Start a new habit that naturally replaces or phases out the old one.
If you’ve been reading this week you know we’ll we are talking about habits and the secret we’ve discovered: The secret + easiest way to break a habit is to start a new one.
Nat spoke about unplugging her bedroom and bike riding this week. Today I’m inviting you into my home and life (that’s my kitchen), and sharing my new habit, and how I use another trick to make it even easier: start a new habit that naturally replaces or phases out the old one.
I have decided to take the Live it. Do it. #sugarfreeseptember challenge as I need to start a new habit to replace my go to habit: to reach for sweet things when times “get tough”.
If I was focusing on simply breaking the habit I would approach it by simply trying to NOT reach for sweet things when times “get tough” (i.e. wrong time of the month hormones, too busy, too stressed, too tired etc). It’s been my habit for years to reach for sweets – they are my comfort food, the things my parents (bless them as they didn’t know better) used to make me feel better when I was crying as a child. It’s a common thing to do and an easy out for parents as it usually stops the tears, but I digress: this is about me trying to undo this habit that I have had along for the ride for the last 43 years! And something about the 10 kilos I have put on since Christmas (ahem!).
So instead of going about it by what I should NOT do, I’m focusing on starting a new habit. On what I WANT TO DO instead.
Step 1: “Know thyself”
A few years ago when I left the banking industry and took some time out for my own health and family reasons, I started to pay much more attention to the foods that were going into my mouth AND also when I reached for the types of things that I know don’t serve me. So, I know my own patterns, which really is the first step.
Even before you embark on anything like changing or replacing a habit, it’s important to understand when you do that habit. So, take some time to observe, without judgement.
Step 2: Choose a new habit that naturally phases out the old one. Or, piggy back it.
So I now know that I am, like my son, one of those people whose moods is heavily affected by whether or not they need food. And when I need food, I NEED. IT. NOW! So, I will generally reach for anything that I can put in my mouth straight away. Because I’m hungry. I actually don’t discriminate on these occasions BUT often it’s the unhealthy foods that are instant/fast enough – chips, chocolate, cookies etc.
One solution was to ensure easy healthy foods were on hand (for example nuts – which are good to eat regularly anyway) and voila, a healthier Tip emerged.
Another thing I know is that my self control is almost non-existent, especially in the wee hours of the evening (apparently we all get a daily dose of self control which gets used up by days end – interesting study somewhere about this), so:
My other tactic is to NOT have any unhealthy foods in the house…
OR, at the very least the types of things I am not actually interested in eating (like tea biscuits, which keep the kids satisfied when it comes to a treat but I can’t even be bothered eating!).
If there’s nothing unhealthy in front of me when my self-control is low then well, there’s no problem. So the new habit is keep my trigger foods away from the house.
If this all feels too hard for your habit, one of the easiest new habit tips I have is to “piggy-back” your new habit onto another existing habit.
For example, want to drink more water? Then the new habit could be that for every cup of coffee/juice/soda you have that you drink a glass of water first. Not replacing the coffee/juice/soda habit per se, but adding a glass of water to the habit. It’s a much simpler approach because what will actually happen is that you will both drink more water AND drink less of the other stuff (yes really).
So, if replacing a habit sounds too big a step then just try this method first. This also works great with kids – I always say to mine when they’re “soooo thirsty (for juice)” that water is the best thirst quencher so they can have their juice AFTER a glass of water. Totally works – they get more water in and they definitely drink less juice. Win – win!
Step 3: “Screw Perfection”
Quite possibly THE most important part of all this is to remember with a new habit, diet etc – none of us is perfect. We all fail sometimes. This is true for all habits. You are learning something new. It takes time. Accept that it’s part of the process and just keep going with the new habit.
I learned to tell myself:
“Oops, I fell off the wagon just then…but that’s OK – I am going to eat less tonight/tomorrow to make up for it and get back on the wagon.”
That is the best way to approach our bad habits and changing them.
It does not have to be all or nothing – it’s OK to slip up. Just make up for it and get right back on track. No self loathing required.
Moreover, sometimes when we fail it’s an opportunity to learn. Perhaps I’ll discover that I eat the most sugar when I’m at work. Well, then I need to adjust my new habit to make it easier to do it at work instead. Because we are all human. I know that I will probably slip up in September with the no sugar thing (there’s a wedding involved too!) but if, in the end, it means that I eat less sugar through the month and that I am on my way to starting a better new habit then it’s still a good thing.
Step 4: “Just Start”
Nat and I always say this because a lot of the time, the hardest thing is to start.
Most folk say, I will start my diet on Monday or maybe once I …
I challenge you all to just start – RIGHT NOW. Whatever it is, wherever you are – just start.
Even if you’re just at the observation stage, just take one little step towards it. For me, I am planning my sugar free September. I am thinking about my meals and actually what I do need in the house for Monday (or out of the house, as the case may be). This weekend, I’m going to the store. Come Monday, I will be ready.
Will you join me in starting a new habit in September? Would love to hear more in the comments.