One of the ways healthy people succeed at being healthy is by developing healthy habits. Habits take willpower out of the equation, which is great, because each day we have a limited amount of willpower. People often blame their inability to get healthy on a lack of willpower, but usually that isn’t the case. Usually we have plenty of will power but it just gets used up by other stressors in our life.
That’s where creating habits comes in, if you are able to create healthy habits, your healthy behaviors will become automatic and you will no longer have to tap into your willpower resources.
But how do you create a habit? Easier said than done right? Here are my tips for creating healthy habits:
- Bundle habits- Bundling habits means grouping habits together so that something you already do as a habit triggers the new behavior you are trying to create. Are you in the habit of watching a particular TV Show or listening to a certain podcast? Why not only allow yourself to indulge in that podcast or TV show when you are at gym walking on the treadmill? Or when you brush your teeth, you could use that as a signal to do air squats. By piggy-backing habits you help encourage the new pattern.
- Associate pleasure with a desirable habit- Most of our behaviors and habits are designed to get us out of pain and into pleasure. Right now you might associate the new healthy habit with pain (it’s going to take up my time, I’m going to feel hungry). What if you started to associate the new behavior with pleasure? (I’m going to feel great after I exercise, this salad makes me feel healthy). You can also manufacture the pleasure by, for example, listening to your favorite music while exercising or eating a healthy meal. When you start to associate desirable behaviors with pleasure, it gets easier to turn them into habits
3. Schedule it in- I’ve heard that time is an illusion. So is not having time. When you make time in your schedule for exercising or preparing healthy food you are more likely to get it done. I find it especially helpful to put the behavior I am trying to encourage in my calendar on my phone and receive a notification to remind me of my plans.
- Be consistent- Keeping things consistent helps you to establish habits. I don’t know about you, but when I make appointments outside of my ordinary schedule, I tend to forget them. By working out at the same time of day and on the same days of the week you develop a pattern that is predictable and easy to remember. Same thing with eating. If you tend to eat the same healthy meals at the same times of day it gets easier to stick with it. Thus creating the habit becomes easier too!
- Remove saboteurs- Sometimes it’s external factors that sabotage good habits or encourage bad habits. If you leave a bag of Chips Ahoy cookies on the counter, it’s easy to reach in a grab a few. Take the bag away! Hide it, or better yet, throw it away and don’t buy it again. Saboteurs can also be people. If hanging out with you coworkers means overeating and drinking break the routine. Either suggest a healthier way to unwind after work (Pilates class anyone?) or find friends that support your healthier lifestyle.
Now that you know how to create a habit, here are 3 simple habits that I promise will deliver big results.
- Meal prep- Meal prep means preparing your food in advance. Honestly this was a game changer for me. Having healthy food easily available all week, made it so much easier to stick to healthy options rather than grabbing junk food out of convenience. The key here is to just get started. Schedule a day when you will do your meal prep (for me its Sunday afternoon). Get organized and plan out the items you would like to prepare. Use serving sizes to estimate how much of each food you will need to prepare for the week. Then stick with it! Consistency is key to establishing a habit. You can get my free guide to meal prep here.
- Carry a Cooler- Once you have your healthy food prepared, take it with you! You’d be surprised how often you resort to eating crappy food just because you don’t have a healthy option conveniently available. Packing a cooler with healthy food ensures you will always have a good option when hunger strikes. It also helps you limit portion sizes by forcing you to stick to what can fit in your cooler. I find that packing the cooler the night before helps me feel prepared in the morning.
- Drink Water- I used to drink diet sodas and energy drinks all day. Drinking water is one of the best things you can do for your body. We often misinterpret thirst as hunger, which makes us overindulge in food. By drinking you stay hydrated and cut cravings.
What healthy habits do you have? Do you find it hard to stick with healthy habits?