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Why Focus on Changing Habits?

habits health nutrition stress Nov 10, 2020

Diets don't work. Clients may lose weight initially, but diets don't get to the root of the issue. The main issue concerns your habits. 

Focusing on changing habits is much less painful than starvation diets where you have to rely on pure discipline and willpower.  

40-45% of your decisions actually come from your habits. A problem emerges here because most of our habits are autopilot. Habits are more powerful than conscious thought and willpower. 

We can use habits for positive or negative ends. We have "bad" habits (we can break those with skillful strategies); however, we can use this autopilot habit feature to create "good" habits too. 

Many of our current habits help us feel safe and secure. When we feel stressed a certain part of the brain is activated which then gives us a powerful urge to do something to relieve that stressful feeling. When the distress is relieved, our brain relaxes and it remembers that habit for next time. 

For example, we are tired and stressed and coming home from work in traffic. When sitting in the car, we get sleepy and our body starts to crave carbs, so we stop by our local Starbucks. We tell ourselves we are just going to grab a tea to wake us up, trying to use willpower not to buy our favourite 500 calorie sugary muffin, but as soon as we see it that powerful urge compels us to purchase the muffin and eat it on our way home, as it's our usual habit to eat a sugary snack when we are stressed. 

How do we change our habits? That is where our skillful strategies come in. And really it's part science, part creativity. We need to pick skillful strategies that are unique to us. 

In the below video, Charles Duhigg mentions a study concerning motivation using a group of runners. One group had to stick to the program without reward, while the other group used a reward to stay committed to the running program. For the reward group, every time the runners finished their run, they rewarded themselves with a piece of chocolate. Did it work? It was a huge success! 

So to commit to your workout program, first plan the activities and days you want to perform. Side note: make sure it's not overly ambitious and keep the goals attainable and doable. Once you have your plan, what can you think of to reward yourself with after you have successfully completed your planned exercise for that day? Try it out for two weeks and report back! I'd love to know if it worked!



Interested in painlessly breaking those autopilot habits not serving you and replace them with healthy habits? Check out the 52-week Precision Nutrition program I offer here!