We are all creatures of habit but are your habits turning you into a creature?

Successfully changing your habits

Recommendation 1. Figure out what you want to improve and figure out how you are going to measure your goals. It is important to remember that goals might not necessarily involve weight (losing or gaining) or inches (losing or gaining) but might include improving your eating habits (i.e., eating nothing that is “white”) or drinking more water each day. Keeping a journal is really helpful to measure your progress.

Recommendation 2. If your goal is to change your body shape, take photos of yourself or have your trainer do so. This could be the best way to see change, since weighing yourself on the scales doesn’t give you a very accurate picture of what is happening within your body.

Recommendation 3. Set a goal for yourself every day. Change happens most effectively when you slowly break old habits and build new ones to take their places. Building habits needs to be daily to be effective. In fact, that is one of the reasons that exercise alone doesn’t work—doing something 3 times a week isn’t enough to build a new habit. That’s also why you can’t rely only on your personal training sessions to meet your goals. Your daily goals could include doing a workout, reading an inspiring book, practising a new habit, or getting in touch with people in your support system. Every day, it’s something.

Recommendation 4. Set goals that are doable, something that you are 100% confident you can do every day for 30 days (sitting on the couch and watching television doesn’t count!). If you set your goals too high, you will be guaranteed to fail. Work with your personal trainer. S/he has the experience to help you know what is possible for you to accomplish, yet move you forward in a positive direction. Unfortunately, many people “bite off way more than they can chew.” For instance, all at the same time, they commit to working out an hour a day, eating four healthy meals, cutting out chocolate, running a marathon, cooking more, waking up earlier—nothing less than a complete overhaul of their lives. Such goals are great, but need to be broken down into “bite-sized” pieces. Otherwise, you might be able to keep this up for for 3 days, or a week, or maybe even a little longer. But inevitably, you might miss a day, then two...then it all falls apart. You lose your “steam” and your confidence. You begin to feel guilty, beat yourself up, and end up going back to doing exactly what your were doing before: nothing. Instead, make it easy on yourself, probably way easier than you at first think. Instead of making an instant change to eat 4 healthy meals a day, try eating 1 healthy meal on Monday, Wednesday and Friday this week. Give yourself permission to leave everything else that you are doing exactly the same. If you can’t commit to that habit for 30 days, then try eating an apple Monday through Friday. Or take fish oil each day. Or switch from your morning latte on Wednesdays to a green tea, or water. Instead of setting your workout for an hour a day, try a 10-minute walk. If that is still too much, try 5 minutes. Each of us starts at a different fitness level and habit level. It is important that you learn to work WITH what you already have, rather than AGAINST it. Try to let go of the ego that convinces you to accomplish everything at once. Accept where you are and commit only to something so doable that you could almost do it without a lot of thinking for at least 30 days straight.

Recommendation 5. Practise only one new habit at a time. Studies have shown that you can successfully change one behaviour at a time over a period of about 3-4 weeks. At the end of that time, begin to change a second habit. If you attempt to change two behaviours at the same time, the failure rate is 100%. Learn a lesson from babies. Those who are early walkers are often late talkers; those who talk early often don’t get mobile until later. That is the “one-habit-at-a-time” approach, and babies weren’t even coached to do this!

Recommendation 6. Try not to fret and worry. Accept that change is going to uncomfortable. Only two things matter: What should I do today? and How am I going to do that?

Recommendation 7. Get a little help from your friends. Having a social support network can make all the difference in the world.

Recommendation 8. Be accountable to someone. Say out loud what you hope to accomplish and get that person or family member to work with you. You will need not only positive reinforcement for what you doing; you will also need a “kick in the butt” when required. Find someone who will provide that for you. Maybe the two of you can work together on your goals. Even better. If you have a personal trainer, s/he can be one of your coaches.

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