How to build habits for diet and fitness (Article 1 of 2)

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

Why are some able to stick to their diets and fitness goals while other seem to fail? Is it because those people are inherently “better”?

Not exactly. It’s because they’ve figured out the secret that… there is no secret! The most successful and healthy people have created good habits, relationships, and systems to fuel their lifestyle. They don’t do a transformation every few months to get rid of unwanted body fat or completely upend their daily lives. They instead utilize daily compound interest of small habits that lead to long term and lasting change.

This doesn’t make them superheroes and it doesn’t mean they don’t falter or fail. It simply means that when they do make mistakes, they have habits built to quickly revert back to better choices. They have systems to recover instead of spiraling.

So how do you create better habits? Read on to find out!

Start Small. Change can feel overwhelming, especially when attempting several things at once. Start with one small change, and then build from there.

What: Choose one behavior at a time to work on and make it specific.

Why: When we are specific with our goals (INSERT GOALS LINK), it’s easier to track our progress. When we track our progress, we can see evidence of our growth, and as we experience small successes, we are more motivated to keep going.

How: Incorporate one new behavior into your existing routine. Attach it to something you already do so it doesn’t seem like an additional task.

Examples:

  • Walk for 15 minutes instead of 10 minutes.

  • Go to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual.

  • Eat 1 cup of vegetables at dinner instead of a ½ cup.

Be Your Own Ally. Make the habit-forming process as effortless as possible by working on behalf of yourself, rather than against yourself.

What: Create an environment that supports your habit-forming efforts.

Why: We naturally gravitate toward the path of least resistance. If good habits require minimal effort, we are more likely to engage in those good habits.

How: Surround yourself with the people and things that will help you shape your desired habits. Eliminate temptations and distractions that may hinder your efforts.

Example

  • Remove junk food from the house so it isn’t within arm’s reach.

  • Spend one day per week meal-prepping so you can have grab-and-go meals during the week, rather than buying fast food or skipping meals.

  • Lay out your workout gear the night before so you can get extra rest in the morning.

Plan for Setbacks. Be proactive, not reactive! Obstacles are bound to pop up with any endeavor. While we can’t necessarily predict what, exactly, might go wrong, we can still anticipate factors that might interfere with our original plan.

What: Create a back-up plan for situations in case things don’t go as expected.

Why: If you have a back-up plan in place, then you can still follow through on our intentions, even if things go sideways. Rely your plans, not your excuses!

How: Brainstorm potential setbacks, obstacles, or temptations that may come up in a specific situation, and develop an alternative course of action for completing the task.

Example

  • Forgot your food at home? Have a few snacks already at the office that will be able to fulfill you for the day or know how to eat out at local restaurants to stay on track

  • All the treadmills are being used? Have a workout prepped for another machine.

Collect Evidence. The best way to know if you are progressing is to track your behaviors. No matter how significant or insignificant your efforts might seem, record them daily. Every data point matters.

What: Write down the specific behaviors demonstrated in a given situation and indicate how it either supported or interfered with the formation of a desired habit. Failure is not a problem, but simply a data point to learn from.

Why: By tracking our daily efforts we can collect evidence of our progress. By reviewing our data bank, we can start to notice behavioral patterns, areas of growth and challenges we still face. With this information, we can learn and modify our behaviors as needed.

How: Keep a journal. Make notes on your phone. Create a template on your computer and make a daily entry. Save voice notes documenting your daily efforts.

Examples:

  • Did you order a salad instead of fries? Great! Write down any & all food swaps that day.

  • Record the reps, sets, & weight for each of your lifts, or steps walked for your workout.

  • Make note of every temptation you decline, such as alcohol, dessert, or tobacco, and indicate what you did instead. Celebrate these small victories as they add up!

Know Your Why: Before developing a new habit, it’s important to consider whether the habit is worth pursuing and why. What purpose will it serve in the short-term? In the long-term? This sense of purpose can help sustain our efforts, especially when times get tough.

What: Identify why this habit is important to you, and why it’s worth pursuing.

Why: Without a sense of direction or intention, our efforts can feel empty or worthless. Some days we’ll feel off, unmotivated, discouraged, or bored, but knowing why we chose to develop this habit in the first place can help us to reinvest in our process and get back to work.

How: Keep the bigger picture in mind, and let that be your driving force, always. Allow your mission to be greater than your temporary feelings.

Examples:

  • “I usually buy take-out food because it’s quick and easy, but I have a deployment coming up. I want to develop better eating habits to fuel myself properly so I can complete the mission. On top of that, I want to set a good example for my family to follow so we can lead healthy lives.”

  • “I hate doing core workouts, but I know a strong core is really important for optimal performance, and I want to be in peak shape so I can do my job more effectively. I’ll start incorporating 15 minutes of core exercises into my usual training plan.”

Stay Accountable. Developing new habits can be tedious. Often, one slip-up can quickly turn into two, or three and any progress we made is quickly lost. Staying accountable to ourselves is critical because nobody else can do the work for us. If we want to achieve something, then we have to put in the work, which is another reason to know our “why”.

What: Establish accountability measures to make sure your daily efforts stay on track.

Why: Without accountability measures, there is no standard to which we are held. Without a behavioral standard, it’s easy to make excuses for a lack of effort or commitment.

How: Write down your intentions for the day, every day. Tell your coach, friend or family member the habit you want to improve and share the one step you’re taking today to make it happen.

Examples:

  • Keep a journal (your phone is an easy way to do this) in which you write down daily intentions as well as track your habits, food and emotions.

  • Email, call or Zoom with a Powell Performance coach to go over your goals and habits.

  • Communicate with your spouse or friend what habit you are working on that week and ask for their support and accountability

Honor Your Values Every Day. Emotions are temporary. Frustration, fatigue, or boredom can tempt us to act in ways that may not be in our best interest long-term. That’s why it’s important to know what we value and what it takes for us to uphold those values every day. Your values stem from your core, so do you take daily stock in what they are ? Remember, your values represent the type of person you want to be known as and the things you want to be remembered for.

What: Know what you value and what your values look like in action.

Why: Our values remain steady despite ever-changing circumstances. Our emotions, however, change constantly. We don’t want to make decisions based on things that change. Instead, consistent actions based on consistent values leads to consistent improvement.

How: Create a list of your top values. Now underneath or next to each one on the list, write down behaviors that represent those values. This list becomes the behavioral standards you strive to follow, regardless of the circumstances.

Examples:

  • “I value my physical fitness, so I am going to complete my workout today, even though I really feel like being lazy.”

  • “I value being a great parent, so I will set the example of a healthy lifestyle for my kids”

“I value my time, so I will meal prep on Sundays for the week and workout in the morning 3x’s/week.”

Want to learn more about how to start building better daily habits and have a staff of dietitians, coaches and counselors to help be your allies? Click here to speak with our staff and get more help on your journey today!

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