Healthy Habits: The 5 step formula that works
Words by Phil Curtis, Body Transformation Coach
Chances are you've made a resolution at the start of a year to get in shape. Right? Some of you even used the start of lockdown as a health-kick opportunity! But alas, 3 zoom workouts a day is not always sustainable.
You may have tried several diets or workout challenges in your lifetime, but swear this time you will finally reach and maintain your goals.
Want to see real, long term results? Well then, it's time to shake up the resolution rulebook. We're going to demonstrate how you really can make the change for good, by forming healthy, positive habits that you can really stick to.
WHY QUICK FIXES DON’T WORK
Approximately 30 million people start a new diet or fitness membership every year, although some figures claim this to actually be as high as two-thirds of the UK population. Studies also claim up to 97% of people regain any lost weight within 3 years.
This demonstrates one thing – it’s not working. Can you really lose 7lbs in 7 days every single week of the year? How long are you really going to drink that green juice for? How many HIIT classes before you hurt your back?
We are being lured in by sexy marketing and false promises of short-term solutions that actually do nothing for our long term health and wellbeing.
GOOGLE ISN’T ALWAYS THE ANSWER
Most people start their search for food and fitness help via Google, where they’re faced with overwhelming results. “What’s the best diet?” returns over 600 million results! Where do you even begin with that?
Despite our good intentions to research online, it often results in:
- information overload
- conflicting information
- overanalysis of what we think we should be doing
- subsequent paralysis due to all the above
Subsequently we do absolutely nothing because, well, which direction should you go in?
A SUSTAINABLE APPROACH THAT WORKS
The industry has failed you long enough. It’s time to make change stick. People make resolutions because they want to make a positive change in their lives, it’s only right you have the opportunity to actually do that.
Drop the all-or-nothing mentality
The main reason you are struggling to maintain results is because you are trying to do too much at once. This extreme approach will only last until you don’t do something perfectly and then assume total failure.
When you think about it, it’s such a peculiar mentality. If you were driving and got a flat tyre, would you go around the car and slash the other three tyres? Of course not, but this is the extreme approach we so often take with our health - total perfection vs. complete sabotage.
This attitude never works in the long-term because life gets in the way. It's possible to make big changes for a limited period of time, but what they don't take into account are the day-to-day challenges life throws at us - a friend's birthday, a poorly child, or staying late at work.
We need to create habits out of the positive intentions we wish to take.
We often think of habits with negative connotations (picking your nose, biting your nails, smoking) but a habit is just anything you do without thinking about it.
Imagine forming a set of positive habits that not only improve your health and wellbeing, but that do it with ease. Want to eat more nutritious food? Make it a habit. Want to exercise more frequently? Make it a habit. Want to reduce stress? Make it a habit.
Work each element into your daily routine and thrive on regularly fulfilling those goals.
BUT HOW DO I SUSTAIN THESE POSITIVE HABITS?
This simple five-step guide will help you make a habit out of anything. This is the exact approach I take with my clients and with myself, and it works.
1) One Habit At A Time
When we want to improve ourselves, the only way to do it is to focus on one thing at a time. People are very successful with this approach, but when we try to change two or more things at once, our failure rate is nearly 100%.
Ask yourself "What's the one thing I can do right now that will have the biggest impact on my health?" Figure it out and focus solely on that to start with.
2) Make It Too Easy
Too often, we set ourselves up for failure by trying to do too much, or expecting too much too soon.
Once you've picked your new habit, ask yourself on a scale of 1-10, "How confident am I that I can do this every day for two weeks no matter what life throws at me?"
If you are a 9 or 10, crack on. If you rate it at an 8 or lower, make the action easier or smaller until it’s a 9 or 10. A simple habit you do regularly is much more productive than a challenging one you start and stop.
3) Do It Daily
Practice your habit every single day. If you miss a day, that’s ok, but wipe the slate clean and get straight back in the saddle.
4) Do It For Two Weeks
We are looking for consistency over anything else. Aim to be consistent for at least two weeks, focusing on that one thing alone.
5) Add Another Habit
When you successfully hit the two-week mark and feel happy with the consistency of your new habit, it's time to add your next one.
Keep performing habit one, but now pick the next thing you want to change, and repeat the five steps. If you don’t quite feel ready to take
on another one yet, that’s ok, continue with your current habit until you feel ready to add another.
WHY CONSISTENCY (AND NOT PERFECTION) IS KEY
You don’t need to be perfect, unless you are getting ready for a Hollywood role that requires you to have more abs than teeth. To get into absolutely peak physical human condition, you do need to be (almost) perfect.
But to get in a healthy shape that you’re proud of, that functions well and is enjoyable to maintain, you don’t need perfection, you need consistency.
Doing things right about 80-90% of the time is the sweet spot to aim for. And this five-step process will really allow you to hit that level with ease.
SIMPLE DOESN’T MEAN INEFFECTIVE
Don't let your ego get in the way and be fooled by the simplicity of this method. If you apply the five step formula consistently for one year, you will have developed a staggering 26 new healthy habits.
Alternatively, imagine trying to do all of them at once right now; cue a head-exploding emoji.
PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE
You will need some patience. We live in a world where we are becoming used to getting everything immediately. Amazon Prime delivers the next day because we can’t wait for our shopping, Netflix allows us to watch dozens of episodes in a row because we can’t wait a week for the next episode.
The health industry preys on this need, hence the countless diets and short-term solutions out there. We want results, and we want them now.
This habit-based approach will not give you instant results. But it will give you sustainable results. It will allow you to keep making little steps of progress, which in itself feels great, and to develop these habits to fit your own unique lifestyle.
Changing your habits in this way will result in that one elusive feat that the diet industry doesn't really mention. You will be in a position to maintain your optimum weight, nutrition, fitness, mindset and lifestyle without ever having to stress about it again.
So, what habit will you start first?!