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4 Stages to Healthier Habits

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Want Better Habits?

Do you have a health habit you want to change? Vowing to eat healthier foods? Promising yourself to exercise more or get more fit? Deciding it’s time to quit smoking or sleep longer or strength train?

Have you tried to set better habits before only to fail? Forget any past unsuccessful attempts. Accept that habit change requires more than willpower or goal setting. You need a tried and true strategy based on how we really behave.

Kymberly: I got to hear licensed psychologist, Neil Fiore, PhD, speak on behavior change at Rancho la Puerta Fitness Spa (“the Ranch”), when I was teaching there last week. Oh, those high level speakers the Ranch attracts for evening sessions — Just another bonus of going to Tecate, Mexico! I plan to make my presence there a habit! (Ya hear that, Ranch team?).

According to Dr. Fiore, a specialist in productivity, successful habit change is a four stage process.

Stage 1: Make Up Your Mind

Evaluate the pros and cons of the habit you want and the habit you are trying to leave behind. What are the risks? The benefits? What pain are you feeling and what are you willing to do to “kill” that pain?

Alexandra: For many people, the habit we are trying to leave behind is “eating food I know isn’t good for me.” What that really means is, “This food is not good for my weight loss goal, but it is good at giving me an immediate, temporary good emotional feeling.” So the habit to leave behind isn’t eating those foods; it’s eating them as a mood amelioration. One idea is to make up your mind to change that link.

Stage 2 – Commit to Change

Get back to Rancho la Puerta, Kymberly

Get back to the Ranch? Just gotta habit!

Kymberly: Make a plan to get from the old to new habit. Map out the small steps required to shift from A to B. Consider the distractions you will face. Become aware of each action item needed to transition to better health.

Alexandra: Using the example above, commit to writing down your mood whenever you eat. Not just your mood on foods you feel aren’t helping your long-term goal, but also the ones that are. Probably the biggest challenge will be committing to writing everything down! Write that down! Jacktastic! (If you get this reference before clicking the link, you are part of the Melissa McCarthy groupies club, and should definitely be committed!)

Stage 3 – Take Action

Kymberly: Decide where and when you will start the new habit. What is your schedule? Accept that you will face doubts and anxious moments. Then show up despite your fears.

Alexandra: Okay, sometimes it’s not so good to show up, especially if Ben & Jerry’s Americone Dream is calling you like one of Homer’s sirens. Your action plan would be to write down your food intake and moods and just observe. That’s it–observe what occurs. Interestingly, when people become aware of their habits, they change them without a lot of conscious effort (and the anguish that goes with it). Just as you picked up some bad habits without really intending to, so can you get rid of them. Obviously, it’s harder for some habits than others, especially if chemicals are involved (think smoking).

Fire those bad habits

Fiery redheads unite to fire those bad habits! From wall art at Rancho la Puerta.

Stage 4 – Have a Long Term Plan

Kymberly: Truth?! You CAN handle the truth!: You will have setbacks. What is your recovery plan? Dr Fiore highlighted this as a key component of habit change success. Those who fall by the wayside give up after a setback, thinking one mistake or one bad moment means failure. Happy habit changers have accounted for the probability of setbacks and create a “get back on track” strategy.

Alexandra: In other words, plan to fail. Because planning will lead to success. No-one likes to be bossed around or told what one should or can’t do, even when it’s you talking to yourself. Create your plan based on what you can and will do! Picture your road to success as having rest stops, not as one big U-turn. Changing habits is mental so if you plan to incorporate the slow-downs, you’ll think, “Aha, I was expecting this, and now I will move forward again,” which is totally different than, “Aha, I’m a loser because I got off the straight and narrow and therefore forget it.”

There you habit!

Readers: What new or improved habit are you currently working on?

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About Fun and Fit

Get practical exercise advice, your fitness questions answered, and cutting edge health edu-tainment that is accessible and doable from long time fitness experts, Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA. We have taught on land, sea, and airwaves for 3 decades on 4 continents. From writing to speaking, emceeing to hosting a radio show, reviewing products to teaching classes, we believe that little steps turn into big paths. Move a little more than the day before. FitFluential Ambassadors and award-winners both online and off.

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9 Responses to 4 Stages to Healthier Habits

  1. Tamara July 30, 2012 at 8:27 am #

    Habit I’m currently working on improving? Managing (and cutting back on) social media time! Just squeezed reading your great post in before I’m kicking myself off (okay, maybe in a few more minutes…)
    Tamara recently posted..Sexy, air-brushed fitness model photos: inspirational or disheartening?My Profile

    • AlexandraFunFit July 30, 2012 at 9:02 pm #

      I feel guilty about all the time I spend on SoMe, even though I’m paid for some of it. And I get really sick of sitting at the computer. I need a life!!!!!
      AlexandraFunFit recently posted..One-Legged WorkoutMy Profile

  2. Evelyn July 30, 2012 at 3:27 pm #

    Hey A & K!

    I’m working on a habit of exercising daily. I have had some setbacks and that has made me want to give up, but I refuse to do that. Back in the game I go, more determined than ever. Thanks for this article, I needed this. ;)

    • AlexandraFunFit July 30, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

      Well, Evelyn, we actually think of you as an inspiration because you are doing everything right. You have a goal and you have steps you take. You are creating a new habit and taking it the right way: forward forward sideways forward forward. That’s how it works. You are the success story in progress!
      AlexandraFunFit recently posted..Seuss WorkoutMy Profile

  3. Elle July 30, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    Great post! Loved it and can relate!

    I am currently altering my food choices and sometimes I need help cause it ain’t ALWAYS easy!
    Elle recently posted..My Monday RunMy Profile

  4. Jody - Fit at 54 July 30, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

    I have lots of things to work on but the 2 biggest – feeling better about myself which is my biggest struggle & always has been.. the other, less computer time – it is hard with so much great stuff out there but I need to concentrate on other things so I think blogging & stuff will have to suffer…
    Jody – Fit at 54 recently posted..Gratitude Monday & Pictures Tell It all!My Profile

    • AlexandraFunFit July 30, 2012 at 9:06 pm #

      Hey Jody, it’s so hard to imagine you having confidence issues when you are one of the kindest, most generous people we know. How odd. As to less computer time, we are SO with you there. We only post on our blog twice a week and can barely manage that with all our other commitments. We need a vacation from sitting at the computer.
      AlexandraFunFit recently posted..From Couch Potato to Studly SpudMy Profile

  5. Debbie @ Live from La Quinta August 1, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    I need to work on not procrastinating. Like I am right now. I am putting off projects while I read blogs, comment, flip over to facebook, off to tweet. Start a new post, read some more blogs, make some more comments, and so on.
    Debbie @ Live from La Quinta recently posted..Late to the Party (and Dog Rescuer News)My Profile

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