Knowing which habits play a role and how to break those habits is where it gets interesting, very interesting.
Psychology, biology, sociology, and neurology are all at play. Let’s dig into it.
If I’d have gotten a penny for every time a person said “I’m eating healthy and not too much though I’m still not losing weight/ gaining weight/getting fatter” I would have been a millionaire.
Unknown habits are a huge reason why “Self-reporting” is a no-no with regards to research paper results as well as the trustworthiness of a nutritional log.
Picking up a new habit is due to immediate or direct reward, thus there’s generally no long term consideration involved. This goes a lot faster than you would imagine.
This can be due to “positive” reactions from aspects like friends, social, hunger, pride, power, strength as well as a positive feeling of rest, peace or any other “positive” feedback. It’s a BioPsychoSocial concept.
You might have noticed that I’ve written the word positive between quote marks i.e. “positive” because the direct response which I am referring to is often not really positive, for example:
A person who smokes cigarettes knows that smoking is bad though once smoking becomes a habit, besides the addictive part, choosing not to smoke or to light up another cigaret can get a lot more complicated.
Choosing not to smoke will have many great influences on the level of health quality, over a couple of weeks, months and years to come.
Though choosing to fire up another cigarette will give the person a direct response in the line of “ah nice”, a direct relaxing feeling thus a direct “positive” signal.
Learning good habits, eating less and moving more, can seem daunting in the beginning but once you get the hang of it, you actually forget how hard it seemed in the beginning.
Example: Can you remember the first time you got behind a car’s steering wheel for your first driving lesson?
It felt chaotic and quite daunting, right?
So many things to remember, in the right order, the right amount of pressure as well as keeping an eye on everything around you, whilst moving.
Yet in a few weeks, most of us were able to drive well enough to register for the exam.
But the fact that you had to do an exam tells a lot about the complexity of driving a car.
But, how normal does it feel to drive through a city now?
All of your actions are on automatic.
Pretty cool if you think about it.
If you have not driven a car as yet you can compare it to the first time riding a bike, kind of yet much more complex with higher risks involved.
Now wouldn’t it be great to stay at your dream weight on automatic?
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It’s a well-known fact that those who have achieved their body goals and are able to maintain them are extremely happy with the way they feel and look, happy with how much better the world treats them (sadly that’s the way the world works) and how proud they are of their continued results.
All in all, these are awesome internal as well as external motivators to keep at it.
In all fairness though, the first priority should be to stop gaining weight and to get fit.
This will be of benefit to your health and sleeping pattern. This, in turn, is very important for your drive to make better decisions daily with regards to your eating and movement habits, and sticking to them.
But then you’d have to know what habits are good and what habits are bad. So let’s stick to the “losing weight” example for this.
Learning what mechanisms are of influence on losing or gaining weight are of the essence here.
Yes, both sides of the spectrum. You want to know what to do as well as what to avoid.
When you consume more calories than you use per day, you will gain weight and vice versa, when you consume fewer calories than you burn per day you will lose weight. ( thermodynamics of weight loss ).
That doesn’t sound very complicated right?
Ok, so to apply this to eating and drinking calories it is very useful to categorize your food types in two groups.
- Low-calorie nutrient dense.
- High-calorie low nutrients.
In group one, to keep this simple, you can think of all your meat types as well as fish and poultry. Furthermore all vegetables.
In group two you can think of sweets, crackers, bread, cola. Generally speaking the quick and easy options. This is what makes it tricky to work with.
When you look at habits they primarily exist out of very easy and fast automated mannerisms, thus the group 2 options are way easier to get into habit forming than group 1 – still with me here?
For example, you come back from a great morning training, you get home and you go into autopilot to get ready for work.
Whilst you get dressed, you make a lite breakfast, look at your agenda and browse FB and you also automatically pour and drink a glass of orange juice – great right? Wrong.
If you eat perfectly every day, according to your well calculated needed amount of calories, but you forget that big glass of orange juice three days a week you will gain weight.
But because the orange juice is a habit you never register in your head, it also doesn’t go in your food diary, you don’t communicate it to your coach, etc. This is why self-reportage is a no-no for exact results.
You get the picture.
So now back to breaking bad habits and building new good habits.
Be prepared, don’t have that orange juice at hand. So the next time you go grocery shopping, yes also this goes on auto pilot, have a list.
Clearly, state on that list -“NO OJ”. This is just a small disruptor and there are millions of disruptors, it’s just finding which one works for you.
But what if you want orange juice in your fridge for your kids or visitors? Put the juice in the back of the fridge, out of reach, put a bag over it so you can’t just open and pour it.
Anything that will force you to stop and realize what you are doing.
Disruptors are awesome, though they need to work and more often than not you’ll have to change them frequently enough for them to keep working.
Disruptor reminders can be placed in your agenda.
Over time you will have unlearnt the bad habits and with good guidance and better choices you can master the new and good habits just like you mastered driving a car, safely, I hope.
So applying a disruptor is one way to work on improving your habits but there are more options, for instance, breaking down your long-term goal into smaller bits.
Every time you have mastered a small part of your goal you can reward yourself, not with a big tub of Ben & Jerries, unless your goal is to gain weight.
Although it’s possible to lose weight whilst eating mostly ice-cream, but I’ll get to that in another blog post.
Reward yourself with, say, five euro’s / dollars, every week you did well and save for a special piece of clothing or trip.
This way you get to be proud as well as have a direct positive link to your small results. This, in turn, will once again fuel your intrinsic motivation.
It’s a win win win – man I love those!
Back to the good habits of weight loss and the two food group types I mentioned above, briefly.
Nutrient dense low-calorie foods generally have a short shelf life and take more time to prepare, these are two huge reasons why most people don’t eat this most of the time unless it suits their culture. Then they were brought up with it and it feels normal, so yes, it can become normal for you as well.
Two take home points that you can try to apply as of now.
- When preparing meats and/or poultry, prepare a lot so you can freeze like 6 days worth of meals. Think of chicken, pork roast, lamb chops, sausages, turkey, etc. When doing stews or full meat and veggie meals like cottage pie you can do this as well. Make a lot and as soon as possible place it in small containers as to not overeat that evening. Yes, I’ve done that, not proud of it but hey, I’m human too.
- Plan in one day a week to do this. Put it on your grocery list and plan it in your agenda, on paper or on your phone, I don’t care, just plan it in.
No it’s not a glamorous food pic – it’s practical though.
The awesome thing about this is that you’ll have delicious, healthy, nutrient dense, low-calorie, quick and easy food at your fingertips.
If you have a fridge and a microwave at work this would be even better. It’s worth it. Once you start getting results you’ll be ecstatic. Once you realize you can keep your dream body – you’ll be way past over extremely ecstatic all.the.time.
Know what works, for you, your body and your routine. Together we can figure this out even faster.
Realize what your “bad” habits are.
This can take time.
Rome wasn’t built in one day you know, but they worked on it day in day out, step by step and so can you.
Figure out what disruptors you need, how you can improve your sleeping rhythm and how you can do your food prep better, I can help you with all of that as well as training for extra internal motivation and an improved level of health.
Know that your daily calorie intake is indicative of weight loss or weight-gain. If you can drive a car you can do this too!
Obviously, good guidance will get you there a lot faster just like you needed a driving instructor – for a while.
You can do this!