In my last post I provided my 3 top tips to lose weight and be healthy:
1. Turn the starvation alarm off – help your brain relax by avoiding calorie restriction to lose weight.
2. Reduce insulin spiking foods and drinks – go easy on refined sugary and starchy carbohydrates, and enjoy a variety of good quality fats, proteins and unrefined carbohydrates in the form of nuts/seeds, oils, oily fish, lean meats, eggs, beans and non-starchy vegetables – broccoli, asparagus, capsicum, cauliflower, spinach.
3. Get the life stuff in order (as much as you can) – perform physical activity you actually enjoy, get a good night's sleep and incorporate stress relief practices into your day.
Nothing concerning the above should come as a major surprise – just healthy eating and general well being. However, as the title of this blog suggests – ‘easier said than done’. Why? Because much of the above is behavioural.
Many could put my tips into action straight away and achieve some short-term success.
However, unless unhealthy habits around food and drink consumption, and general well being are addressed, the chances of being able to sustain these practices over the long-term are slim to none.
Of course, this all depends on the extent to which our habits have become ingrained. As Horace Mann, the great educator once said, “habits are like a cable; we weave a thread of it each day, and at last we cannot break it”. I don’t necessarily agree with the last part of his expression, as I’ve seen plenty of unhealthy habits broken by my clients over the years. Not to say this has been easy.
Far too often, people take shortcuts, opting for quick fixes that usually involve focusing on the symptoms and not the cause. For example, say you are trying to reduce insulin-spiking foods like rice, pasta and bread. You decide to go cold turkey, by-passing the very habits you have formed around their regular consumption. You may have some success…for a while, until something happens in your life that causes you to re-adjust your focus (e.g. work, family etc.).
Without focus, you fall back into your old habits of eating plenty of rice, pasta and bread, because you never addressed the habits that led you to consume these foods in the first place.
So what are some of your unhealthy habits? Being more aware of your unhealthy habits is the first step in changing them.
Breaking unhealthy habits
Your character is essentially a sum of your habits. All of your habits, whether good or bad have been formed for a reason, as they benefit you in some way. However, sometimes the benefit may not outweigh detriment. For example, eating chocolate at 3 pm every day at work. You get this sugar rush that makes you feel great (benefit), at least for a while (30 minutes), but then in many cases, people come crashing down after the initial high, feeling more tired than before they had eaten the chocolate in the first place.
All habits provide some benefit, therefore it is difficult to just eradicate them.
This strategy rarely works as we don’t have an endless supply of willpower. The best way to break an unhealthy habit is to replace it with a new habit that provides similar benefit. For example, you wake up, have a shower, and head to the kitchen for an unhealthy sugary breakfast every morning before work. To change this behaviour, you need to work out what the benefit is first. Some possible benefits include; the sugary-high you get from eating a super-refined cereal; you can sleep in for an extra 10 minutes due to minimal prep time; to get out of the house as quick as possible to avoid traffic, and the list goes on…
I would argue that the benefit for most people isn’t the short sugar-high post breakfast.
For many, the benefit would be saving time. So we need to replace the sugary breakfast with a quick and nutritious one. How about a quick nutritious smoothie full of nuts, seeds and fruit, a minimally processed muesli with Greek yoghurt, or even a piece of fruit dipped in 100% nut butter? It is all about digging deep to determine the actual benefit of an unhealthy habit, hijacking the habit, whilst maintaining similar benefit.
“The Power of Less”
There’s probably a stack of habits you want to work on to achieve your goals. Nobody’s perfect right? Stack the odds in your favour by working on one habit at a time. Like anything, if you try to take on too much at once, you increase your chances of failure. Leo Babauta describes in his book, “The Power of Less”, that the key to success is to work on one habit at a time. Once you have formed one healthy habit, move onto the next and so on.
5 tips to help you get started:
1. Select one habit you wish to work on to move you closer to your main goal. Choose something measureable.
2. Dissect the unhealthy habit loop, for example, what is the trigger, routine and the benefit of this unhealthy habit?
3. Plan – write this down. Which aspect of the specific unhealthy habit loop do you plan to hijack? Include the how, when, where, why?
4. Report to someone daily, weekly etc. Identify somebody to help hold you accountable.
5. Stay positive, expect setbacks, and move on.
Unhealthy habits jeopardize your health — both mentally and physically, wasting your valuable time and energy. Confront these habits head-on by isolating them one at a time and give yourself the best chance of achieving your health goals.