A habit is quite simply a routine that we do almost automatically with little to no conscious effort. Our daily lives are made up of hundreds, if not thousands, of these little automatic routines (or habits). They come in all shapes and sizes, some are simple like putting your left sock on before your right or they can be good habits like brushing your teeth; or not so great… like snacking.
All of these habits occur because we repeated them over and over again until it become automatic. It became a habit. Now you could argue that smoking is addictive and therefore a more potent habit than say putting on your socks and I am not going to argue with that point today. I just wanted to illustrate the different types of habits that make up our daily lives.
As these habits are automatic and take very little conscious effort or willpower to get done, it’s safe to say that if we could make picking up an apple as automatic as reaching for a biscuit; or going for a run as automatic as watching tv we would all be a little healthier, fitter and happier (yes exercise makes you happy). The problem is that for most of us it’s not an automatic routine or a formed habit….well not yet anyway!
Most of the people I talk to have a pretty good idea of why they should exercise and what foods are generally good for them but yet they still struggle with doing what they know is right….Sound familiar?
It’s not that we don’t know what to do we just don’t know how to make it part of our daily lives. Sure we can start an epic new gym routine that will have us super toned for summer, or maybe cut out carbs to just get this weight moving ….well at least for a little while, but eventually life throws a curveball…a friends birthday….that big work event…our favourite wine goes on SALE and we stumble and like a house made of cards it all comes crashing down.
I don’t know about you but I lost count of the times I said the words “Tomorrow I’m starting afresh, this time I will stick it out!”.
In a desperate plea to get results we attempt to make huge changes to how we eat, exercise and live then get depressed when it doesn’t work. Think about it this way; If I wiped your memory clean and tomorrow you had to start afresh with none of your automatic habits to guide you through your day it would be a labyrinth of choices and decisions just to get yourself up, ready for work and to the office in time. You take for granted how you just get in your car and drive without much conscious thought, but yet, when you first learned to drive it took every ounce of concentration to just get the clutch control right when pulling away.
We need to stop trying to change our lives in one huge attempt but rather focus on building one small habit at a time. If you don’t know how to start a car then trying to pass your driving test is going to really suck. Sure some of you might stick it out (very small percentage) but most of us, myself included will get disheartened and disappointed and simply quit.
Well I promised you three daily habits for getting lean and strong and here they are. Each one starts small but don’t underestimate the potential stored within each and every one of them. Just like learning to start your car, they sound insignificant by themselves, but become essential when combined with other habits. Just like finding that clutch control and passing your test!
Eat Slowly and stop when you feel satisfied
Learning to slow down when eating is a great way to help reduce the total amount of calories you eat on a daily basis. By slowing down you are able to better listen to your hungry and appetite cues and to stop when you feel satisfied instead of eating past this point and feeling stuffed. This habit requires you to pay more attention when eating. If you are distracted when you’re eating e.g. watching tv, working or in deep conversation, then you are not paying attention to hunger and appetite cues, resulting in you eating more than you need to.
For others, paying attention to feeling satisfied is a habit in itself, often I will speak with clients who eat a meal then an hour later they find themselves snacking (not normally a great snack either) because they are hungry again. They are not eating until satisfied and therefore should eat a slightly bigger meal for example adding more vegetables to ensure they feel fuller for longer and avoid the extra snacks.
Eat a complete source of protein with each meal
Usually people are pretty smart when it comes to food and know that they should eat more protein, yet when I look at food diaries or talk with people about nutrition, protein always comes in low and in some cases really low.
Protein plays an important role with helping your body recover from exercise, stimulating your metabolism, improving lean muscle and reducing body fat. So pretty important, right?
The guys over at Precision Nutrition (the global nutrition experts with whom I am proud to have qualified) have a great system for measuring how much protein we should have in each meal. The cool thing is you don’t need to weigh your food or do any last minute mathematics, you just need to make a fist.
Ladies should aim for fist size portion of protein with each meal
Gents should aim for two fist size portions of protein with each meal
Eat vegetables with each meal
Eating more vegetables is good for me? I know I couldn’t believe it either! Just kidding. I am pretty sure I am not the first person beyond your mother to tell you to eat your greens but I am telling you again. Why? Because:
Sorry I couldn’t help myself with that one. All those green, yellow, red and orange vegetables come packed with cancer fighting, free radical destroying and acid- neutralising vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that will not only help your body look great on the outside but keeping you fighting fit on the inside.
In addition, vegetables are not very energy dense, so you get a lot more on your plate with less calories than, say, rice or fruit and you have an awesome one-two combo for getting lean and strong.
We should be aiming to eat 2-3 portions of vegetables with each meal.
*½ cup of raw chopped vegetables or 1 cup of, leafy greens is equal to one portion.
How to use these habits
Now it’s time to take one of these habits for a test drive. I would like you to pick just ONE of the three habits listed above and experiment with it for the next 21-days. Get yourself a flashcard or create a new note in your phone (although I personally prefer something hand written that I can take with me daily) and keep a tally of every time you successfully deploy your new habit. If you pick “Eat a complete source of protein with each meal” for example, you could have a potential 63 tally marks (three meals a day for 21-days). Aim for at least 80% adherence to your new habit (that’s 50 tally marks) and see how you get on. If, after 21-days, it’s feeling pretty easy and natural maybe it’s time to add your next new habit. On the other hand, if you really struggled (regardless of total score) maybe spend a few more weeks building on that habit before adding anything new.
The second part of the experiment is to record how you’re feeling each week. Take five minutes at the end of each week to write down in a few simple words how you feel. Did it feel easy? or hard? Maybe you felt more hungry or noticed a real craving for sugar? There is no wrong or right answers just make a weekly record of how you felt with your habit experiment.
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