We all know healthy habits can be hard to stick to. The New Year seems to be the perfect time to start them but often as the year goes on, many of us fall off the wagon and realize we may have bitten off more than we can chew! Well, the number one issue that most women have in my experience is not just starting healthy habits but having them stick. So in this post I wanted to share nine tips to start and stick to healthy habits. They have helped me over the years and I hope that they will help you too!
HOW TO START AND STICK TO HEALTHY HABITS
1.KNOW YOUR WHY
This is of utmost importance because when things get tough, your purpose is what will keep you going. There are three factors that help you to that end:
- Knowledge. if you don’t KNOW why you are trying to make a change and develop healthier habits, you won’t be able to commit. When I was looking to change my diet for the better, I used to get books from the library, read blogs by experts and try to understand why it was necessary to rethink my food.
- Commitment. Don’t make excuses. Commit to showing up for yourself whether it is to eat better, get more active or get more consistent in your spiritual practice.
- Sacrifice. As human beings we are meant to WORK for what we want in life. Nothing is going to come easy. Unless you want the quick fixes. When my health journey started, I was given hydrocortisone by one doctor to get rid of my mysterious rash, I was prescribed creams and toners by another to get rid of my adult acne and I could very well have kept that up. Slap on the bandage every time something showed up on the outside. It was only when I started treating the inside that my acne cleared up and my Hashimoto’s went into remission. I am medication free but I have to adopt a healthier lifestyle and hold myself accountable and that does take ALOT of sacrifice, at least initially. It wasn’t easy in the beginning but I knew I wanted a life on my own terms and not be medicated for the rest of my life.
So knowing the purpose of WHY you’re pursuing a goal helps you to follow through. And revisiting that WHY helps keep you on the path.
When I first started my health journey, I did not start all my healthy habits in one go. I first tackled my diet and that too I eliminated just one thing. And that was gluten. I gave up processed foods as well but I wasn’t totally off of the sugar and I certainly didn’t know that dairy was causing my acne. It was over time and with trial and error, research and elimination that I am where I am today. To do everything at once only leads to overwhelm. And overwhelm will lead to giving up!
James Clear in his book Atomic Habits mentions what he calls The 2 Minute Rule.The idea is to start a habit and doing it for just two minutes. No more and no less. The 2 minute rule states that this “showing up” will in turn lead to the formation of that habit for the long term.
I have recently started a deep breathing routine. I go out to my backyard to get some much needed vitamin D once I am done with my morning prayers. That is where I drink my lemon water, do some zhikr (remembrance of God) and then I wrap it up with a short breathing exercise. I am hoping to be consistent simply by showing up for just 2 minutes.
3.STACK YOUR HABITS
Another concept mentioned in Clear’s book is to stack a new habit with an old one to make it easier to do. I drink lemon water every morning and I have decided to stack the deep breathing exercise right after. This promises to make it easy to develop and be consistent with my new habit.
Benjamin Franklin once said “By failing to plan, you are preparing to fail”
Say you want to start a regimen for drinking lemon water in the morning. Prep for it the night before. Lay your mug out, put some water in the kettle so that it’s ready to go in the morning. All you now have to do is to start it. Make it as easy as you can and eliminate the number of steps that you need to take in order for it to happen. And there is science behind this, This is the 3rd Law in James Clear‘s book Atomic Habits, The Law of Least Resistance. He calls for priming the environment for future use and reducing as much friction as you can to make doing the habit easier because as human beings we are lazy and always go for comfort and convenience.
Meal planning is another great tool to stick to healthy eating through out the week.
5.GET BACK ON TRACK
We are bound to slip up and fall into making bad food choices. What counts is that we get back up and get back on track. I, like many others, have a 90/10 rule. I give myself the permission to eat unhealthy 10% of the time because I know I eat well the rest of the time. When I do eat badly, I always make sure I get back on track without guilt and self loathing.
6.SET UP YOUR ENVIRONMENT FOR SUCCESS
When it is not there, the temptation will surely be less. Now although this is a no brainer, there is actually science to back it up. James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits talks about the four laws of behaviour change. There are four steps in making a habit stick and one of them is to make it obvious. In contrast, if we want to break a bad habit, we need to make it not so obvious. So for example, if you want to eat healthy, fill up your environment with fruits and veggies, make water the easier choice to make by not bringing sodas and other sugary beverages inside your home.
This is how I make it work for myself and my family. If you don’t have access to something, chances are very high that you won’t be making those bad choices. And on a side note, stop beating yourself up about not having any willpower and control. Food companies spend millions of dollars creating these non foods to make them irresistible to you. They create cravings and make food addictive. It involves how your brain will react to texture, memories of eating that food and ensuring you never tire of it. According to Steven Witherly, a food scientist, Cheetos is one of the most marvelously constructed foods on the planet, in terms of pure pleasure.” So, food manufacturers count on the foods they create to bring you pleasure and finding pleasure in these foods, you crave them and keep going back for more.
7.CHANGE YOUR INNER VOICE
A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research on 120 students concluded that when people say “I can’t” to temptation, they are more likely to give in and when they put themselves in control, and say “I don’t” they are more likely to avoid it. Instead of saying “I can’t” when faced by temptation, use the words “I don’t”. Apparently the shift in this one word puts you more in control. Now this is something I am testing out since learning about this study. Give it a try!
8.HEALTHY HABITS NEED A SUPPORT SYSTEM
There’s nothing quite like a supportive circle of people who can help you stick to the plan and hold you accountable. When you are surrounded by others who have the same goals as you, it’s priceless. Try and get a friend to join you in your habit formation journey. I have a chat group where a bunch of my friends and I post every time we have worked out and I can’t tell you how many times I have found motivation to work out when I have seen a friend has done hers for the day. It’s priceless!
9.EMBODY THE HABITS OF THE PERSON YOU WANT TO BECOME
So this concept is also taken from Atomic Habits. For example, if one of your goals this year is to get healthier, give a thought to a health conscious person’s lifestyle. What does a healthy person’s food look like? They certainly eat more vegetables and they likely have better control on their sugar intake. They probably have good sleep etiquette and get at least 7 hours of sleep a night. Once you have figured out the habits of a healthier future you, you can then embody those into your own life and reach that goal.
Creating and sticking to healthy habits may not be easy but I hope these nine tips will make it doable for you in the New Year! And remember to give yourself grace, start small and seek help if you need it! Good luck! Let me know in comments if you found this post valuable and if you’d like me to write more on such topics. I want to put out content that will help you!