One of my favorite influencers in the weight management space, Glenn Mackintosh, recently shared about the difference between habits and behavior change. If you’re a sucker for Australian accents **👋 hi mom**, you’ll like Glenn too!
In his recent blog post, Glenn wrote how behaviors are conscious actions, and habits are subconscious or automatic routines we do without thinking.
Interestingly, he pointed out that we get into trouble when we put too much emphasis on results-based behaviors or our conscious efforts, rather than focusing on habits.
I cringed when he used the example of meal replacement shakes, as I am sure many of you have been there. A results-based behavior such as substituting a protein shake for a meal will achieve results like weight loss, but it’s only temporary.
When you look back after 6 weeks of chugging meal replacement shakes, you will have established no healthy habits. You stop drinking the shakes, revert to old habits, and weight regain is inevitable.
This is why building healthy habits is so important! Making small changes over time compounds to big results in the long run.
The good news is it’s possible to change your habits. The bad news is it takes time, patience, and most importantly, repetition.
So how do you begin making, changing, or breaking a habit? Keep reading!
You can’t make or break a habit until you know whether or not it exists. Start by taking inventory of your current habits and identifying which habits you want to change.
It might help to write down all of your actions starting when you wake up in the morning. Label the behaviors as positive (+), negative (-), or neutral.
For example, your morning routine might look like this…
Hit the snooze (-)
Turn off alarm
Look at Facebook (-)
What counts as a positive, negative, or neutral behavior is up to you. This exercise will help tease which habits are moving you closer or further from your goals.
Notice settle cues
What cues or triggers do you notice for your current habits? How can you modify your environment to limit your exposure to cues for bad habits or increase your exposure to habits you want to be consistent with?
Want to stop snacking at night? Notice what cue or emotion triggers your craving. Trying to drink more water? What cues can you plant throughout your day to remind you to hydrate?
Automate, automate, automate
Let’s be honest, we all want to make fewer decisions throughout the day. Our brains love to automate. Learn to use this to your advantage.
If you want to start a new habit, stack it with a habit you’re already doing. Want to journal for 5 minutes every day? Set a timer after you start the coffee pot.
Another way to automate is to make one-time decisions to save future time and energy. Set up automatic payments or schedule a meal delivery service for 1-2 days per week.
Want to get better about planning meals? Automate! Forget variety and implement a rotating schedule with recurring themes such as “Taco Tuesday.”
Think about the mental energy you’ll save on repetitive decision-making. What will you do with this extra time?!
Words from the Wise
You get what you repeat.James Clear, author of Atomic Habits^
Some of you may be aware of my obsession with Atomic Habits^ by James Clear. I argue this is for good reason.
When asked how long it takes to develop a habit, Clear emphasizes the importance of repetition over time. The more you do something, the easier and more natural it will become.
With that in mind, the most difficult part is getting started and building momentum. This is why starting small is essential for success.
Let’s say you want to start working out. Rather than have a goal of walking for 30 minutes, your goal might be putting on your walking shoes. Clear defines this as a “decisive moment,” or a small decision that determines how you will spend the next 10, 20, or 60 minutes.
I like to call this creating a “confidence snowball.” What is the smallest goal you can make to build confidence and momentum toward larger, subconscious goals?