If you’ve ever tried to change a habit, you know firsthand. It ain’t easy. For better or worse, habits are the aspect of our lives that allow us to process new information. Otherwise, we’d always need our brain power for everything we do. My favorite example is the light switch. Imagine if you had to think about how lights turn on every time you walked into a dark room…
Habits are hard to change. In my experience, you can only work on changing one habit at a time. You also need serious motivation to make a change.
Trauma is a good motivator, like life-threatening experiences. When you survive near-death events, habits change fast.
If you don’t feel like swerving close to the guardrail of life, you can try tempering your changes with time.
By that math, it only takes one day to form a habit, one at a time, all in a row. This is your step-by-step plan to be twelve habits ahead by this time next year.
Start by making a list of all your nutrition habits that you know need to change. This could be a list of forbidden foods, the ones for which you can’t control yourself.
Even better, try to focus on behaviors. Think in terms of how you purchase food, not just how you consume it, but that too.
Where do you buy food? What is wrong with your way?
If you’re completely clueless about bad nutritional choices, make a list of your favorite things to eat. We’ll come back to how you’re gonna use it.
The easy plan would be to quit one habit or food choice a month. That’s fine, but you can do better.
Narrow your list to just 12 food, habits or otherwise. Don’t sweat it if your list is much bigger than 12. You can always do this again next year. Just pick the most concerning from your list.
You’re going to work on one each month in 2017. Plan to learn as much as you can about each item. Once a month, look up the nutrition facts of your food item.
If you’re considering a habit, see if you can find any resources on that habit. In either case, look for a healthier replacement habit.
If it’s food, find something healthier you can eat. If it’s a habit, find a healthier outlet. Spend the month focusing on your new habit.
If you take the time to make a list, then set out to create healthier habits, you’ll derail without deadlines.
There is a great tool in your pocket that can help. Use your smartphone to create a series of reminders. Some key points to calendarize: the first few days of the month, check-ins once a week or daily if you need it, an end-of-month review reminder.
Set your reminders at times of the day or days when you are likely not to ignore them. When your reminders pop up, don’t hesitate.
You know yourself best, so set multiple reminders if you need it.
With plans like this, the biggest hole is accountability. All your best intentions wash away when there is nobody else to check your work.
An easy solution is to find a partner. If you’re working with a fitness or nutrition coach, there’s your partner right there. You can also find someone else who wants to make a change.
You should synchronize or share your reminders. Commit to each other that you will not fail the other one.
Check in as often as you need, but don’t let your partner down. Don’t let that partner let you down. This is a three-legged race.
By this time next year, you will have 12 new habits, replacing unhealthy habits you used to own. You can choose to run with your new habits or create 12 more.
Take it from a guy who’s been at this for all his adult life. It never ends. You can always course-correct habits, refine your behaviors.
There is nobody who knows everything about fitness or nutrition. If every year you increase your knowledge base by a factor of twelve, you will be the one doling out advice soon.
Maybe you’ll start a blog.