So, you want a healthier lifestyle? You need to change your behaviour……… Permanently!
Humans are habitual people, in fact, according to research between 45-90 per cent of our lives are made up of habits. For example, we don’t think about brushing our teeth, we don’t consider not doing it (well most of us don’t!), we just go ahead and brush our teeth every morning. Although this habit is pretty much automatic it doesn’t mean we didn’t have to learn it. We are not born with the need to brush our teeth, but over the first few years of being told to brush our teeth, we eventually build the habit. Do you see where I’m going here? We can use this same theory to build habits in order to change our health behaviour.
It generally takes around 6 months of doing something repeatedly to be able to create a habit, so, for example, if you go to the gym 3 times a week for 6 months you are much less likely to stop going, or not go back if you have to miss it for some reason (going on holiday or getting the flu, for example). This is the formation of a habit. Over time habits become part of our identity and this is where the magic happens, once a habit becomes part of who you are, part of your identity, it’s truly ingrained. You stop trying to make a practice of going to the gym and you become a “person who goes to the gym”.
This theory can be applied to most elements of healthy living. When my online clients first come to me, we chat about their goals and what they want to achieve. Most, generally want to improve their health by eating better and exercising more.
Let’s look at an example.
Dave 45 comes to me, he’s overweight, eating a diet of predominantly low nutrition high calorie foods, he has an office job and does not really exercise much other than sporadic trips to the local gym. His lifestyle is classed as sedentary. Now, I could say “right Dave, I want you to you hit 20,000 steps a day and do this workout plan – which involves you going to the gym 5 times a week. Oh, and you need to follow this strict diet which requires you to prep all your meals, drink nothing but water and never eat out.” I can guarantee that this won’t work. Dave does not have the time or energy for 20,000 steps and meal prepping every night. It isn’t Dave who fails on day 3, Dave was never going to manage the plan, it is me as his personal trainer who has failed him by setting unobtainable goals.
Instead, Dave and I have a good chat about his lifestyle, and we agree on a few small habits that he can start to build. This might be trying to drink 2 litres of water or get 5000 steps in and do a home workout on his lunch break 3 times a week. Over time we can build and add to these habits and before you know it Dave has started to lead a much healthier lifestyle that is sustainable and enjoyable, and he lost weight too!
This links back to my previous blog on demonising food, taking an “all or nothing approach” to any behaviour change are never going to work over the long term. Instead, making small changes lead to big improvements over time.
The next time you consider a new diet or exercise regime ask yourself, “could I see myself still doing this in 2 years’ time?”
Thank you for reading 🙂