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!
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.