Habits are good. Habits allow us to live our lives efficiently without thinking about the small, regular things we do day in, day out. Think of them like the human body’s autopilot. Habits become a problem when the choices we make are bad and based on instant gratification rather than long term result. Dr Rob Gilbert sums up how influential bad habits can be on us with this perfect quote – “First we form habits, then they form us. Conquer your bad habits, or they’ll eventually conquer you.” Here’s some successful strategies you can employ to conquer bad habits and set yourself up on the road to success:
Keep A Nutrition Diary
You’d be surprised how many small, seemingly insignificant bad habits we can have with food that we don’t even know about. These small bad habits compounded over time, will all add up to produce one big negative result. For example, when cooking it’s always tempting to pick at the ingredients before the meal is finished. How many of us are guilty of this? One way we can increase awareness of our own habits with food is to keep a diary. It doesn’t have to be sophisticated, but by recording everything we put in our mouths, it can certainly increase our own self awareness. I’m pretty confident in saying over 90% of my most successful clientele have all kept a nutrition dairy at some point.
Identify Your Triggers
Increasing your awareness of your own bad habits isn’t quite enough to break them, you also need to work out what triggers them. For example, are there any particular emotions that trigger your bad habits – stress, anger, boredom? What situations prompt your bad habits – driving to work, family visits, social events with certain friends? Limiting your exposure to these triggers will go a long way when trying to break them.
Can you think of any healthier substitutes you can switch your bad habits for that will make them more beneficial to your goals? If you enjoy a can of coke every day, could you not swap it for a glass of sparkling water flavoured with slices of lemon and lime? Or if your vice is having a large sweet pudding every evening after dinner, why not switch it for a bowl of fruit and yoghurt? You’ll satisfy that sweet craving, but probably half the amount of calories that you were originally consuming and give your body a quality source of macronutrients and micronutrients. The list that follows is some common bad habits that I see, and a corresponding healthier substitute. Hopefully they will give you some inspiration for changes you can make in your lifestyle.
Fizzy drinks – Sparkling water with slices of lemon or lime
Snacking on chocolate bars – High protein bar
Forgetting to eat meals – Prep meals the night before for the following day
Forgetting to drink water – Carry a water bottle with you everywhere you go
Consuming to many calories – Swap your dinner plates to a smaller size and make sure you adhere to the seven principles of nutrition fat loss.
Perform A Bad Habits Spring Clean
A traditional Spring clean doesn’t just have to be performed in the Spring, and it certainly doesn’t just have to mean dusting your furniture down. One easy strategy to eliminate bad habits is to clear the bad habits out. If your vice is eating chocolate, remove all chocolate bars from your cupboard. If you like a glass or two of wine in the evening, remove all bottles of wine from the house. You’ll be surprised how effective this simple strategy can be.
Ease Yourself In
I used to be really into my surfing, spending a few weeks out of the year on the North Coast of Cornwall. When first walking into the ocean, I like to wade in up to my ankles and knees first, then to my waist and finally to my chest, before submerging myself completely. Some people just run and dive straight in, usually followed by a loud yelp and a rapid dash back to the shore. The freezing water is just too much of a shock. Changing our habits is much like this process. You may have spent months, years or decades engraving your bad habits in, so it can be wise to work on them one step at a time.
Dive Right In
Not everyone is programmed in the same way. Researchers have found some individuals find it easier to make lifestyle changes if they change all of their bad habits at once. If you’re the person who can dive in the water and stand the freezing cold shock, great! This strategy is for you.