"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." -Chinese Proverb

When Mary Lynn and I started working together, she was emphatic about one thing: she didn't just want to increase her vegetables this month, she wanted to learn how to make healthy habits changes EVERY month. Mary Lynn turns 50 (!) in January 2012, and there are a few things she'd like to get done before then.

She achieved this month's Healthy Habits goal, and increased her servings of vegetables to at least 5 per day. When we reviewed the techniques she used to make her successful change, here's what we found:

1. "If You Fail To Plan, You Plan to Fail" (Anonymous): Mary Lynn used to think about dinner at dinner time. She'd scramble to put something simple together and it would taste so-so. Stressed by the scramble and disappointed by the dinner, Mary Lynn wasn't happy. Now, she's planning. After our weekly coaching session, she'd have five new recipes to try, so her  menu was set (and so was her grocery list). After our knife skills class, she learned how to more efficiently prep her veggies, and now she preps what she needs all at once, so economies of scale are on her side. Yes it's true, home cooking takes a bit more time, but let's take a look at the cost/benefit: an extra hour or two for planning and prep results in better food and no scramble. Making a change takes time at first, but the benefits will be worth it.

2. Get cocky (at the checkout counter): At first, Mary Lynn was worried that eating all this fresh produce might get expensive. But at check out time, Mary Lynn said, "I'd get two big bags of food for $36 dollars. In the past, I’ve spent more than that on one bag." She continues, "This is where I’m proud: on the conveyor belt, it's all vegetables. There's not one processed food item. I almost wanted to say, 'Hey, look at me!'" When you make a change, think about what you'll get to brag about!


3. Make the new habit your first priority: Mary Lynn had at least one serving of vegetables for breakfast every day. She didn't wait until dinner time and stress that she hadn't met her daily goal; her goal was halfway done by lunchtime. When making a change; do it early and get it done.

4. Add pleasure; don't take pleasures away. Mary Lynn says that she never keeps resolutions because the focus is on what you're losing. We never said "don't cook with butter"; instead we said, "add vegetables." "Healthy habits feels like you’re adding something positive; doesn’t feel like the negative at all," said Mary Lynn. If your changes look like a list of don'ts; find another way.

5. Say: "Sorry; I'm booked." In addition to adding more vegetables this month, Mary Lynn asked if she could add exercise as well. I thought five new recipes per week was enough of a challenge; I told Mary Lynn to wait until February to address the exercise goal. And what do you think happened? Mary Lynn started taking cycling classes, twice per week. She'd wanted to try the class and had been procrastinating, but she finally said, "I'm doing this!" first to herself, then to her family, then to that unexpected last minute meeting that always seems to pop up when she's trying to get to the gym. Staying committed to your goal often requires saying no to something else.

6. Buy yourself a present. According to Mary Lynn, that cycling class (mentioned in #5) is filled with one big clique of hard-bodied, uniformed cyclists who ride together every weekend. When Mary Lynn rolled in wearing old sweats, not knowing a soul, she felt a little goofy. But in the end, the person that she cared about in that room was herself. She stuck with it and now she's giving herself a reward: a pair of those super-cool cycling shoes she's been wanting. What's your treat? A cooking class, cookbook or knife? What's the thing you want? Set yourself a goal, earn it, and enjoy it.

Mary Lynn and I reviewed the remaining Healthy Habits, and she's got a plan for each one. She's going to hire a personal trainer for June's "Get Stronger", and take a cooking class in March so that she can add a new style of cooking to her kitchen. Mary Lynn's plan is thick with ways to make it fun.

Last but not least, Mary Lynn has agreed to send me a picture of her fab bod and big smile on the beach in St. John, where she plans to celebrate her 50th birthday.

Lots of love, Mary Lynn. Thanks so much for inspiring us!