Tom, the personal trainer who founded Waite Training in Leeds has many tips to help you get started on working for your fitness goals.
Trying to create a healthy change in your life is commendable. Still, so many people start by trying to change everything all at once and fail miserably. Do you feel that sounds like you? Keep reading to learn how you can achieve your weight loss goals without going cold turkey.
Turning your lifestyle upside-down can lead to feelings of overwhelm. Client stories suggest that it's tough to stick to such drastic changes that are so far from the god old, comfortable lifestyle you've been nurturing for years or even decades.
An overlooked solution is to create incremental habit changes. These are more manageable adjustments in actions you take every day (or close to it) that affect weight loss. So, let's dig in!
What Are Habits?
Habits are the small behaviours that you perform every day. These daily actions make up around 40% of our daily behaviours, but they are performed without much conscious thought. This means that they are done without friction or any of the usual stress and struggles of losing weight. In the context of weight loss, you may have developed a habit of snacking between meals which you'd like to stop.
How Are Habits Made?
All habits, those that serve us, and those that do not, are made in the same way. According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, all habits have 4 components.
A habit cue is a piece of information, usually from the environment around you, which makes you begin a particular behaviour. In the context of weight loss, this may be getting home from work and starting to preparing your evening meal.
The second stage is craving. Cravings are always linked to an internal stage, which in this case could be hunger, or boredom or impatience. In the context of weight loss, this could be wanting to open a bottle of wine and a bag of nuts to snack on while you cook. Turning a cue into a craving is a deeply personal thing, and will vary from person to person.
The third stage is the response. This is the behaviour you actually perform and is dependent on your ability to act and your level of motivation. Too much friction, and you won't bother doing it. In the context of weight loss, this could mean the wine and nuts you snack on are already visible in the kitchen.
The final stage is the reward. This is the whole purpose of every habit. Rewards provide you with two potential outcomes; either they teach you something, or they satisfy you. In the context of weight loss, this could mean the wine relaxes you, and the nuts stop you feeling hungry while you prepare dinner.
How To Identify Harmful Habits
Harmful habits can range from things which are damaging your health (such as smoking or drinking excessively) to behaviours which are perhaps more subtle (such as staying up a little later for another Netflix episode when you really ought to be in bed).
For the purpose of this article, harmful habits are those behaviours which take you further from your weight loss goals. These are very individual, as what's stopping progress for one person might be the exact thing that's keeping another person mostly on track with their diet.
The first step in changing harmful habits is to be aware that the pattern is happening. This is sometimes easier said than done, with so many habitual behaviours being done unconsciously. It can be useful to use trackers (for time, for calories, or specific actions) to help the unconscious habit become conscious.
How To Build New Habits
Building a new healthy habit uses the same principles of cue, craving, response and reward. Let's say you wanted to develop a habit of going for a run in the mornings. You might cue that behaviour by leaving your running shoes by the front door, so when you came downstairs, you noticed them.
Your craving may be to get out in the fresh air first thing while listening to a fantastic playlist, so your response is to lace up and head outside. The reward is the endorphin rush you get for completing your exercise and enjoying the music.
Making a long term success of regular exercise and healthy eating for weight loss can be difficult without changing habits. Habits are the behaviours that we do every day without friction or conscious debate, so by making fitness or healthy eating a routine, it feels effortless.
Setting your environment up in such a way that healthy habits feel easy is one of the best strategies for making healthy behaviours feel habitual. This could be as simple as leaving fruit on the kitchen counter and hiding the wine and nuts in the back of the cupboard. In an upcoming article, we'll dig into habits that my coaching clients feel have transformed their lifestyle for the better.
Would you like to have a commitment-free chat about your fitness goals and current lifestyle with an expert coach? Feel free to reach out!