Let’s talk habits. Habits aren't a bad thing. There are good habits like waking up at the same time every morning, staying active, and skipping the fast food. Then there are those dreaded bad habits such as poor meal planning, neglecting physical activity, and not eating enough throughout the day.
Shoutout to the super human who has no bad habits! As for the rest of us, everyone has at least one bad habit--they’re inescapable. While a bad habit isn’t the end of the world, it could be what’s standing between you and that healthier lifestyle you strive to live.
Have you been trying to ditch some of your bad habits, but struggling to stick with it? Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and changing a bad habit for better health may take some time but it can be done!
The Four Stages of Habit Change
Before fully committing and making progress towards ditching your bad habits, it’s important to understand what stage of behavior change you’re in. Theoretically, there are 4 stages of habit change: contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance.
Which stage are you?
- Contemplation: “I’m aware of my bad habit, I think I want to change?”
- Preparation: “It’s time to change, I’m ready!”
- Action: “It’s been a few months, so far so good!”
- Maintenance: “New routine, new me!”
Stage One: Contemplation
Are you stuck at stage one still contemplating? Try jotting down a pros and cons list to get yourself going.
For example: You want to lose weight and live a healthy lifestyle, but you don’t make time to meal plan and want to break the habit of waiting until the last minute to find food.
- Pros of meal planning: you’ll make healthier choices, your meals can be bought already prepared, you’ll save time, and you’ll save money.
- Cons of meal planning: it takes planning and discipline, you might not cook all of the food you bought at the grocery store, it means adding another task to your already busy schedule.
Your pros more than likely outweigh your cons, so use this as motivation to get moving on to the next stage.
Stage 2: Preparation
Don’t discard your pros and cons list just yet! If you’re stuck at the preparation stage you may still need it as a reminder when you catch yourself making excuses. Now it’s time to make a plan and set some goals.
Sticking with the meal planning example, how about a goal of meal planning for the next 3 days? To make a plan to reach your goal, map out your schedule for the next 3 days and have your meals and snacks already prepped and ready to go.
Now that you have a plan, it’s time to get out there and take action!
Stage 3: Action
You’ve made it to the action stage, whoo hoo! You’re sticking with it and working to ditch those bad habits for good. Continue to set aside some time to prep your meals or make your weekly trip/order to fit-flavors for meal prep already done for you.
One reward of a thing well done is having done it. Now treat yourself!
Rewards are important at this stage. You’ve put in the work, go ahead and buy those new running shoes or take time to really enjoy that portion-controlled slice of lemon blueberry cake.
Stage 4: Maintenance
Now that you’ve ditched your bad habit and switched up your routine for good, it’s important to stay motivated and avoid going backwards. Keep it exciting!
For example, switch your meals up and enjoy new variety. Try a new recipe or a new seasonal fit-flavors meal that you’ve been eyeing.
Also make sure you’re always prepared for any unexpected roadblocks. Did you get back in town from your work trip late and don’t have time to cook and prep your meals? Come in and grab a few meals already prepared, or plan ahead and place an online order for delivery for when you get back in town.
Ditching bad habits is hard and no one is immune from the occasional slip up, so when it happens, don't be too hard on yourself. Instead, remind yourself why you ditched the bad habit in the first place, revisit your goals and pros and cons lists, and remember bad habits are easier to abandon today than tomorrow.