Changing bad habits isn’t easy. In fact 98% of us fail at keeping our New Year’s resolutions besides our best intentions. One of the biggest reasons people fail at changing their bad behaviors is because they are in the dark about what is actually causing these behaviors in the first place. Those that are successful at changing and maintaining do so by a scientific process or trial and error. They observe, analyze, plan, and carry out. Sometimes they stumble, may even take a couple steps back, but what makes them successful is they learn from their mistakes, and use that information to modify and evolve their direction.
You have to study you. No diet plan, or exercise program is perfect for everyone. Those two variables must be tailored to the individual, because everyone is unique in what motivates them, inspires them, transforms them and most importantly, brings them happiness. If you really want to make a change with some bad habits in your life in regards to nutrition and exercise you have to be willing to take a long hard look at what is driving you to carry out those behaviors. So I am going to help you do just that.
Write down any bad habits you have that you wish you could ban from your lifestyle. Then over the course of the next two weeks create a flowchart of your eating habits by time of day and look for patterns when you overeat/indulge or skip exercise.
Find crucial moments when you give into temptations or excuses. Then look for patterns.
Create the vital behavior, rules you will follow during these crucial moments. These should spell out exactly what you will do when confronted with this temptation. Some examples could be: go to bed by 10pm so you wouldn’t be too tired to exercise in the morning; filling up on veggies on the plate first before eating the carbs. Also look for times when you didn’t give into the temptation, and what did you do differently that led up to it.
Now that you identified your bad behaviors we are now going to evaluate five areas of influence that can help motivate you and keep you on track to getting rid of these bad behaviors once and for all.
Find what you enjoy. If one of your behaviors is skipping exercise, why not find physical activity you do enjoy? No one said you have to go to the gym or for a run. Why not pick up a sport you like? How about bird watching, gardening, or paddle boarding? Write done physical activities you do enjoy and start to include those in your weekly routine. What if your problem is you hate eating vegetables? Find a way to make them palatable, what about a fruit and veggie juice, or pureed mashed cauliflower, or what about zucchini noodles? Try to find healthy foods that you do enjoy, and do not force yourself to eat the foods you hate.
Create incentives. Create short term, attainable goals and reward those with small incentives when you reach them. Let’s say every week you manage to workout 4 days a week so you set aside $10 each time you do that, and take away $10 when you don’t. After successfully doing it for 10 weeks, you reward yourself by going out and buying new clothes with that money, or spending a day at the spa, etc.
Create positive social influence and rid yourself of accomplices. Find friends, activity partners, groups that follow the healthy habits you are trying to create in your life. Minimize the time spent with people that negatively influence and encourage you to succumb to bad behaviors. Be willing to have a conversation with those close to you and ask them to help support you in creating these new positive changes and help not to influence your bad behaviors.
Control your environment. Shop and only keep healthy foods available in your refrigerator and pantry. Do not fool yourself into believing you can control your willpower if junk foods are in the house. Create an environment where it becomes easy to succeed. Only allow yourself to dine out at restaurants that provide healthy menu options. Make exercise easy to incorporate in your life, by either getting some exercise equipment to keep at your house or join a gym nearby. Finally, post up positive reminders to get to the gym or avoid certain foods by using positive pictures or quotes.
Have patience. When it comes to breaking an old habit and creating new ones, you have to be patient with yourself and be willing to forgive yourself for setbacks. With any old habit, you are going to struggle with dropping it when you first start. There are going to be times in which you slip up. The difference between those that succeed and those that don’t is the ability to learn from mistakes and try not to do them again. Over time the old habit will no longer be such a struggle, and the new habits will feel like second nature. Just remember, change doesn’t happen overnight, and that’s okay.