Imagine a world in which you went to the gym four times a week, eliminated sugar and grains from your diet, and mainly ate lots of protein, vegetables and good fats.
You lifted heavy weights and threw in a high intensity interval training workout every so often. You didn’t have to ‘force’ or ‘make’ yourself go. It came naturally to you. You even looked foward to going to the gym.
You never had cravings or longings for bad food. Your diet has become so integrated with your life that you no longer call it a diet. It’s just ‘your way of eating’.
Now, ask yourself, if all the statements above were true, what kind of body would you have?
Your body would look considerable different to how it does now. I bet you would look lean, ripped and have an enviable physique complete with six pack abs.
I know this, you know this.
So why aren’t you doing it?
For most people it’s not because they don’t have a decent grasp of what are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods, or don’t know what to do in the gym. You’ve probably read countless articles on those topics before.
What you are missing is a process to change your behaviours. A system that will get you get you to the point where you enjoy going to the gym and make good food choices without even thinking.
The Power of Habits
At the beginning of my body transformation the alarm clock would sound at 6am, at which point I would wake bleary eyed and struggle out of bed.
Getting up and going to the gym every morning was not easy. I had to force myself to get up, having been used to a bit more of a lie-in (I wasn’t a morning person).
But I succeeded because I did the same thing repetitively. I made it part of my ROUTINE. By carrying out the same process everyday for 4 weeks, I was literally re-wiring the neurons in my brain to make this part of my day HABITUAL.
Fast forward to today and the habit is so ingrained that I now find myself waking up early even on days when I don’t plan to go to the gym. In a short space of time I’ve gone from being a morning grouch to someone who finds it DIFFICULT to lie-in.
And weirdly I feel a bit empty on days I don’t go lift weights. I’ve repeated the process so many times that I’ve switched from it being a PAIN response activity to a PLEASURE response one.
I no longer have to force myself or motivate myself to get my workouts done. My brain’s autopilot system is in control and makes it happen for me.
Habit is a powerful thing. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself why every day you go to the same store at the same time to buy the same thing for lunch. Or why you always brush your teeth before not after you shower. Or why you always place your phone on charge on your bedside table before you go to sleep.
Did you have to motivate yourself to do these things, or did they just happen automatically, without much thought?
You might even have had the experience of finding an object in the same place you always put it, but can’t for the life of you remember putting it there.
How to Form a Habit
The secret to forming a habit is pretty simple. You just have to do the same thing over and over again until you no longer think about it. But there are a few little tricks you should do to make the process quicker and easier.
1. Give it 21 day
People say that 21 days or doing a task repetitively will form a habit. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. A simple habit might take 21 days, but learning to eat healthy for the rest of your life is going to take longer. Give it 21 days and see how you feel. If you don’t think the habit has taken hold, then give it another 10 days and repeat
2. Don’t try and do it all
The simpler a habit, the more likely it is to stick. Break your habit into smaller steps. It may take several iterations to build up smaller habits into one big one. For example, if my end goal was to go to the gym 4 times a week in the morning, I would break that down into:
A. Packing my gym kit and work clothes the night before
B. Print my workout schedule
C. Going to bed at 10pm to give myself 8 hours sleep
D. Setting my alarm clock for 6am
E. Getting up at 6am
F. Getting to the gym for 7am
Each of these mini-habits feeds into forming the bigger habit. They may seem like simple things but that’ the point. A simple task is one that gets done. And getting lots of simple tasks done means one big task done.
I might spend two weeks forming habit A and B. Then work on C, D and E. Or I might do A for two weeks, B for two weeks, etc. It depends on how different the routine is to your current way of doing things.
If you normally go to bed at 2am then you might have to spend 2 months forming habit C (going to bed at 10pm), before you can even think about working on habit E (getting up at 6am).
3. Regiment the routine
Perform tasks at the same time, on the same days. When I wanted to switch from eating 5-6 meals for day to an intermittent fasting protocol (where I only eat between 12pm-8pm), I made sure that my first meal was always bang on 12pm, and my last meal was at 8pm.
I didn’t try and shift the eating window around, or eat my first meal at 1pm. I kept everything identical whilst my brain (and stomach) got used to not being fed every 3 hours.
4. Habit overload
Complete the task more often than necessary. For example, if your end goal is to go to the gym 3 times a week, then do a month of going every weekday. Once the habit is instilled, you can cut back.
5. Get a habit wall chart
Put up calendar on your wall. Everyday you complete a task during habit forming, put an X next to that day. Continue until you reach 21 days. If you miss or skip a day, then reset your habit counter to 0 and start again.
Relying on willpower alone will not help you lose fat or transform your body. For real results and success you need to program your mind with good habits that will magically FORCE you to make healthy decisions, even when you don’t feel like it.
Start forming good habits today by breaking a goal into mini-routines and then repeat each of those mini-routines until they become second nature. Over time you will develop a health approach to life, exercise and diet – one that doesn’t rely on willpower.
Want to know more? Read this in-depth article: