HFG shows you how to change your lifestyle habits and create healthier ones that will stick – for good!
If you use a computer, you’ll know that when it crashes it starts back up again with the basic (and sometimes unhelpful) default settings. The same thing can happen with your food and exercise patterns: you find yourself doing the same things time and time again because that’s the way you’re ‘programmed’ to do them. These default habits are usually linked to a particular context or occasion, and kick in again whenever you find yourself in that situation.
For example, at buffet dinners your default habit could be ‘eat a little bit of everything’. Friday nights might be ‘pick up a takeaway’ or ‘have a few glasses of wine’. Restaurant occasions could be accompanied by a habit of ordering a rich dessert, even if you’re full, or eating everything on your plate to feel you’re getting value for money. A workday default habit could be waking up with only enough time to grab a muffin from a cafe, or skipping breakfast altogether.
Of course, not all default habits are a problem. When you consider the entire spectrum of habits that make up what you usually eat, you’ll hopefully find a few that are beneficial, such as choosing fruit for snacks, taking the skin off chicken, serving meals with salad and not eating the kids’ leftovers.
So can you change default habits that are problematic? Absolutely. As with a computer, it is possible to make a few modifications to transform and improve your daily food and lifestyle habits.
How do I reprogram myself?
According to behaviour change expert Dr Mary Grogan, the first step to reprogramming your behaviour is to consciously identify your personal values. A value is a principle, quality or state of being that is important to you. This could be strength, creativity, success or perseverance (see opposite for many more examples). Your values form the foundation of who you are (or want to be) and what you do (or want to do). Devote some time to thinking about your values, write them down on a piece of paper and keep this list somewhere you can refer to easily.
With your values in place, next you need to identify the current habits that don’t fit with those values. You might have listed ‘self-discipline’ as one of your values, but find yourself slipping more often than is wise when trying to follow a healthy diet. One way to fix this? Create a food diary and commit to writing down everything you eat for a month. You’ll soon start to see where the less health-aligned options are creeping in.
Study your default behaviour and write down what you want to change. The final step is to create new habits to replace the old ones. See the charts below for ways to mesh your values and your new behaviour.
Use this sample list as a guide for creating your own list of personal values and determine your new habits.
- connecting with people
- good role model
- hard work
- healthy living
- personal growth
- solving problems