How many food-related decision do you think you make on a daily basis?
Can you believe the number is 227!
I was shocked when a study cited by Kelly McGonigal author of ‘The Willpower Instinct’ found that although people predicted 14 when they actually marked off how many food choices they had to make in one day 227 was the total! Wow, this is a lot of decisions. I have talked about how every decision we make depletes our willpower not exclusive of food decisions of course, and so it really makes sense that our will power is most depleted by the end of the day and if this is when you make plans to exercise it may take a rethinking of your automated processes.
I understand more than most how it feels when temptation comes along, and the ‘immediate you’ wants to choose the high fat/sugar option. Then there is the ‘you’ that wants to feel good, look good in that outfit, have a long healthy life, and really wants to choose a healthy option. The battle begins, and it can be a huge war inside, particularly if you are still in the process of instilling healthy habits.
The immediate you, which we know as the ego, has an extremely manipulative voice, knows you so well and is capable of twisting you round its little finger, persuading you that there is no harm in having this one cream cake. However, the science of habits is in complete disagreement. Tynan, the author of ‘Superhuman by habit” talks about the tiny actions we repeat over time. This takes not only patience and self-awareness but a different mindset. Choosing a tiny habit is important because once you have started, missing a day is out of the question.
My own weight loss happened over a period of 3 years, therefore was far from a quick fix, my small changes over time have resulted in a set of habits that have become automated. I am no different from you.
I used to want a quick fix, lived in a vicious circle of starving myself on a Monday, bingeing on a Tuesday only to start over again the following Monday, only this time it was a new crash diet that was going to be a magical cure to my weight issues! I also know that you already know that there is no quick fix but we still want one, the allure of the next fad can be addictive. Believe me falling into this trap can cause extreme damage to your self-esteem. You are not a failure and you can do this, think of this as an experiment in getting to know you and give yourself time.
Before you start on installing small habits you may want to spend a few days tracking your choices in relation to your goal. When do you weaken or become distracted? For example, you may have walked into the coffee shop with a purpose of ordering a peppermint tea, suddenly your phone goes – text- or something happens to distract you, and before you know it you have ordered a latte! This exercise can you develop self-awareness, as once you know your triggers you have more power to overcome or adapt them.
1.set your challenge
What do you want to do more of or less of, for example, lose 2 stone in weight or stop smoking
2. Set your why
Write down why you want to reach this goal, what difference will it make to your life? Be specific and write the details, make your reasons for achieving your challenge goals strong as you will need to refer to them.
3. make a list of ‘will’ and ‘will not’ small habits towards your challenge
these will be very small changes and you will not do everything at once, here are some examples to get you thinking, you may find these a help and of course will have your own:
I will not take sugar in my tea/coffee (If this is a difficult one for you, start with reducing by half until down to 0)
I will move for 10 minutes each day – this could be stretch, run or walk depending on where you are on your journey
I will not eat meat on a Monday
I will swap white pasta for wholemeal or rice
I will not have starchy carbohydrates at dinner e.g. potatoes, bread, rice or pasta
I will only order black coffee or herbal tea at a cafe
I will eat breakfast every day – have the options ready
I will drink lemon water each morning
I will focus on my breathing for 1 minute each day
4. Choose one tiny habit for this week
Your goal is only to meet this habit each day, it is tied to your bigger challenge from number 1. but this is not your immediate goal. Focus on never missing a day for this habit.
Consistency is key, habits are simply actions repeated over time. Every single habit you have is changeable. You have the power!
knowing the 3 phases to get you through
A few years ago I read the miracle morning by Hal Elrod, and he talks about three phases when starting out a new habit or releasing an old one. It may help you to keep these in mind when even your tiny habit is causing a battle to ensue within.
The first stage is within the first week: this stage can feel unbearable sometimes depending on the habit, know that you can do this, it is simply a habit change and it is normal for this to feel unachievable. Keep going x
The second stage is around a week to ten days: this is an uncomfortable feeling, you just want to give up. Know that it is normal to feel this way and the light is coming soon! Keep going x
The third stage: You are UNSTOPPABLE; someone could not pay you to not ‘insert the habit’ e.g. drink lemon water each day
You will fall down and you will have times when you feel you have failed. This is just part of the process and why I always say look for ‘progress and not perfection’. Changing to a learning and growth mindset can take time and be patient with this, success only comes when numerous failures happen. Get that mind shift and you are 80% of the way there, it is then about embracing the process.
Henry Ford said “If you think you can or you can’t you are right” Your mind is so powerful and this experiment is simply that, one in which you have years to get right. Go slowly and make those tiny habits automatic.
You can do this, I have faith in you, no one else in any different to you, they may have simply worked on a different set of habits.
Please get in touch or comment if you have any questions, habits you would like to fine tune or if you have been able to automate a habit.
Lots of love and health,