We all know that “change is hard”! And we know that change takes time. But we also know that making behavior changes can be very necessary to become healthier. When life gets busy and/or stressful, it is very easy to fall back into old, unhealthy patterns/habits. So we want to develop new behaviors that lead to long-lasting change. These behaviors need to be sustainable and be focused on habit changes for the long-term so that the new behaviors continue (even when life is busy and/or stressful). Behavior change (based on habits) leads to lifestyle change which will help you take control of your health.
So how do you develop healthy habits? BJ Fogg who is the author of Tiny Habits states that all behaviors are based on 3 factors: motivation, ability and prompts. When people are highly motivated to change a behavior and when they have the ability to perform a behavior, it is more likely that the behavior will become a habit. However, according to Fogg, behavior change cannot happen without prompts.
You are motivated to lose weight which is why you joined the program at Health Plus. We give you guidelines to follow and also provide tools such as recipes and information through blog posts which helps you to have the ability to make some behavior changes. At Health Plus we also help you set some goals to work on so that you can develop healthier habits which will help you lose weight and also maintain the weight loss. Using prompts can help you be more successful with your goals. I like to think of prompts as reminders that will assist you in remembering to do the actions/goals we have talked about.
What prompts will work well for you? Will setting a reminder on your phone help you remember to eat your snacks? Will having a water bottle on your desk help you remember to drink more water? Will having your workout clothes on the front seat of your car help you remember that you plan on going to the gym after work before you head home? Will setting a reminder on your phone to start your bedtime routine help you get to bed earlier? You may need to think for a while about what prompts will be effective for you. You may even need to try some prompts that aren’t successful before you figure out what is helpful for you. Once you find prompts that work well for you and you repeat the new behavior a number of times, you will likely find that the behavior will become more automatic. Practicing consistency and repetition with the new habits you are working on is very important.
In addition to using prompts, recent research has shown the importance of using small habits and celebrating small successes in promoting long-term behavior change. Let’s say that you have never tended to eat breakfast consistently and eating breakfast consistently is now one of your goals. Start with developing a small habit like eating something really easy in the morning like a small container of yogurt and a banana. Your prompt could be to eat breakfast right after you turn on the coffee pot to brew your morning coffee. As this behavior becomes more automatic, you can add another small habit related to breakfast such as having more complicated breakfasts like an egg white and veggie scramble with some cut up fresh fruit on the side. You can do the prepping the night before (cut up the veggies and fruit). The prompt could be setting a reminder on your phone for 9 PM each night so that you remember to prep breakfast for the next morning (and maybe your lunch and snacks too!). The next small habit related to breakfast could be to make some breakfast items for the work week on the weekends such as mini egg and veggie frittatas and Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Muffins (recipe available on the Health Plus website). The prompt could be to set a day and time to do the breakfast preparation. Using pre-existing behaviors for prompts (such as turning on the coffee pot) can help you be more successful in forming the new habit.
Celebrating small successes can also help strengthen a new behavior. When you celebrate the completion of a behavior (e.g. you ate breakfast while your coffee was brewing), you are creating a positive association which makes the behavior more desirable to repeat. So what can you do to celebrate that you completed the behavior associated with your goal? You could smile, clap, say a positive phrase silently or out loud (e.g. Great job!), do a quick dance, give yourself a thumbs up, tell a loved one that you completed the behavior etc. It can really be anything that directly follows the behavior and makes you feel happy.