5 Unspoken Strategies To Make Healthy Habits Stick
Think of a person in your life who says they want to eat better to improve their health. Yet after months, even years, they still don’t change.
Next, think of someone you know who goes on a health kick for a while. They lose weight, have more energy and rave about how fantastic they feel, only to end up back where they were before (usually with more weight). They may have repeated this pattern many times.
Now, think of someone who has improved their health and kept it that way ever since. You may be wondering: What are the successful people doing that’s different from the rest?
The answer is what I’ll be unpacking in this article.
(PS: I’ll avoid talking about tracking and goal setting, as you know these already. Below are more advanced strategies.)
Play the long game
Changing everything in your diet at once doesn’t work. Yes, you can follow a program and boost your energy in 7 days. You can lose 10lb in 10 days.They're seductive marketing lines aren't they?
Yet, they're black truths, as it takes anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form just ONE new habit (1)!
Want to stick to changes in the long run? Work in harmony with this rule – play the long game.
So, what’s the #1 habit you know would make the biggest difference to your health?
Start there. Make the habit small and achievable. Do it until you’re operating on autopilot, like brushing your teeth.
Making breakfasts protein based e.g. eggs with green vegetables and avocado (my breakfast of choice!)
Replacing afternoon sugary snacks with an apple and 10 almonds
Once you’ve mastered one step, add the next, and so on. If you’re the impatient type who wants results now, read The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson.
This book explains the power of compounding interest: small steps, done consistently over time, yield the biggest results.
Know your deepest why
External motivation, such as having peers walk alongside you towards a common goal, is helpful. Though knowing your deepest why will help you last the distance and be your biggest source of motivation. You see, humans have three basic needs: love, safety, and belonging. We crave love and connection. We need comfort and certainty. And, we crave belonging in our family, workplace and community.
Your deepest why is connected to one or all of these needs, grounded in what you value most in life. To discover your deepest why, take a pen and paper and answer these questions:
Paint a picture of you having achieved your goal. What has it changed most about you and your life?
What will you have that you currently don’t?
Imagine your unconscious mind, where your beliefs and behaviours are stored, as an elastic band around a pole. Every time you change something in your life, your band stretches.
Your band must be conditioned to allow the stretch to remain, rather than snap back to its original size. What allows this band to permanently stretch is to positively reinforce the change and make it your new normal. In essence - making the unfamiliar, familiar.
In a quiet space, sit with your eyes closed and breathe deeply until relaxed.
Next, visualise your life, as if you've already achieved your goal, in exquisite detail.
How do you feel?
How do you act?
What choices are you making that are different?
What else has improved in your life as a result?
(Here, you’re reinforcing how your results satisfy your deepest why)
Feel all those positive emotions as you continue visualising.
Set the intention of being open to making this your new normal.
Then, simply act as if this is your reality.
You're telling your mind that not only does this new normal feel amazing, it's safe (which if you remember, is a core human need). Visualise daily to experience a powerful shift in how you feel, think and act. Motivation will strike. Excuses will drop. You’ll listen less to the niggling voice that wants you to stick to your old ways.
Nourish yourself emotionally
Eating and emotions are intrinsically linked. So, when changing eating patterns, you’ll likely feel vulnerable, especially if you’ve been using food to deal with stress and emotions. So explore – what way can you manage your emotions that doesn’t involve food?
Examples: going for a walk, talking to a friend, listening to music that helps release your emotions, exercising or journaling.
Adopt an abundance mindset
Often when people change their diet they focus on what they can’t have versus what they can. However, this increases desirability of the avoided foods… even if you didn’t crave them before!
So, focus on what you CAN eat – there are many more options available of food you CAN eat versus what you can’t! Also, if you’re removing sugar/wheat/dairy from your diet and you’re saying to yourself or others ‘I can’t eat THAT’ – you’ll feel depraved.
Flip the script to ‘I CHOOSE not to eat that’. You’ll feel empowered by your clear decision, and release the power those foods have over you.
So there you go, 5 often unspoken strategies to help make your healthy habits stick.
Don't forget to make it fun!