February 20, 2014

We are the sum total of our habits!

The current shape of your body and your health is mainly because of the habits you have developed. Each day we unconsciously make hundreds of tiny choices regarding what we consume without even thinking about them. Our minds actually prefer being mindless about these small choices so that we can focus on harder, perhaps more important, decisions. They’re habits and they make our lives simpler, but they rule our lives, our bodies and our health.

So what do you do if you’re not happy with your current shape and want to change it, lose weight and get healthier?

Here are 7 steps to making any effective habit change – especially in regards to your weight.

  1. Decide WHY. The change process is much easier when you have a clear idea of your deep, personal, selfish (that’s not a bad thing), inner reasons for change. The more emotionally fueled the goal the more powerful it will be. Some goals are “to” goals where you want to achieve something; others are “away” goals where you want to avoid something. Either can work.
  2. Choose an action plan or program that has been proven to work for others. Many people decide on New Year’s Day that they’ll lose weight and their action plan is to wake up 30 minutes earlier and walk every weekday. This is a great thing to do for your health, but it simply isn’t proven as a way to lose weight. If you start this unproven plan for weight loss and don’t start losing weight, you might give up, which would be a pity as a morning walk has many health benefits.
  3. Break your action plan into doable steps and try to ritualise the steps. “I watch the 7:30 pm show and then at 8:00 pm I switch off the TV and take a book to bed, avoiding computers and tablets that might stimulate me and prevent me falling asleep. I wake naturally at 6:00 am and walk for 30 minutes, giving me time to prepare a breakfast that fits my eating plan.”
  4. If you put your plan in writing, detailing what you plan to eat and when, you’ll be better prepared to make it happen. Over time, it will become a habit.
  5. Proactively avoid environments that trigger negative habits. Just like we always take the same route driving home, some people have a habit of always buying an ice-cream when they go to the movies. One habit is attached to another. You can break the link but you have to become mindful about what things, people, triggers and environments are attached to the negative habit.
  6. Give yourself at least 60 days of reinforcement and repetition before the new behaviours even start becoming habitual. You often hear the myth “It takes 21 days to make a habit.” Recent studies dispute this an an urban legend. The good news is that once a new positive behaviour becomes a habit, the struggle goes away. You no longer need willpower.
  7. For most substantial goals (like permanently losing 15 kilos) it will require a number of new behaviours to achieve. This raises the question about whether it is best to just try to change one behaviour at a time, even though you may not see a result and therefore risk throwing in the towel, or attempting to change enough habits so that you start seeing an early result. Do you just concentrate on changing your breakfast for 60 days before you change lunch and dinner, or do you change all meals right from the start? Our experience is that the latter is best as the sooner you start getting a result, the more reinforcement you get for the new behaviour.

Good luck with the journey!

Jamie Hayes