How to make strong habits that last and minimise bad habits that stop you achieving your weight loss goals
No one ever loses weight by luck.
Although they may not know it, the most successful fat loss winners will have done it with consistent actions towards a leaner lifestyle.
One meal won’t make you fat, same as one gym session won’t suddenly make you shredded.
It’s the consistent, strong habits that are built through a network of systems inside the successful dieter’s brain that ultimately bring long term weight loss.
Building a good habit is the result of thousands of repetitive actions
In the same way that the body needs hours of practice to learn complex movements to perform and action, the mind needs constant programming to make sure it learns how to behave in certain situations.
What are healthy eating habits?
Often this is mistaken for ‘eating clean’ but healthy eating habits aren’t about being the best Instagram influencer you can be with your plate of avocados and nuts.
Healthy eating habits in my view is having a positive relationship with food.
In that you don’t unnecessarily restrict yourself from foods that you like.
Many diets are promoted as ‘healthy’ but actually promote unhealthy eating behaviour in that they force the dieters to eat kale, spinach, lots of green veg, nuts etc while banning chocolate and doughnuts.
While this may be ‘eating healthy’ in a pure form of the word it’s not a healthy eating habit if you hate those foods.
In fact, this behaviour will more than likely start you down the road of an eating disorder.
Healthy eating in my book means that you do incorporate
- Lean Meats (or a veggie/vegan protein source)
- Green or leafy veg
- Complex carbohydrates
- Unsaturated fats such as fish or plant oils
- Fruit and Veg
But also look to have a reasonable amount of ‘junk food’ to give you some soul food when you’re relaxing in front of the TV.
If you don’t like ‘junk food’ and prefer to eat ‘clean’ because that’s what you like then of course that’s totally fine.
My experience is that the majority of people I work with like a bit of trash food every now and again.
Healthy Lifestyle Habits
Similar to healthy eating habits, healthy lifestyle habits should be a blend of good and ‘bad’ behaviour.
For example, I like to train with weights and I go for a 20 minute walk most days to clear my head.
However I also like a nice sloth in front of the TV in the evening a few nights a week.
Only for a short time and most of that time it’s to play Mario Kart but I also snack when I do this.
Most people would interpret that as a bad habit but it really isn’t. It helps me relax after a busy day and I’ve also exercised that day.
Healthy Lifestyle means that you do things that enrich your Physical, Mental and Inner health.
- Physical is from exercise and weights
- Mental is from reading books and listening to podcasts/audible while doing my 20 minute walk and in the car.
- Inner Health is having the right vitamins in my life to keep my body in top shape with a strong immune system.
These 3 things are also enriched from the ‘bad’ habits I do.
Physical – sloth in front of the TV a few times a week, which also enriches my Mental as it allows my mind to wander and move away from work.
My Inner Health then benefits from a few snacks and the feelings of doing absolutely F all for a little while.
If you didn’t know, I’m normally running at 100mph through the day.
Although I realise that the bad habits if left unchecked may overtake my lifestyle, in balance they enrich it.
This is something that many people neglect.
They are focussed so much on doing the ‘good’ things so they can snap it for Instagram or Facebook that they forget they are humans and need a bit of down time sat in their pants.
How do you change bad habits into good habits.
One of the best books that I’ve read on building habits is Atomic Habits by James Clear
Building good habits starts by identifying what you want to accomplish and then making that habit easier to do than the bad habit you want to stop.
The opposite is true for the bad habit. To stop a bad habit you need to make it harder to do than the good habit.
An example of this would be stopping snacking on chocolate.
Make sure that any chocolate in your house is put well away from your easy reach.
Have a fruit bowl and low calorie snacks on the kitchen top rather than chocolate so that they are easier to snack on than the chocolate.
Since most snacking is hedonic (you aren’t hungry just bored and see food) you can normally head off any chocolate or other high calorie snack urges using this method.
How quickly can new desirable habits be formed?
Once you’ve established this good habit you need to do it repeatedly in order to commit it to your memory.
Not your conscious memory, but your subconscious.
You want a habit to be as natural as opening a door or riding a bike.
Therefore it needs to be repeated hundreds, maybe thousands of times to be properly programmed into your subconscious actions.
You want to do it without thinking.
There is a misconception that habits are formed after 12 weeks.
They aren’t, if you do something only once a day for 12 weeks then you’ve only done it 84 times.
If you do it 3 times a day for 9 weeks you’ve done it 189 times.
You’ll learn it faster by doing it more often.
This is why martial arts kata’s are done repeatedly as they promote muscle memory and make it easier to perform the complex combinations and critical strikes of the art. If you don’t believe me just ask Mr Miagi
What to do when you slip back into a bad habit
Bad habits cannot be eliminated.
They are always there and the good habits just override them.
They are still programmed into our brain from repeated action and the good habit becomes the easier option.
If that good habit becomes more troublesome to do such as during times of stress, that’s normally why we slip back into bad habits.
In order to reassert the good habit you will need to reprogram for a while with conscious thought and action.
This is normal when I work with clients who come off their diets due to stress with work or family life and need some accountability and direction to get back on track.
Thankfully once you’ve installed the behaviour once it’s easier to return to that behaviour.
This is why my one to one coaching has an intensive 8 weeks foundation program to install the habits in the client which transforms their behaviour.
Every now and again an old client will return to work with me after a stressful situation and it normally only takes 4 weeks of accountability to return them to peak performance and good habit decisions.
As an example of habits that you can work towards to improve your own lifestyle here are some rules I help clients to follow.
Each has its own reason for being there and not all will apply to all people universally but it’s pretty uniform.
15 Good habits for weight loss and improving body composition
- 20 minute walk daily
- Log your steps every day
- Track your calories
- Replace high calorie snacks with low calorie options that you like
- Never keep food within arms reach
- Always measure out snacks into bowls never eat from the pack
- Know the difference between actual hunger and hedonic hunger and act accordingly
- Train with weights
- Eat a high protein diet
- Never follow someone elses diet
- Don’t eat foods that you don’t like
- Allow some ‘junk’ food in your diet or your brain will allow it for you on a binge
- Never shop when hungry
- Allocate your food into meal blocks that fit your lifestyle don’t fit your lifestyle into a diet
- Don’t do keto unless you hate eating carbs