How to break a habit
In order to break a habit that isn’t helping us achieve our goals, we first need to identify what these habits are!
In our coaching and online programs we often talk about awareness.
When it comes to nutrition, one way we can become self-aware is to keep a food diary. Using something like MyFitnessPal, tracking your normal eating habits for a few days can be enlightening. If your goal is fat-loss you need to identify the habits that are causing you to overeat. Do you snack while you’re cooking the dinner? Do you under-eat all day and are so hungry by dinner that you end up over-indulging?
If your goal is muscle and strength gain, do you miss that training meal post workout? Or do you train in the evening and realise you’ve not eaten anything since 12pm? Let’s dive into identifying how to break these bad habits.
To break a habit that isn’t in line with helping us reach our goals, we essentially need to reverse the exact principles that make a habit stick.
Make the signals invisible
Make the habits hard to do
Make these habits less rewarding
Creating the illusion of self control
If we think about ourselves as having a finite cup of self control a day, we want to save it for the times that we really need it e.g. when cake gets brought into the office for someones birthday. So at all other times, when we can control our environment we need to create the illusion of self control. This comes back to changing your environment. Instead of making the signal for a habit obvious we want to remove the signal for habits we don’t want.
If you can help it, don’t have ‘off plan’ foods in the house. If you live with other people then arrange the kitchen so these foods are out of sight. ‘Out of sight out of mind’.
Make it difficult to do your usual habit.
If you normally tuck into a packet of biscuits after dinner while you watch TV then don’t have them in the house. Eating biscuits in front of the TV suddenly requires shoes and socks, finding your purse and braving the freezing cold weather… you'll think twice which means you may change your mind and have an Rx bar or an apple instead.
If you’re going to work and you need a break from your desk but want to avoid buying coffee when you take a break, leave your money at work when you walk… it's now a lot harder to buy a sweet treat or another coffee if you don’t have anything to buy it with!
Make it unrewarding
This is a harder one to do directly with food given that in its very essence food is generally satisfying. When we are really hungry (signal) those high sugar high fat foods are very desirable (craving).
Food manufacturers make these foods super rewarding by combining just the right levels of ingredients to make the reward centres of your brain light up like bonfire night.
If we have a healthy snack right before the time we usually get hungry, then the signal will be removed and we are less likely to crave the office doughnut.
Just like with the habits we want to keep, ‘punishment’ for not carrying out the habit you are trying to break won’t have any effect unless it's immediate. This is why hangovers don’t stop people drinking, the punishment isn’t soon enough!
Get yourself an accountability partner, make a contract with them outlining the habit you are no longer doing and what the punishment will be if you break it, and sign it!
Put this contract up somewhere, the more public the better. And hold the other person accountable!
This 3 part series was written by our nutritionist AJ.
A huge part of our nutrition coaching and courses are based on habit building. This is why we use our app to deliver DAILY content and check ins.
Working with us, opposed to doing it yourself, allows you to build habits that last. We have just released the next intake for our 6 week programs!
Next intake just released for our 6 week online programs.