Another Nutrition Article About Habits
Written by Fritz Nugent
Great, that’s just what you need. Another article yapping about habits. Why are habits so important? Because they are everything. We are just skin-bags full of bones, organs and bacteria, walking around completing habit loops every single waking minute. Sounds bleak? Only if your habits suck.
What is a habit?
Habits are routine behaviors or actions that are regularly repeated without conscious thought or effort. They are often formed through repetition and reinforcement, becoming ingrained in our daily lives. Habits can be positive, negative, or somewhere in between, and they play a significant role in shaping our character, lifestyle, and overall well-being.
Positive habits are those that contribute to personal growth, health, productivity, and happiness. Examples of positive habits include regular exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, practicing mindfulness or meditation, reading regularly, setting goals, being punctual, and engaging in acts of kindness.
Negative habits, on the other hand, are behaviors that are detrimental to our well-being and hinder personal development. These can include smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol, procrastination, overeating, nail-biting, excessive screen time, and negative self-talk.
Some habits are good for us in the short-term and simultaneously detrimental long-term. Habits are powerful because they often operate on autopilot, requiring minimal conscious effort or decision-making. They can be difficult to break or change, but with awareness, intention, and practice, it is possible to develop new, positive habits and replace negative ones.
A More Detailed Dive Into Habits
Even seemingly small and innocuous habits can be incredibly complex. I often use the example of brushing one’s teeth to explain habits to my nutrition and program design clients.
We each have a unique way we brush our teeth.
Which side of your mouth do you start on?
What motions and angles do you use?
How long do you spend on each part of your teeth?
What type of toothbrush?
What time of day?
What do you do directly before and after?
Where do you buy your toothbrush?
When do you replace it?
When the dentist corrects your teeth-brushing technique and suggests you do something different, how well do you implement the suggested change?
And the big question…
What do you think about when you brush your teeth?
Do you stay in the moment and consciously live with each swoop and swirl of your brush strokes, and giggle at how the brush tickles your gums?
Or are you on auto-pilot, simply carrying out your daily teeth brushing habit with a blank mind?
Or, does your mind drift to what you have to do that day, forecasting a long list of to-do’s and shoulds?
Or do you mull around in the past, thinking about what you could have done better yesterday, or reminisce about a long-lost high school sweetheart that you broke up with because people made fun of you for dating her because her nose was big?
Whew! That got a little personal. Sorry about that…Shifting the Conversation…
I could dig into any single one of your habits. Pick one. Nutrition? Great, let’s do it.
How much food do you eat in a day, and why?
Do you follow hunger cues, or eat this way because that’s what you’ve always done?
When did you begin eating this way?
How much do you eat like your parents?
How have your eating habits shifted over time?
What else has influenced the way you eat?
What foods do you eat, and why?
What foods do you avoid, and why?
What time of day do you eat, and why?
Where do you eat, and how much time do you give yourself?
Do you eat alone or with others?
How does your food taste?
What other things do you do while you eat?
Do you listen to a podcast, or watch something on your TV, computer or phone?
What do you think about when you eat?
Similar to the teeth brushing example, do your thoughts drift to the future and your to-do list, or do you find yourself in the past, reliving memories of yesterday and beyond? I could go on, but I don’t want to bore you.
Instead, you want to talk exercise? Great! Let’s do it.
How often do you exercise weekly?
How long are your sessions?
What movements do you perform?
How many reps, sets, weight, rest intervals, speed of movement, quality of movement?
Do you train at a gym or alone?
Small group training?
Set up a camera and film/coach yourself?
What are your goals, and how much alignment is there between what you do each week and those goals?
How do you know that you’re in alignment?
Do you walk or perform other physical activity, and where does that rank in comparison to your time spent in the gym?
What is an optimal amount of training for you?
How do you know it’s optimal?
Or is it simply the amount of training that you think you should do?
I could go on for another hour, but I won’t. The point? Every single person has unique habits unlike anyone else. Each of your habits can have a neutral, negative, or positive effect on you. In addition, your habits can serve you well in the short-term and be detrimental long-term.
Examples of Your Habits’ Affects on the Short and Long Term
An example of this is eating on a road trip. You have been driving for four hours without a break, and are starving. You didn’t bring snacks. You’re in the middle of nowhere, and you see an In-n-out. You stop and eat a ton of food, and you feel better. Short-term, this was a good solution. You needed food to refuel so you could make it another three hours that day to arrive at your destination without biting your co-pilot’s head off during simple conversation. Long-term, continuing to eat like this will not serve you well.
Or perhaps you think that you need to train six days a week to reach your goals, and after ten months, you do end up reaching your goal of losing X pounds of body weight, but maybe you attained this goal so quickly that you are now burnt out or maybe injured, and only get to reap the benefits of living with your goal for a few weeks to a month or so before slowly letting all of your gains slip away. Once again, this is a sad and very common example of serving ourselves well in the short-term, but not baking a long-term strategy into the plan.
One final example is sleep-related. Perhaps you changed jobs recently and your sleep schedule is now very different than before. You are waking up early, and haven’t changed your night-time habits to allow for an earlier bedtime. You go to bed at 11 pm and wake at 5:15 am. Sure, you can live on six hours and fifteen minutes of sleep a night, but for how long? You certainly won’t thrive. Your gym goals will suffer. The increase in cortisol will slowly end up putting extra fluff around your midsection. All because you changed one simple habit, your wake time, and you failed to adapt your entire daily routine to allow for more sleep. Once again, you solved the short-term situation of adjusting to your new job’s demands, but you screwed your future self over.
We each have numerous examples of habits within our life that serve us well in the short-term while also having long-term deleterious effects. Many of our negative habits are left-overs from a previously stressful situation that no longer exists, or perhaps we solved the situation as best we could at the time with the limited willpower we had, and we knowingly or unknowingly continue allowing those habits to go unchanged in our lives. Identifying those sub-optimal habits and working to change them is extremely worthwhile to improve our lives in the long run.
How to Change Your Habits
All of those questions revolve around a single habit within each of our days that lasts only a few minutes and is surprisingly complex. If you wanted to change that single habit, or make a change to it, how would you go about doing so?
Here are some suggestions:
- Set clear and specific goals: Clearly define the habit you want to change and set specific, measurable goals. (aka SMART goals)
- Start small and gradually progress: Break down the habit into smaller, manageable steps. Begin with a modest change and gradually increase the intensity or frequency over time. This approach makes the habit change less overwhelming and increases the chances of success.
- Create a supportive environment: Modify your environment to support the new habit. For instance, if you want to eat healthier, stock your kitchen with nutritious foods and remove unhealthy snacks. Surround yourself with people who encourage and support your habit change.
- Use reminders and cues: Use reminders or triggers to prompt the desired behavior. This can include setting alarms, leaving sticky notes, or associating the habit with an existing routine. For example, if you want to start flossing regularly, place the floss next to your toothbrush as a visual reminder.
- Practice consistency: Consistency is key to forming new habits. Make a commitment to practice the habit daily or on specific days of the week, and stick to it even when motivation wavers. Over time, consistent practice will help solidify the habit.
- Track progress and reward yourself: Keep track of your progress to stay motivated and celebrate milestones along the way. Use a habit tracker or journal to record your actions and reflect on your journey. (Or, Mark the X on your calendar.) Additionally, reward yourself for sticking to the habit to reinforce positive behavior.
- Find accountability and support: Share your habit change goals with others and seek support from friends, family, or accountability partners. Joining a group or community with similar goals can provide motivation, guidance, and a sense of camaraderie.
- Be patient and kind to yourself: Changing habits takes time, and setbacks are normal. Be patient with yourself and practice self-compassion. If you slip up or miss a day, don’t get discouraged. Instead, learn from the experience, recommit, and keep moving forward.
You can learn to align positive short-term solutions to your personal situation with beneficial long-term outcomes. Is it harder to do? Yes, very. Is it also immensely worthwhile to do so? Also yes.
Individualized Invictus Programming
Do you want to work with Coach Fritz on your nutrition, lifting, or general strength and fitness? Reach out to us for a free consultation!
If you have questions about your unique habits, post about it below and I’d be happy to help you troubleshoot your situation!
-Fritz, the author 🙂