Habits — we all have them. Some habits are positive, and some less so, but what exactly are habits, and how do we successfully turn bad habits into good habits?
James Clear, an expert in habits and human potential, describes a habit as a behaviour that has been repeated enough times to be almost automatic. The action or habit comes about as it’s a solution to a recurring problem, or a strive towards a goal. (Clear J. , 2018)
For example, the problem might be that you’re hungry at around 3pm every day, and the food you eat is the solution to the problem. However, it’s the interpretation of what food to eat when you’re hungry that can be viewed as positive or negative. If you instinctively reach for a bar of chocolate when that hunger kicks in, and this isn’t conducive to your goal for weight loss or a healthy lifestyle, then this is pinned as a bad habit, or a poor solution to the problem.
Our current habits might not be the optimum solutions to those daily, recurring problems, so becoming aware of the habit or behaviour itself, and realising that an alternative choice can get us the same solution to that problem is key.
Weight loss is strongly associated with healthy habits as it requires a long term commitment to making changes. This includes facing these daily, recurring ‘problems’ (we prefer to refer to them as hurdles) with solutions that aid our efforts for weight loss or management.
We may think of weight loss as a number on the scales, or an overall image of where we’d like to be physically — in other words, a goal. But the benefits of weight loss don’t only begin once we’ve achieved our goal, they continue to compound as time goes on, as we implement our positive solutions.
The ‘once I reach my goal weight, I’ll be happy’ mentality can be a hampering mindset. It outlines that, until we get to a certain point, we won’t be happy. This sets us up for disappointment if we don’t reach the goal weight fast enough or at all.
Instead we need to remember the inserts of happiness that will pop up on the journey and acknowledge that happiness has already begun. (Clear J. , 2018)
Enjoy these moments of happiness, be it that feeling when you reach the peak of the hill you’ve always wanted to climb, or whether it’s being able to comfortably wear your favourite pair of jeans that have always been too tight. These are all compound benefits of the healthy habits or systems we’ve put in place to reach the goal.
The key takeaways here are to:
• set our direction towards our goal or goals (be it weight loss or maintenance, fitness or overall better health),
• set healthy habits or systems that benefit the direction of our goal (exercise, meal preparation, organisation, increased fruit and vegetables)
• And acknowledge the hurdles or problems that interfere with our healthy habits and systems and work to find solutions to these (that 3pm sugar craving, not creating time for food organisation)
• There is a tendency to regard a healthy lifestyle as an entire overhaul, when instead, small adjustments towards a better balance, or shift towards the equilibrium is all that’s needed. A handful of small changes can bring big benefits for our health and wellbeing. If we focus on adding one small and positive change each day or week, and repeating that action every day or week thereafter, the cumulative effect is a healthy habit, and the results will be rewarding.
- Clear, J. (2018). Atomic Habits. London: Penguin Random House UK
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Meet the Nutritionist
Our in-house nutritionist Emma ‘Edamame’ was born and bred in mid Canterbury and has the health and wellbeing of Kiwis in mind at all times. As an NZ registered nutritionist (NZ Nutrition Society) with a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Food Science from the University of Auckland, she makes sure we’re all getting our fresh dose of local veggies and our meals are full of nutritious substance – thanks for having our back Em (and our waistlines!). When it comes to New Zealand produce, Emma is a whizz, with fresh berries being her absolute fave. Intrigued to know what food this nutritionist couldn’t live without? Fresh fish and seafood, delivering on both flavour and nourishment. As well as ice cream, especially real fruit ice creams, in the summer time! Life’s all about a tasty balance, right?