We are creatures of habit. Our daily behaviour is largely the same, day in and day out, for better or worse. We have ways that we do things and these are not easily changed. It’s the main reason why so many people fail at “dieting”. You can focus on drastically changing your behaviour and be successful for a short time, but eventually you burn out and return to your comfortable habits. This unfortunately often means you return to your previous physical state as well. People who successfully change their bodies and stay that way permanently alter their daily habits. Yes it takes work at first, but there will be many challenging moments. You will constantly have to fight reverting back to your old habits, but eventually you can change a harmful habit to a beneficial one. It’s possible, and necessary, if you hope to transform your body and stay that way.
When we try to change our bodies by changing our diets, we focus on the numbers. Weight, body fat, calories, inches, minutes of cardio, weeks of training, and grams of protein, carbs, fats, and sugar. Our rate of success would be greater if instead we focused on our daily habits. Focus on one or two habits at a time and work at them until the new behaviour feels natural. Although there is no magic number, some people suggest that it takes 21 days to create or change a habit. I would argue that this number will vary depending on how ingrained the habit is and how dedicated you are to changing it. So you can use it as a guideline, but I would recommend not trying to change too many behaviours at one time. To get you started, let’s talk about some common habits of people who have successfully changed their lives and bodies and how you can also learn to change your behaviour.
Old habit: Getting takeout or eating prepared meals at home.
Fit habit: Cooking your own meals.
Benefit: Being able to cook for yourself puts you in control of what is going in your body. But preparing your own meals doesn’t mean you need to be a gourmet chef. Explore quick and easy recipes and either read about how to cook for yourself or enlist a friend to help you. As you are learning the habit of preparing your own meals, don’t worry about counting calories. The focus should be on learning the skill of cooking and creating a habit of preparing your own meals from scratch at home.
Old habit: Eating out for lunch at work.
Fit habit: Packing your own lunch.
Benefit: Don’t worry about counting calories and just pack a lunch that includes a variety of foods you enjoy. Get into the habit of preparing your lunch for the next day each evening (possibly with leftovers from your home cooked dinner) and taking it with you to work. For the first few weeks I highly stress to not analyze what you are putting in your lunches and just make sure you enjoy it and it fills you up. Once you are in the habit of packing your lunch and it feels easy, then you can focus on what is in your lunch if this is what your goals require.
Old habit: Buying unhealthy snacks at the movies, theme park, sporting event etc.
Fit habit: Bringing your own snacks.
Benefit: You would think the benefit here would be obvious, by avoiding the junk food you avoid the calories and sugar and fat. But the actual habit here is that of always needing to have a particular snack when you are at a specific event. We associate the movies with popcorn and soda-pop and candy and even just being in the theatre can make you crave this junk food. Sporting events and theme parks have little for healthy options and we often feel that we just have to have a hot dog at the baseball game, because it’s part of the experience! If you can create a habit of packing healthy snacks with you when you go out then you may find that because you aren’t hungry that you won’t be as tempted by that wonderful smelling popcorn at the movies. For the first while it may be difficult to munch on your dried fruit and nuts or your baby carrots while your friends share a funnel cake at the fair, but eventually you will come to realize that you will enjoy these events just as much without their associated foods.
Old habit: Not paying attention to how much food you eat at a meal or grazing unconsciously throughout the day.
New habit: Every time you eat, putting your food on a plate and paying attention to portion size. Eating slowly and enjoying your food without distractions.
Benefit: By actually paying attention to what you are eating while you eat it, your brain will actually register that you have eaten and this will help you feel full and satisfied. When you start to pay attention to your food, do so without judgement. I’m not asking you to feel bad about certain food choices, I just want you to get in the habit of eating mindfully. Really taste your food and enjoy it. You may find that some foods that you thought you really liked aren’t that great when you pay full attention to it and don’t just eat it out of habit. You are what you eat, so your food deserves your attention!
I’m sure you can think of many more personal habits that you would like to change. I challenge you to make a plan. Write down your top five habits that you would like to change and how you would like to change them. Then pick the one that you think will be the easiest to change. Don’t go for the one that you think will give you the best results, pick the one that you honestly think will be easiest for you to change. Then, without trying to change anything else, focus on changing that habit for a month. Keep track of how many consecutive days in a row you are successful with your habit. When you miss a day, just start again and try to beat your previous streak. Once you feel like you have successfully changed the behaviour (you will know) go back to your list of habits and choose another habit to change. Keep it up, day by day, and with patience and perseverance you will succeed at changing your habits and changing your life.
This article was researched and written by Follow @DaraCoxPT
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