Bariatric Support Series Part 13

#13: Modifying Habits

Have you found an activity that gets you moving and brings you joy and satisfaction?

If so – have you been consistently participating in your activity?

Let me know what you found and how active you have been. Use the comment box below to share your experience and any issues you are encountering

We are going to talk about habits.

We have all heard that it takes 21 days to make something a habit, but you and I know that changing a behavior is difficult.

Lifestyle habits are complex and require more time to establish and maintain. We all lead busy lives. Work, family, stress and time pressures, seem to take priority and exercise is the last thing on our mind.

The good news is you have the potential to make exercise a habit. Developing a habit of being active is a key to long-term success. Motivation will get you started but making a habit of exercise will keep you consistent.

The key is to start with a simple change.

Start with moving more. This new habit of moving more will replace the old habit of a sedentary lifestyle.

Remember lifestyle habits are created over time and not overnight. Take for example – teaching your child potty training. After Repetition and perhaps a reward, a new habit is formed.

What makes a habit? 

The widely accepted theory is that as a result of a trigger stimulus, you perform a certain behavior.

The behavior provides a mental or physical reward that reinforces the habit. The trigger is the most important part of creating a new habit. A trigger is simply an event that will jump-start an involuntary reaction.

Your alarm clock going off each morning is a trigger for you to wake up. You can use your alarm clock as a trigger or reminder to start your day with exercise. As you repeat this behavior your brain will associate your alarm clock going off with exercise.

It is much easier to develop new habits by modifying existing ones than it is to break a habit and develop a replacement one. It is very difficult to prepare and take action to change your routine.

Our bodies are resistant to change, so trying to change them takes a massive effort that requires a substantial commitment, both mental and physical.

As an example:  let’s say watching TV after a long day instead of having a light workout.   The stimulus is arriving home tired, the behavior is watching TV and the reward is relaxation.

If your goal is to increase activity, the challenge is, how can you receive the same reward by changing either the stimulus or the behavior?

Make exercise fun by including your friends or family.

It is a lot harder to skip a workout if your workout partner is committed.

As we have discussed before, having a support system in place will help you make exercise a habit.

Another idea is to set your alarm earlier in the morning and lay everything out you need for your workout.

Studies show that if you get your sweat session over with first thing in the morning you are more likely to stick with the routine. Also, unexpected work delays or distractions that show up at the end of the day will not get in the way. It is important to celebrate because you will continue things that make you feel good. Give yourself some credit at the end of your workout and tell yourself, “Good Work?”

Adjusting behavior doesn’t mean you need to have an all or nothing – you may recall from last session the problems that this kind of thinking creates.

An all or nothing attitude can create a vicious cycle.

Just because you can’t devote a full hour to exercise does not mean you should skip it all together. The whole week should not be a loss if you have to miss one day of exercise. Remember that a 10-minute walk is better than no walk at all.

Sometimes you can just alter the stimulus to achieve a positive result.

If you tried aerobic swimming and you hated it or you hurt yourself the first day of spin class, then try something different.  Not all forms of exercise may fit your lifestyle. Find a local trail or try Zumba and see if this gives you a release from the daily grind. If it becomes something you enjoy the hour flash by without notice.

Session Challenge

Choose a habit that is not helping you reach your health goals.

At this point, it really does not matter what it is –just be sure that if you manage to change it you are closer to meeting your health goals.

Now identify the stimulus, behavior, and reward. And make a change that you think will change the behavior.

Keep it simple and if it doesn’t work the first time around don’t worry.

Change it up again and try again until you find the right adjustment to achieve your goal.

No matter what, treat yourself kindly and remember that it is a practice that will get you where you want to be and this is part of what you will need to practice.