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Breaking Bad Habits

Habits can be one of the biggest hurdles to overcome when on a weight loss journey. If you are just starting out or if you find yourself stumbling, old habits could be the culprit. Read on to find out how to break these habits and finally achieve your goals.

English writer Samuel Johnson once said, “The chains of habit are too weak to be felt, until they are too strong to be broken.”

We all have habits- good ones and bad ones. Let’s talk about the bad ones. If you know something is bad for you, why is it so tough to stop? 

Habits develop when something that you enjoy trigger your brain’s “reward” centers. Unfortunately, many harmful things can come of this- such overeating, smoking, drug or alcohol use, and gambling. They also develop out of repetition. Do something often enough, it becomes part of your daily routine without you having to think twice. As much as 40% of the time, our mind is on something else while we complete actions automatically and we aren’t thinking about what we are doing. The process of forming a habit happens in the portion of our brains called the “basal ganglia,” which is also responsible for our emotions, memories and pattern recognition. We get stuck in what is referred to as the “habit-loop.” Once we establish a habitual routine, our brain is trained to expect a reward for the habit, so it uses the connection to replay the habit in the future. After that habit, a trigger alerts the brain to repeat the habit.

Dr. Roy Baumeister, a psychologist at Florida State University, says that his studies on decision-making and willpower have led him to conclude that “self-control is like a muscle. Once you’ve exerted some self-control, like a muscle, it gets tired.” He also concluded that once you have successfully resisted a temptation, your willpower can become temporarily drained, making it harder to resist the second time around. He has found evidence that regularly practicing, or “exercising,” self-control can strengthen your determination. It is not easy, and at times may feel uncomfortable, but it is the only way to turn a bad habit around.  

So how do you finally break free from your bad habits?

  1. Remove the trigger– For example, if you are trying to quit smoking, stop buying cigarettes or if you are trying to eat better, remove all junk food from your house. If you do not have the option to go for the quick fix, then you are forced to find something else to do or something else to eat.
  2. Focus on what you are trying to accomplish– Don’t look at it as something negative. Look at it as your first step to a healthier you, mentally and physically.
  3. Keep a habit diary– This will allow you to see and target specific moments where this behavior is occurring and can help you catch it before it occurs again.
  4. Enlist friends for help– Let friends know what you are trying to accomplish and have them call you out if you slip up.
  5. Repetition, repetition, repetition– Just as repetition forms the bad habits, it also will form the good habits. The more you do it, the quicker it will become second nature.

Remember, to take it one step at a time. Sometimes, when we try to change too much too quickly, we become too overwhelmed and end up giving up. Also, habits aren’t formed overnight, so they are not going to be resolved overnight either. Be patient and kind to yourself during the process.

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