Pick Your Nemesis
“I am not going to have ice cream after dinner every night.”
A few days later… I get a small bowl and plan to not eat as much.
A few more days later… back to the same amount every night.
“I am not going to sleep in again, so I can work out.”
A few days later…I am so tired. I need a rest day.
A few more days later…who am I kidding, I am not a morning person.
“I am not going to eat any Girl Scout cookies.”
A few days later…I’ll just have a couple. They are only out once a year.
A few more days later…ate a whole box…in one day.
“I am not going to stay up late scrolling social media.”
A few days later…this is the only time I have to catch up on what I missed. I’ll give myself a 30-minute time limit.
A few more days later…how is it 1 am, already?
“I am not going to overeat this weekend.”
Friday night… “What a week! Just give me some comfort food and a good drink.”
Saturday night…The weekend is already a wash. I might as well enjoy!
Sunday night…Ugh, I overdid it, again. I’ll do better next weekend.
“I am not going to _____________ (fill in your unhealthy habit).”
A few days later… A little won’t hurt. It is all about balance, right? I can’t be completely good all the time.
A few more days later…“Crap! I gave in (or up)…again. Ugh!”
The examples could go on.
Darn Those Unhealthy Habits
Unhealthy habits. Those undesirable, can’t-seem-to-overcome behaviors you know you should avoid but struggle to overcome.
They steal your progress. They leave you frustrated. They cause you stress. They result in regret. They make you feel like a failure.
They have you asking, “Why can’t I flippin’ get it together?”
“If I could just overcome these struggles–the sweet tooth, being lazy on the couch, hitting the drive-thru–I would be in a much better place physically, mentally, and emotionally.”
Then you may start to remind yourself of all that gets in the way of your progress and you tell yourself you will work on it later. Later–when things in your life aren’t as busy and you have less stress and pressure, more control and time.
Then, a few years go by…things have changed in your life but new stuff keeps you busy and gets in the way of your progress. So those undesirable habits remain or get worse. You feel more unhealthy and further from where you want to be.
So how do you get over these controlling habits? Is it even possible?
Hope in the Hard Fight
There is hope. But I would be lying if I didn’t tell you it requires some work to sacrifice temporary satisfaction in favor of long-term gain.
You know it isn’t easy. Otherwise, you would have gotten rid of them a long time ago.
But they are not impossible to change. And you are very able to do it!
Over a decade ago, I thought I could never live without my favorite lunch:
*a peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwiches on wheat bread
*with Cheetos Simply White Cheddar Cheese Puffs,
*and a cold glass of skim milk.
Every now and then, I topped it off with a couple of low-fat Snackwells Vanilla Sandwich cookies. After all, I was raising a toddler while my husband was frequently deployed. I deserved a treat. Or I had worked out really hard that morning so I could afford the extra calories.
Then, there was also my daily bowl (or two) of cereal I knew I couldn’t live without. Oh, Honey Bunches of Oats! I still crave you. It is only cereal. It can’t be that bad, right? If I only had known then what I know now.
Two completely unhealthy, strong craving habits that I couldn’t imagine my life without and both were keeping me from better health.
Good news…I overcame them! It took some time, but I no longer let those habits control me. And so can you!
To start, envision what it would feel and look like to have control over these habits. How would it improve your life? Also, and maybe more importantly, envision what it would feel or look like if you DON’T change these habits. What does your future self look like?
Consistency over time will make the change. You must retrain yourself. It will take work. It will not be automatic for awhile.
How long will it take to have victory over unhealthy habits? I dunno. For each person and each habit, it is different.
You have to trust the process. And very importantly, declare victory from the start.
If you feel these habits are your roadblock, your nemesis, your enemy to success in your health and wellness goals, it is time to prepare for battle. Your wellbeing is worth fighting for.
I discuss this fight for your health and wellness in my book, The Warrior Approach Guidebook. Warrior is in the title for a reason. A warrior doesn’t go into battle without a clear understanding of what they are fighting, why they are fighting, and a strategy to overcome the enemy. We have identified your enemy as these unhealthy habits that keep you from reaching your health and wellness goals.
Now, let’s look at your strategy with these 6 simple ways to declare victory over unhealthy habits.
1. Fix Your Mindset
If you doubt yourself or question the possibility, then how can you expect to be successful?
I use this Joan of Arc quote often: “All battles are first won or lost in the mind.” It reminds me to declare victory in my mind, first.
You have to think victoriously. You can change. You can overcome your unhealthy habits. You can create a healthy lifestyle for yourself.
You are able and capable. Acknowledge that there is hard work ahead, but staying the same is no longer an option. You don’t like how your future self looks or feels if you don’t change.
But to win the fight, it is going to take more than shifting your mindset. You need to identify the cause of this unhealthy habit.
2. Fix Your Trigger
Many habits are caused by a trigger of some sort. Something happens which causes you to react a certain way.
- You get stressed out, so you grab a favorite comfort food.
- You went to bed too late, so you’re too tired when the alarm goes off. Then, you reset it for later and miss working out.
- After the second alcoholic drink, all intentions of eating well go out the window.
- You hit the snooze too many times and only have time to grab something unhealthy for breakfast.
It is only when you realize what leads to the issue that you can change what causes it to happen.
For the examples above:
- Find another way to deal with your stress besides eating or find a way to get rid of what is causing you stress.
- Work on ways (habits) to go to bed earlier.
- Order your food before your cocktail. This way healthy food is on the way and you can skip the empty calories in at least one of those fancy drinks.
- Move your alarm to another part of the room so you have to get up to turn it off.
The unhealthy habit trigger can change over time. What caused the habits to begin with trained your body to desire it. Stress at work may have triggered having a diet soda at 3:00 every afternoon. But after doing it for so long, your body clock knows it is 3 p.m. and wonders where its diet coke is, even when you’re not under stress.
This is when you have to do something about your environment.
3. Fix Your Environment
You have to set up your environment to support success. Especially if your unhealthy habit is uncontrollable.
Make the environment harder for you to give in to that habit.
- As mentioned above, move your alarm to the bathroom so you can’t hit snooze or reset the time without getting up.
- Take the social media apps off your phone or set app time limits.
- Have your workout stuff ready to go to save time.
- Prep healthy breakfasts you can grab on the go for the week.
- Get rid of something or don’t buy the darn thing next time you are in the store. This one is probably the biggest.
In the case of cheese puffs and Honey Bunches of Oats, I simply couldn’t buy them. They couldn’t be in the house. Even to this day, I don’t buy them. I know my daughter would like my favorite cereal. But there are others she likes that don’t tempt me. So that is what I get. If it is in the house, I will be tempted to eat it.
There are situations where you can’t fix the environment. This is when you may have to do something about your boss.
4. Fix Your Boss
When something has control of you, it is your boss. Think about that for a moment.
We typically don’t want to be controlled by anyone or anything. But if you can’t overcome an unhealthy habit, that habit is in charge of you. It is like that irresistible, unhealthy habit says, “You don’t have what it takes to be healthy. You can’t do it.”
I don’t know about you, but that makes me mad. Who do they think they are telling me I can’t?!?
I am the boss here. I am the boss of my health and wellbeing. Not cheese puffs, not cereal, not my lack of motivation to work out, not social media, not my job, not my relationships.
There will be times you will intentionally have to fight against the desire for that unhealthy habit. Fight not to eat your child’s leftover food. Fight not to hit the snooze button. Fight not to buy your favorite ice cream at the store. Fight not to go to the couch after work instead of for a walk. Fight not to overindulge at a party with all the goodies. Fight and not let “it” win.
You will need to stand up for YOU and say “No, [insert bad habit]. You WILL NOT BE THE BOSS OF ME.” Like literally, you may have to scream it.
As you do this, you will build those muscles to resist the unhealthy thing and strengthen your desire for the healthier thing.
You begin to train your taste buds to want something different. You begin to train your body to crave working out more. You begin to train your body to want better sleep and therefore go to bed earlier.
That is how consistency pays off. Your body starts to feel better, you feel better, you see yourself changing and moving more toward the person you want to be…the boss of your health and wellness.
To help take charge and be your own boss, you may need to shift your focus.
5. Fix Your Focus
Rather than focusing on the habit you need to remove, try focusing on a good thing to replace it.
Work on those healthy habits you need to incorporate in your busy day.
- You have an irresistible sweet tooth and could do with more fruit during the day. Instead of focusing on no dessert, focus on having more fruit in your day by adding your favorite fruit when your sweet tooth starts to act up.
- You have an addiction to fries and could do with more vegetables in your day. Instead of focusing on no fries, focus on how to get more veggies such as substituting those fries for a salad or other vegetable.
- You have the habit of spending too much time on social media before going to bed and would like to read or write more. Instead of focusing on no social media, work on the habit of reading or writing before going to bed.
What healthy habit could you implement to lessen your desire for the unhealthy habit?
Now, will it satisfy the cravings? No. Will it satisfy the FOMO (fear of missing out) itch? No. At least not in the short term. But again it is strengthening that resistance muscle, developing that consistency for change, and over time changing your desires and your habits.
Now it is time to create a plan. You may already have considered some of the first five “fixes”, but did you create a written plan for success?
6. Fix Your Plan
First, if you don’t have a plan for overcoming your unhealthy habits, you must make a plan.
If you have a plan or have previously tried a plan for overcoming your unhealthy habits, it is obviously not working, so it is time to change it.
Writing down a plan matters greatly. It makes changing more “official”, increases commitment, lets you think of things you haven’t before, and creates more ownership for the change.
As you come up with your plan, consider all five “fixes” above.
- What thoughts do you need to shift in your mindset?
- What triggers your unhealthy habits?
- What in your environment is keeping you from success?
- What or who do you need to tell, “You’re NOT my boss!”?
- How you could refocus unhealthy habits for healthy habits?
You may need to consider including an accountability method, such as a calendar, as a way to mark your progress as you develop your resistance muscles. A trusted friend, family member, or health coach is another form of accountability.
Having an accountability method is that extra stamp of commitment in your success plan.
You have what it takes to do this. You are a wellness warrior.
To your best health and wellness,