How to change your health and fitness habits for success
If you struggle to get fit and healthy, then it’s down to your habits — the things you do each day often without realising it.
Your habits are either pushing you towards your goals or pulling you away from them. Habits rule your life — seriously.
If you want to become fitter, healthier and more successful, then it’s crucial to find a way to recognise the habits that are holding you back, change them and change them fast.
Habits help to keep you sane.
Although you may feel like you make a lot of decisions each day, about 40% of your day is built up of habits. Without them, you would get decision fatigue and probably go insane.
What you eat, drink, the route you take to work are all example of habits you have formed over time.
Do you get a coffee and muffin each day from Starbucks on your way to work? That’s a habit.
Do you wake up in the morning and instinctively brush your teeth. That’ a habit too.
Do you stay up most nights watching box sets until 2am? Habit!
These are your choices and decisions made consistently over time that are now automatic to you. It’s like you’re on autopilot.
In fact, where you are today is a direct result of the habits you’ve built up over time.
If you’re fit and healthy, you probably have lots of great habits like exercising regularly, choosing whole foods and avoiding landmines like watching 6 hours of TV each day.
If you’re not then there are probably a few areas you will need to change to help you reach your goals.
I used to have so many bad habits…seriously!
I used to eat crap, binge drink each weekend and I didn’t exercise regularly. I made poor choice after poor choice and my health, fitness, career and relationships were all negatively affected.
In fact, the accumulation of all these meant I hit my own rock bottom (a whole other story) and it took that for me to realise I had to change and change fast.
Fast forward to today, I wake up very early (usually pre 5am), I’ve have swapped the majority of my TV time for reading and writing, I exercise nearly every single day, and I eat well and drink rarely.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have occasional Sundays in front of the sofa, watching box sets eating crisps but who doesn’t?
The amazing thing is I don’t have to make myself do any of the good habits, they’re automatic, they are on autopilot now.
I am the happiest, healthiest and most focused I have ever been and if I can do it, literally anyone can.
I don’t recommend waiting to hit your rock bottom to decide to make changes, so my question for you is, are you ready to make changes today??
Why you should change habits today and not on Monday.
So many times I hear people say “I’ll start my xxx on Monday”. Why Monday? Is Monday some magical day that gives you more willpower or luck? NO.
If you’re putting off exercising more, changing your diet for the better, or spending more time on your goals then isn’t now the best time to change that?
Surely you owe it to yourself to take action today?
Why put so much pressure on your future self?
And don’t get me started on New Years Resolutions. If it’s a habit worth making then why wait? How many people fail at their New Year’s Resolutions anyway?? Lots.
If you keep putting off the start date, then is it a true priority for you?
If you are serious about changing, then do it now. Don’t wait.
Monday or January 1st isn’t going to be any easier…unfortunately.
Recognising the habit pattern
Do you have chocolate each day and don’t know why, or turn on the TV each night and 3 hours later realise you did it without thinking?
There is a habit pattern, and it applies to all your habits. Understanding the habit pattern helps you break it.
Let’s take one of my old ones as an example — buying Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
I used to have to buy a Krispy Kreme doughnut, each time I visited the supermarket. How I loved getting home, warming it for 8 seconds in the microwave and eating it.
Trust me it’s ridiculous!
This was a habit because I did it automatically each time I went unless I made a conscious effort to stop myself. Sure it was only once a week, and one Krispy Kreme wasn’t going to kill me, but this is just one example of the many little habits that pulled together were affecting my health goals.
Here’s the pattern, the supermarket reminded me to buy the doughnut, I routinely bought the doughnut, I gave myself a reward by eating it.
With each of your habits, you’ll be able to find these three steps which form the pattern:
- Reminder (the trigger that initiates the behaviour, the supermarket)
- Routine (the behaviour itself; the action you take, buying the doughnut)
- Reward (the benefit you gain from doing the behaviour, eating it)
Think back to all the habits you want to kick, now trace them back to the reminder, routine and reward.
Chocolate after every meal? Finishing the meal is the reminder, you routinely grab the chocolate, and the reward is eating it.
Now let’s look at changing the ones we don’t want, for the ones we do.
Changing habits: the hacks
Change only 1 or 2 at a time.
If you are a bit crazy like me, you may have lots of goals in each area of your life, which means changing quite a few habits to help you get there.
If you want to lose 8 lbs, you’ll have to change your exercise habits, eating habits, drinking habits, and probably your sleep habits.
If you try and do them all at once, you will be overwhelmed and most likely fail so focus on the most important ones for you to change, first. Pick one or two and once you have those nailed, try two more and so on. Easy!
This will help you stay on track and not want to give up when on day one you’ve still gone to bed at 2am after eating a pound of chocolate, skipping the gym and watching 5 hours of Game of Thrones. If you had just tried to kick the chocolate and got an early night, you would probably have succeeded.
You have to replace the habit.
Something has to give.
If you want to find time to work out, you need to make time to do it. If you want to stop eating chocolate after meals, you need to eat something else like a piece of fruit to satisfy that craving.
For example, smokers when they quit often turn to food as a substitute and gain weight. However, some are wise to this and have mints or chewing gum instead. That’s a habit swap.
So to be successful find a habit swap, good for bad.
Here are some ideas:
- Swap TV at night for a yoga class or walking the dog.
- Swap your lie in to go to the gym before work.
- Swap your daily glass of wine for a green juice.
- At the 11am coffee break, take a walk instead of eating cake.
- Swap an hour of social media for reading a life changing book.
- Change your morning newspaper read for meditation? The news is seriously depressing!
You have to find what will work for you, what is sustainable and what is a good for bad dependant on your goals.
Now you understand your habit pattern you can use the trigger for your new habit.
If you instinctively pour a glass of wine after a day at work, and you want to have a green juice instead, set an alarm to remind you to go green or hide the wine so you have to make an effort to get it. Just giving yourself an extra 20 seconds delay can help you realise what you’re doing and correct it.
Keep a reward.
Rewards form the habit pattern, so for you to start a new habit, the pattern must include a reward at the end.
For some people, how you feel after exercise is enough. For others the change in how you will look over time is sufficient but I have found keeping checklists helps on a daily basis when you start out.
Ticking off each day that you have done x in place of y will give you a sense of achievement. A mini reward.
If you are a foodie, like me, healthy treats like a chocolate avocado mousse can help or a cheat day once a week. You could give yourself medium and long term rewards like handbags, shoes or holidays even.
Just find something that will keep you going when you’ve had one of those bad days to get you back on track.
The hack to help change habits quicker than average and make them stick
The average time to make a habit is 66 days, that’s a long time. But there is a hack which has worked for me.
Let me take you back to a time you drank shots, like tequila, Jägermeister, or Sambuca. The time you got so drunk that you puked up everywhere and felt like a herd of giant elephants had trampled on your head again and again. Yeah, that time.
Did you ever drink that particular spirit again? Probably not. (If you did, then you’re a weirdo)! You associate that particular alcohol with puking and feeling terrible.
Associating habits, you want to change with a negative long-term end result can be very powerful.
Smokers can associate smoking with all sorts of nasties, but let’s say you want to exercise more and eat healthier foods.
You need to think what could happen if you carry on down the same path your on now but years into the future. What is your worst case scenario if you change nothing in 2, 5, 10 or 20 years?
Far too often we think short term with the consequences and that’s why it doesn’t work. Think long-term.
Here’s an example. If I eat a whole cake and don’t workout today, nothing bad is going to happen to me (except feeling like crap and getting a sugar rush). But If I keep doing it each day it will.
I would put on weight, end up overweight, probably get depressed and it could lead to some serious health problems. For me, that’s enough to stop me having an urge to do it consistently.
Once you have your worst case scenario, you can start to use it when you need that extra willpower. This is your new Tequila!
It can remind you why you need to stick with it and what could happen if you don’t. Associating your bad habit with a bad end result will help massively I promise!
Extreme habits — is there hope?
If you have serious addictions like smoking, drinking, drugs or severe overeating you must see a specialist if you want to stop. I’m not qualified in this whatsoever but to give you some hope here is a story close to my heart. My Dad.
He was an alcoholic for nearly 30 years. I grew up with him slumped at the kitchen table every evening, depressed and saying unkind things.
It cost him his marriage and some of his family, but I never gave up on him. I still answered his drunk calls and called him pre 3pm when he was still able to talk, but it wasn’t fun or pleasant. The sad thing is I had pretty much accepted that no matter what I said or did, he would die an alcoholic. It was heartbreaking.
Amazingly, early in 2016 he just gave up. Instantly. He hadn’t been cutting down he just stopped. The negative feeling he associated it with, was financial. He couldn’t bear to end up completely broke because of alcohol. He swapped his drinking for eating which is another story, and now he’s on a diet, but I am delighted to say he is still completely sober.
I feel like I have a Dad again.
It’s inspiring when those with extreme habits (or addictions) kick them all by themselves and even more so if its family. If yours isn’t so extreme, then you have a much easier ride!
Change your habits, change your life
You have the opportunity to change anything in your life; it’s just down to the daily habits you do, and this applies to all areas of your life, not just your health and fitness.
The right time to change your habits is now. This second. Waiting until Monday, next week or January is not the right way to do it.
People who have already achieved what you want to are not more special than you; they just have the right habits in place. You can do this too.
- If you want to get your body in the best shape of your life, workout today.
- If you want to get a handle on your diet, then cut out the things that are not helping you today.
- If there’s a new career you want to pursue, swap social media time to work on this instead.
Start taking action each day, form some awesome new habits and I promise they will transform your life.
I want to hear what habit swaps you plan to make, tell me below!
If you know someone else who needs to change some habits but needs a little help, send this across to them.
Sharing is caring!
Victoria V XX