By Helen Everatt, Mission Nutrition, Nutrition Coach and Fitness Instructor
I work with clients to help them become a healthier, fitter version of themselves. Most clients come to me once they have exhausted fad diets, meal plans, shakes, smoothies, red days, syns and points, because, despite working in the first instance, these schemes are more often that not, unsustainable and their results sadly do not last.
So what is the answer to life long health and fitness? I believe education is paramount, teaching someone the fundamentals of nutrition, the importance and benefits of staying adequately hydrated, eating protein at every meal, limiting refined sugars and saturated fat, filling up on fibrous carbohydrates, moving daily, engaging in strength exercise sessions at least twice per week… I could go on. It is by no means rocket science, and all of my clients understand and are in agreement with the importance of each of these principles. It is the implementation of this understanding that is key in becoming healthier, for a lifetime.
James Clear, one of the world’s leading experts on habit formation and the author of Atomic Habits writes,
“Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.”
We aren’t always 100% motivated, we can often start a new habit with the best intentions, forget it once skip it twice, for it never to be repeated again. If you’re having trouble changing your habits, whatever they may be, the problem is not you. The problem is your system. Bad habits repeat themselves over and over, not because you do not want to change, but because you have the wrong system for change.
What daily or weekly habits do you currently have?
- Brushing your teeth
- Driving to work
- Taking the dog for a walk
- Go shopping
- Running the children to their activities
We know that these systems work, because you do them regularly, consistently, without fail. To implement new healthy habits that you want to do regularly, consistently and without fail, piggy back on these existing habits, and add on the new habit you want to adopt. For instance-
- Heel raises whilst brushing your teeth
- Listen to a podcast or audio book whilst driving to work
- Grab an apple to eat as you leave the house to take the dog for a walk
- Park further away from the shops and enjoy a longer walk whenever you go shopping
- Meal plan for the week and do the weekly food shop online whilst you wait for the children at their activity
These are just a couple of examples, the possibilities really are endless. I had a client who, after talking about this one session, sent me a picture of her diary. She had moved all of her school and nursery drop offs and pick ups by 30 minutes. Booking in the time to walk these journeys, therefore increasing her daily activity. This worked for her, in her lifestyle, what will work for you?
I am the queen of one-pot-wonders, when I cook, I do it big! I have an enormous pot I call my cauldron, and I have a habit of cooking 2 times, 3 times the volume of food our family will consume at that meal time. Over the years I have got making bolognese sauce, Mexican bean chilli, chickpea curry for 15 people down to a fine art. I have a cupboard full of Tupperware and box up the leftovers for myself and my husband to have for lunches throughout the week. Saving money, time and of course, being the healthiest versions of ourselves.
The amazing thing about piggy backing existing habits, is that the 90% of the effort has already been done. I was already going to cook dinner for my family, my client was always going to take her children to school, I was already driving to work, taking the dog for a walk… all of these actions are already happening.
My advice to you would be think small. Write a daily habit log, pick out the habits you do on autopilot and start piggy backing on some of those, with small, healthy habits, which, cumulatively will enable you to make enormous strides towards achieving your goal.
I will close with a final quote from Clear,
“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.”
Who do you want to be?