It’s Human Nature.
If you find yourself struggling to jumpstart a wellness plan, axe a bad habit, or just hit the reset button, it is safe to say you are indeed human.
Humans are innately lazy. We are programed to choose the path of least resistance. It is in our DNA to seek out avenues that feel effortless, yet rewarding.
Amazon is a prime example of our need for ease and instant gratification.
We see. We want. We buy. It arrives. We’re rewarded.
Cue. Craving. Response. Reward.
It sounds juvenile but this is how habits are created.
Habits we do not want usually start something like this…
It’s a Wednesday evening and you’re on the way home from a work project, or grabbing the kids from soccer practice. It’s been a busy day and you catch yourself thinking about your favorite pizza shop with the gluten-free crust… it’s on your way home and you reason with yourself that it will be easier than making dinner, so you call ahead and have them make a pie. You walk in, grab the pizza, the smell infuses the car with the beautiful and seductive fragrance of freshly tossed dough, pizza sauce and cheese. Pizza is served. It tastes amazing. There was barely any hassle in the kitchen. It feels good to be fed something so comforting with little effort. You tell yourself, “It was just this week because this week was extra busy.”
Slowly, however, it becomes every Wednesday and then every time you know you will be driving by. You didn’t even realize it was becoming a habit but suddenly breaking the cycle seems daunting.
Habits can be so ingrained in us, we operate on autopilot. The secret, then, is to make our habits work in our favor, instead of preventing us from moving forward.
Change our habits:
As much as it is human nature to take the path of least resistance, when it comes to making lifestyle changes, we tend to reach higher than realistically possible, creating expectations of drastic lifestyle shifts without a plan or preparation.
Habits do not occur overnight. Habits are created after repeated exposure to a specific stimulus has satisfied a need. The way to create sustainable change, is to work with your current habits and create a better long term reward system. Small, meaningful and consistent shifts in your day-to-day life create lasting results and can help to power you through the tough days. Aiming too high, without the proper tools can leave us feeling defeated and even worse, cause us to question our own will-power and motivation.
Before we jump into creating these meaningful and consistent shifts, let’s take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
What is your story? Who is this person you are trying to reflect?
This is not a question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?” If you wanted to be a firefighter, or a veterinarian, and you are now a serial entrepreneur with several startups, or a mom of 3, well then… Awesome.
I am talking about the story we tell ourselves— about ourselves. Regardless of your occupation, if the goal is to drop excess weight and build lean muscle, you want to make sure your current actions match your goals.
We easily become attached to the story we tell ourselves and fall victim to it. If we’ve put on weight during a stressful time, for instance, (be it grief, a breakup, or something exciting, like raising capital for a new venture, or giving birth to your first child), we tend to focus on the problem, blaming the weight on extenuating circumstances. When we complain to ourselves and others, “I am trying to lose weight and it’s so tough,” we are giving life to the issues that triggered us, and validating our behavior changes.
Triggers, stress, life and loss are all valid reasons to fall into unhealthy habits, but in order to make healthy habit changes, the story you tell yourself must also change.
Let’s look at the basic messages we are sending out into the world when we speak about our behavior. When we make statements like “I am trying to eat less bread,” or “I am trying to avoid wine during the week,” or “I am trying to cut back on my caffeine intake,” we are ultimately suggesting that we are struggling and not fully committed to our goal.
Instead, of being committed to the struggle, we can take back our power by simply rephrasing each statement:
“I don’t eat bread.” Or, make it more specific— “I only eat bread when out to dinner with friends.”
Versus: “I am trying to eat less bread.”
“I drink less wine during the week.” Or, “I only have one glass of wine in the evenings.”
Versus: “I am trying to avoid wine during the week.”
“I cut back on my caffeine intake.” Or, “I only have 1 cup in the morning while reading my emails.”
Versus: “I am trying to cut back on my caffeine intake.”
It resonates differently. Do you feel it?
What is the story you are telling yourself?
Now think about the lifestyle of the fit, happier and healthier version of yourself that you would like to evolve into. As you go about your day, ask yourself what that person would do. Remove yourself as the victim in your story and become the hero. When you wake up in the morning and go to hit the snooze button, ask yourself— “What would a fit person do?” Would they already have their workout clothes laid out the prior evening and a playlist ready to go?
Or would they hit snooze and skip the gym?
Let’s go deeper: Make a list of what you do in a day— tasks, big and small. What time do you wake up? What do you do first? (Aka: Use the restroom, throw on your robe, brush your teeth… etc.).
Highlight the habits that are beneficial, or neutral, and circle the habits that may be holding you back. This exercise is not designed to make you feel good or bad about your day-to-day life.
It’s not a question of whether a habit is “good” or “bad,” but rather if they are pushing you forward, or holding you back. All habits have, at some point, served a purpose. A glass, or two, of wine in the evening makes us feel less stressed in the moment. 5 cups of coffee, during the day, can make us feel amped and alert. But if the wine is affecting your waistline and skin and the coffee is negatively affecting your sleep, hormones and anxiety, then those are areas to take note of and improve upon.
Let’s go back to your new story. What would the healthier, happier, more fit version of you do?
Habits do not happen in isolation. Habits occur in sequences and clusters. As you are highlighting the habits on your list that serve you, think about your goals and how they might fit within the ones that already exist.
For example, your current morning might go something like this: Wake up. Brush teeth. Wash face. Put on workout clothes. Boil water. Make coffee. Check emails.
If one of your goals is to drink 16 oz of water and take a probiotic before starting your day, make it effortless and specific.
Make it Obvious
For instance, set out a bottle of water and the jar of your probiotics next to your coffee maker at night. While you are waiting for the water to boil, or your coffee to finish in your Nespresso, drink your water and take your probiotic.
If you are looking to walk the dog before you grab a glass of wine after work, set out the leash by the wine opener. Leave a little love note for yourself— “You’ll thank me later.”
If you want to eat less chips, and more veggies, get rid of the chips, or put them out of reach and place freshly chopped veggies in the fridge, in plain sight.
Make it Specific
If you are looking to integrate a wellness plan into your day, pick a time every day to make it happen. Haven’t worked out in a while? Just START. Maybe you commit to doing 10 jumping jacks, every single day at 6am. Start somewhere. Show up daily. Don’t skip a day and build from there.
Now that we’ve started to change our story, add in small, meaningful habits, and make it effortless and obvious, let’s address the elephant in the room.
Changing up your habits can feel uncomfortable and when we struggle, or give into temptation, it’s easy to feel like we are lacking willpower, or motivation. However, one of the biggest pieces to the puzzle is assessing your environment.
If you work from the kitchen, yet you find yourself snacking all day— change your location.
If you struggle to get to quality sleep, but find yourself doing work from your bedroom, or watching tv in bed, you can make meaningful shifts in your habits, simply by changing your location.
Instead of working from the kitchen, find a quiet coffee shop where you can break out your laptop.
Instead of watching TV in bed, make the bedroom all about sleeping and the living room for entertainment.
Finally, create your “non-negotiables”. If you brush your teeth everyday and could not imagine NOT brushing your teeth, this is a non-negotiable. Ask yourself: What are the things that you can realistically commit to, that will push you closer towards your goals? This could be something like, getting at least 30 minutes of activity a day, or eating one serving of vegetables a day, or substituting one glass of wine for sparkling water or Kombucha.
It does not matter how small—each consistent, daily action, will get you closer to your goals.
By Lauren Talbot, Holistic Nutritionist & Foodie
WRKOUT Guest Blogger