Break habits in 3 steps

You need to break habits - the10principles

  • Bad habits make it hard to lose weight
  • If you’ve been dieting for a while you’ll need to break habits
  • For 10 years I focused on willpower instead of breaking habits

Break habits!

My previous post explains that when you’re dieting, you’re not actually dieting.

When you’re dieting you’re building unhealthy habits that make it harder to lose weight.

Overeating, exercising to purge after overeating, weighing yourself and worrying about whether or not you ate the perfect amount are all preoccupying thoughts and behaviours that come from dieting.

break habits - start eating healthy

But don’t worry! You can break habits in 3 steps.

Break habits: Step 1

The first step is to be aware of habits you’d like to break.

Grab a pen and paper. Record the thoughts and behaviours that take your attention away from things that are important to you.

Once you’ve written your list, continue reading…

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Did you write down any of these unhealthy habits?

All of these thoughts and behaviours make it harder to lose weight and preoccupy you from your REAL goals. Click on their links to see why.

Over the 10 years I tried to lose weight I developed all the bad habits listed above, and more, without even realizing it! The result? My before photo says it all. The harder I tried the worse things became because I had the wrong information.

Each time I made one of the above choices I simply thought I had a moment of weakness. I didn’t see that I was ingraining self-defeating choices over and over again.

If you omitted any of the unhealthy habits listed above, add them to your list.

break habits - what are your unhealthy habits?

While you’re at it, are there any other habits you’d like to break? Are you a nail biter? Social media magnet? Smoker? Worrier? Complainer?! If you wish, add these to your list. Full disclosure, presently I drink too much coffee. I’ve never been one for moderation.

Preoccupation runs down a spectrum

Whether you find yourself, for example, overeating once a month, once a week, once a day or more, if you find this choice preoccupying, write it on your list. Any thoughts or behaviours that distract you from the rest of your life should be addressed. A stitch in time saves 9! You can prevent unhealthy habits from escalating.

Break habits: Step 2

Now you have your “Break Habits” list. Identifying self-destructive patterns is half the battle.

Choose a few habits you’d like to work on first. Pick one that’s highly preoccupying and one that’s less intrusive. Then track how many times you do this habit.

The length of time you run the tally will depend on the frequency of the behaviour. For instance, if you drink a lot of diet pop each day, like I did, run your initial tally for one day. Or if you exercise roughly once a day to make up for overeating, you could have a week-long tally.

break habits - tally your bad habits

Once your tallies are complete you’ll know roughly how often you engage in self-defeating behaviour.

Break habits: Step 3

You’re ready to break habits!

Cut the behaviour back by one, each week. Don’t shock your body. Work with it. Then the change will be lasting.

For example:

You weigh yourself 4 times a day
Aim to weigh yourself 3 times per day for a week. The next week cut back by one again.

You overeat 6 times a week
Cut back by one each week.

Once you set your goals keep track of your progress. Get a pocket calendar or use an app on your phone.

When you’ve improved these habits choose another habit you’d like to work on.

Continue to tally the first 2 habits you chose as well, to keep them in check.

break habits - build in accountability

Break habits: Troubleshooting

1. Gradual change makes change lasting
Take the urgency out of weight loss and you’ll lose weight faster! Even when things are going well don’t rush the change. Remember, it took me 10 years to lose 10 pounds because I tried to make dramatic change for 10 years, always believing tomorrow would be different.

2. It gets easier
The first time I stopped myself from overeating it was a total struggle. After that, it got SO MUCH EASIER because it was such a rewarding experience. Hang in there! Get over that initial hump. Plan an activity ahead of time, like walking around the block, for when you feel the urge coming on. Then you’ll be prepared. The key is to not overthink it. If you feel like you’re about to overeat just leave the house and walk. Otherwise you’ll talk yourself into doing what you always do. Keep in mind, your goal is to cut back by just one time this week.

3. Plateauing is part of the process
If you had trouble cutting back, don’t cut back again until it’s no longer a struggle. Give yourself time to get used to the change. This could take a few days, weeks or longer.

4. Be prepared to go backward
People who reach goals have one thing in common. They stick with it! It’s ok if you do something more one week than the week before. Record your behaviour. Try again. When you break habits it’s natural to take two steps forward and then one step back. Keep going!

5. Catch yourself in the act
When you find yourself falling into an ingrained habit, don’t say “I’ve already started, I may as well keep going…” Instead, stop yourself as early as you can.

break habits - I've already eaten too much

6. Understand many habits are interlinked
For instance, overeating can lead to exercising-to-make-up-for-overeating. If you see this correlation, cut back on purging before trying to cut back on overeating. When I stopped giving myself the option to purge, I was surprised how much easier it was to stop overeating. Each positive step has a domino effect.

break habits - interrupt as quickly as you can

For 10 years I DIDN’T break habits with these 3 steps

When my doctor told me to try to purge one less time per week I thought he was crazy. I wanted to get better NOW.

Rather than sharing my concerns, I agreed to follow his suggestion. But after I left his office I tried to get better my way, by taking an all-or-nothing approach. Even that way of thinking was a habit. Any other method felt wrong.

As it turned out, trying to break habits my way meant ingraining this bad habit for another few years. (I still thought making healthy choices was all about willpower. I didn’t grasp these self-destructive choices were habits.) As well, I used purging as a way to punish myself and to draw a line in the sand before starting another diet. More unhealthy habits! Had I followed my doctor’s advice I would’ve broken the debilitating habit of purging in just a few months. And a few months goes by quickly in the scheme of things.

Take the urgency out of weight loss! Dramatic change is short lived. Focus on where you want to be in a year and enjoy the steady improvement along the way.

Break habits then build healthy habits

Good habits are just as addictive as bad habits but are a lot more rewarding.— Success GrooveAs you cut back on unhealthy habits, start to integrate positive choices. If you drink lots of pop (or coffee!) try replacing the one you cut out with a glass of water.

Transitioning unhealthy habits to healthy habits helps you reach and maintain your goals.

Break habits like negative thoughts

Our thought patterns are powerful. What does the voice in your head sound like? Does it criticize your every decision? Or encourage you? It’s just as easy to get into the habit of looking for the bad or good in any situation. Feeling optimistic makes a world of difference.

Do you have a bracelet, hair elastic or just a plain old elastic you can put around your wrist?

break habits - like-negative-thoughts

Decide to take your bracelet or elastic off and put it on your other wrist each time you criticize yourself. This action helps you become aware of your negative thought patterns. Catching yourself in the act will help you break habits.

After making the switch to your other wrist you can get in the habit of saying something positive. To begin, tell yourself the following:

The world is full of people who want to break habits. But how many people are actively working toward that goal? You fall into a very small, proactive percent. It doesn’t matter if your “Break Habits” tally is up or down today or this week. The fact you’re trying and sticking with it, will keep you moving toward your goals.
– Your inner voice

Take care in how you talk to yourself.

make today count - the10principlesGet started! Don’t spend another day getting used to making unhealthy choices.

Break habits slowly. Then build healthy eating and exercise habits. A healthy weight will follow.

break habits - summary

Next Steps:

Are you ready to break habits? Along with cutting back on self-defeating routines it’s important to build healthy habits. Sign up for my newsletter below and you’ll receive one of the best strategies I learned.

Unhealthy patterns can take over your life. You can start to be a stranger, even to yourself.
“…when you’re away and I am missing you …”

But remember, you can break habits. You can get your life back.

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  Buy Now - It took me 10 years to lose 10 pounds

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Sharing what I learned makes those 10 years worth it

What are some thoughts and behaviours you’d like to improve? Do you have any questions about this post? Or suggestions for people trying to break habits?

By | 2018-06-08T15:51:46+00:00 June 7th, 2018|Build Healthy Habits|4 Comments

About the Author:

Hi! I'm Kelly. I lost weight when I stopped dieting. And I got my life back. Here's more about my turning point and why I'm passionate about sharing what I learned.

4 Comments

  1. Catherine June 8, 2018 at 6:43 am - Reply

    Am I a con? Because I took all the “bad habits” off of your list and wrote them as my own. I’m guilty of all those things. Its no longer a mystery why I struggle and am finding myself GAINING weight. Slow and steady. Your blog really is helping people like me save myself through “a stitch in time”. Thank you so much for posting your content. Your words and tone of voice are infinitely sensible and reassuring. Xx

    • Kelly Clark June 8, 2018 at 9:23 pm - Reply

      Over the years I struggled, I was both hungry and overweight. It truly was, as you describe it, a “mystery.” A frustrating and all-consuming mystery. But once I started focusing on habits instead of willpower, everything got better. Being able to direct my energy in a productive way allowed me to make progress—which made me relax and feel present. Just walking down the street and hearing birds, rather than being preoccupied by a diet, was a thrill. Slow and steady improvement feels good. I always say: baby steps don’t sound sexy but they work! Thank you for your comment Catherine. I’m so happy this post is helpful. But please know your feedback means a lot to me too!

  2. Marj June 18, 2018 at 1:22 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing. Sound advice. I did the same thing you did. I tried to lose 10 lbs for 30 y and instead gained 25 lbs. I got involved with the Canadian organization weight loss grants.org and Dalewood Health and Wellness and, while it’s tempting to mention the problems with them the reality is that I have been eating healthier, feeling better and have lost 20 lbs in the last 6 months. That was not happening with my previous strategies. Marj

    • Kelly Clark June 18, 2018 at 6:19 pm - Reply

      Your story and mine are both examples of why dieting is a recipe for weight gain. So happy you’re eating healthier and feeling better Marj! xo

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Never Miss A Post Sharing what I learned makes those 10 years worth it.
Never Miss A Post Sharing what I learned makes those 10 years worth it.