been a reader for years and just wanted to tell you what an inspiration you have been to me. I recently made the decision, at 34 and having a career in business, that I am going back to school to study to be a dietitian. I’m so excited about this new chapter in my life and want to thank you for your blog and sharing your life.

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34 KathEats January 4, 2014 at 1:11 pm

Congratulations!

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35 Liz @ Tip Top Shape January 4, 2014 at 12:05 pm

This is such great advice. I’ve added fresh juices to my days since I got a really nice juicer for my birthday. It’s a great energy boost during the day.

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36 Tina@GottaRunNow January 4, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Good points! I plan to add more biking to my running routine this year.

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37 Kavi January 4, 2014 at 1:32 pm

Great point. Making healthful changes shouldn’t be seen as punishments!

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38 Kerry January 5, 2014 at 6:27 am

I’ve ditched the wine for good old fashioned grape juice and now I’ve removed the habit of drinking wine everyday. Boy oh boy do I feel better for it.

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39 Laura @ This is Thirty January 5, 2014 at 10:24 am

Adding is always easier for me too. At first, it was just adding exercise – and right now, it’s adding back more veggies into every meal. I think the calorie are negligible and I feel like eventually it’ll help me to cut back on some of the holiday leftovers that I still crave!

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40 Anne January 5, 2014 at 2:11 pm

Great post! I love this idea – the economist in me likes this kind of arithmetic, but it also makes sense from a psychological point of view. Adding sleep is definitely on my to-do list for 2014, but if I think of it that way “must sleep more” it’s easier than saying “must watch less tv”. Will keep that in mind as I try to get more zzz’s.

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41 Christina @ The Beautiful Balance January 6, 2014 at 12:41 am

That pushup idea is amazing and I am definitely going to recommend it to my friends who have the disgusting habit of smoking.

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42 Michele January 6, 2014 at 3:09 am

This couldn’t have come at a better time for me! Thank you for your words of wisdom and encouragement. After a holiday season of major overindulging, I plan to get back to being healthy!

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43 Kelly January 6, 2014 at 4:32 pm

Brilliant!

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44 Sabrina January 7, 2014 at 2:22 pm

I’ve been making it a goal to drink more water – same goal I’ve had since 2007. Some years I’m better than others. Anyway, when I drink more water it leaves less room for junky snacks.

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45 Debbi January 8, 2014 at 5:39 am

How true! It IS easier to add than subtract. I find it’s more a mental issue for me than the actual “missing”‘ something. That being said, I did indeed subtract quite a lot over the past 2 years starting with smoking in Sept 2012. Last year I quit sugar, whole milk,99% animal fats, flour (white), alcohol most sweets and candy and a lot of baked yummies. Not the easiest thing but added going to the gym then added a personal trainer to kick my butt around the gym hahaha. Also drinking more water.

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