Breaking Bad Habits Once and For All

by ADC - Gail

Breaking a bad habit can be frustrating.  How many times have you been determined to lose weight, only to find yourself slipping back into a bad habit? 

For instance, when you’re having a super stressful day and nothing seems to be going right, does it cause you to make a trip or two to the vending machine?  When you have an argument with your spouse, do you turn to comfort food?

These habits, or behaviors, that you revert back to when life gets challenging, are most likely behaviors that you learned long ago.  These ingrained behaviors just become an automatic response. 

Let’s explore comfort food.  Many parents use food as a way of comforting a small child who is upset or about to throw a tantrum.  After using food in this fashion for a couple of years, the child learns to turn to food whenever he or she is upset.  This same behavior continues into the child’s teen and even adult years.

Can these repetitive behaviors ever be broken?  Yes! 

It takes work, but it can be done and the outcome will be so worth it!  It’s a matter of teaching your brain to trigger a different behavioral response to situations. 

Here are some steps to help you out.

Step #1  – Recognize Triggers

During the next couple of weeks, pay attention to your triggers.  Identify the situations that cause you to want to eat unhealthy food or to avoid exercising.

Step #2 – Tell Yourself You Have Options  

Once you identify and understand your triggers, the next time a trigger occurs, remind yourself that you have options in regards to how you’re going to respond to the trigger. 

For example, if having to do a lot of paperwork at your job causes you to eat a candy bar and down a cola, then tell yourself you have other options, such as:  getting a drink of water, taking a short walk, or doing a few stretches.

Step #3 – Breathe

As you think about the various options, do some deep breathing exercises for a minute or two. As you breathe in, reflect on the options. 

As you breathe out, tell yourself that you’re not going to give in to the old behavior (i.e. buying a candy bar).

Step #4 – Choose one of the Options

As soon as you’re through with the breathing exercises, follow through with one of your healthy options. 

It may feel a little strange going through these four steps the first few times, but each time you choose a healthy option over the old habit/response, you’re sending a message to your brain. 

Keep replacing the bad habit with a healthy option, and your brain will start to automatically think of the new behavior (healthy option) instead of the bad habit!  You’ll then be free of the bad habit!

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This process can be applied to most any habit that you want to break.  It doesn’t need to be used only for weight loss or working out. 

Maybe you want to reduce anger, become more organized, or stop being so negative–apply these steps and change your behavior!

As you try this 4-step approach, keep us posted.  Let us know what your triggers are and the healthy options that you’re using to replace old responses.  We can all learn from each other.


Cherise June 7, 2012 at 1:14 am

Wow!  This is so right on, and yet, I never realized it before!  As a kid, I once returned home to an empty house.  I remember being almost hysterical as I ran from room to room hollering for my mom.  My neighbor came over to comfort me until my mom came home.  Apparently, dad forgot he was supposed to pick me up from school.  Mom made me choc. chip  cookies to calm me down.  To this day, any time I feel alone or hurt, I crave choc. chip cookies!  And of course, I’ve given into those cravings.  I’m going to try these steps and really attempt to change my behavior.  Thanks!

Libby June 8, 2012 at 1:23 am

I like the idea of identifying triggers.  I have gotten so mad at myself for doing super well with my diet and then breaking down and eating 2 candy bars, one right after the other.  It never dawned on me to try to figure out what was causing me to get off track.

ThinkPositive June 16, 2012 at 2:32 pm

It’s amazing how we do have the opportunity to change our thinking.  After choosing a healthy option as a response to a trigger for a few times, your brain really will automatically think about the healthy option.  We don’t have to be trapped by our triggers!

Cyndi October 24, 2012 at 11:42 pm

For the most part I enjoy my job. However, at the end of the month I have to fill out tedious reports. I used to RUN to the vending machine and get munchies…chips, peanuts, maybe a candy bar and of course pop to cope with the boredom of the reports. For the past 2 months I have brought in celery and carrot sticks and a low sodium cracker. I’ve been drinking 0 calorie flavored water. The first time I did this I had my doubts and really thought that I would still be running to the vending machine. However, it worked! I was very satisfied chomping on the healthy stuff and actually didn’t have the high/low from the sugar.

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