Mastering good habits, breaking the bad ones and beating the yoyo in 5 steps
I’m going to own up to something that I’m not proud of. I’m a yoyo dieter.
But I’m ready to put a stop to it, so I’ll be exploring 5 ways to tackle yoyo dieting using habits!
My Yoyo diet
Sometimes I am the epitome of self-discipline. My resolve is an unstoppable force. Even the mighty glass of red can’t stop this jet to Healthy Hannah.
But one little bit of turbulence – a celebration, a take-away, an exception to the norm – and my jet becomes a badly made paper aeroplane; flimsy and fragile with a broken wing headed south to “what the hell”. And there I gorge until Monday comes around. Always Monday.
The guilt kicks in. And, the horrid, self-criticism.
“You fat idiot. If only you hadn’t had X then you wouldn’t have had… man, I can’t even keep track of everything you’ve had. You have no self-control, you should be ashamed of yourself.”
Does this yoyo dieting sound familiar to you?
Between April and July I was in the best shape I’ve ever been in. The Mums’ Days Fit Club was going strong and I had some serious motivation (a looming photo shoot in a bikini as part of my Ambassadorship with Protest) but I felt good. Having that motivation helped but I also had momentum and a habit of exercise and eating right.
Then the photo shoot happened, the motivation moved on and the summer happened. I stopped everything, the pounds piled back on and I am soooo lazy.
So I just need to get back in that pre-summer zone, right? Do what I was doing?
Hmmm, easier said than done apparently. I’ve been trying and failing on a weekly basis.
How can it be so hard to do something that makes you look and feel good? Do I dislike myself so much?!
No is the answer to that. Do you agree?
We want to take care of ourselves. We want to eat right. We want to put our health and well-being at the top of our priorities!
…but being bad is so fun!
You only live once, right?!
That is the cruel thing about bad habits. In that moment your brain can come up with a million excuses as to why you should drink the wine (I keep coming back to wine because it is my vice that leads to all other vices).
“You’ve worked hard.”
“It’s just a glass…”
It is never just a glass in my case. It is never just a plate of Chinese or Indian takeaway. It is all the wine and the entire takeaway.
Do you have something like this where you can’t just stop at one?
Good Habits/Bad Habits
I am an avid reader of self-improvement style books, always on the lookout for the thing that will put a stop to my negative behaviour.
There are a few authors that I love and I’m a huge fan of Gretchen Rubin – she wrote the Happiness Project and hosts a weekly podcast with her sister called Happier… but it’s her book Better than Before that has really got me. This book is all about making your life easier and better through mastering habits.
Habits make life easier because we do them without even thinking. There’s no decision to be made, it’s just something you do every day. End of story.
The problem is that habits, as we know, can be good and bad. So while starting a good habit can be hard, breaking a bad one can take a lot of resolve! Habits are often triggered by the things we do in our day or week.
Tea = Biscuit.
Or in my case, Thursday = wine-o’clock – I’m off with Reuben on a Friday so it’s the start of my weekend.
So what can we do to kick these bad habits and start some new ones?
Here are 5 tips from Gretchen’s book for getting started…
End YoYo dieting: Mastering Good Habits
1) Tackle a few habits at a time
Trying to do everything at once is literally the highway to hell. It’s too hard to keep it up and you’re increasing your chances of a wobble becoming an earthquake.
Write down between 1 and 4 habits, good and bad, you want to deal with first. So for me it would be; good habits – exercise, healthy eating; and, bad habit – quitting the red wine.
2) Start small…
Or start big! The important thing is that you start.
Like starting a car, it takes a lot of energy to start a new habit, but once you’ve got going all you have to do is keep doing it!
3) Don’t break the chain (and Monitor)
Jerry Seinfeld writes jokes for 4 hours a day. Stephen King writes 2000 words a day, including Birthdays, holidays and Christmas. They don’t break the chain.
It’s also helpful to monitor what you are doing. Keep a food diary, take measurements, anything to help you keep track and see progress. The simplest way is to get a calendar, any one will do, and like the one below from Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist Journal, all you have to do is put a cross in the box and NOT break the chain!
While you’re starting your new habit you need to nurture it like a sapling. Get a fancy glass cloche and a couple of armed guards for extra measure.
This requires forward thinking and planning to be sure that if something unexpected (friends popping over with cake, etc. – not in my world but maybe yours!) or expected (holidays, a birthday bash or a Christmas party, to keep it topical) happens, you know how you’ll behave to protect your habit.
You also need to tackle those triggers. So for tea = biscuit, either have a new snack ready or ditch the tea for a bit! For my Thursday = Wine-O’Clock, I need to switch my routine around. For example, there’s a yoga class at my gym 8:15-9:15. That would get me out of the house, doing something positive and out of temptation’s way.
5) Kill your darling?
I asked before if you have a ‘thing’ that you can’t have just one of. Does the thought of never having it again fill you with fear and/or dread? Me too. But this might be just the thing you need to safeguard against!
Some people are able to have a little bit of chocolate or a single glass of wine and then merrily carry on with their day. These people will say ‘everything in moderation.’ That is perfectly acceptable if you’re able to moderate yourself.
Other people (like myself) are incapable of moderating certain things. Gretchen calls this type of person an Abstainer and for Abstainers it easier to just not have it [enter your vice here] at all.
But you may have to talk yourself around to that one!
I really want to take control of my actions, particularly as I’m getting older. I have a family to look after and they need me to be healthy and happy.
I have a few good habits to nurture and a couple of bad ones to stomp on but the key is to tackle a few at a time, get started, don’t break the chain and do some safe guarding.
The tips above are just a few of many covered by Gretchen Rubin’s in her book Better than Before, so I’d highly recommend a read.
I think the most pertinent for me is tackling ‘my darling’. The thought of never drinking again is utterly mind numbing, but it seems to yield a power over me that I don’t like and I know it is the root of all my bad habits. So, for those reasons it’s something I need to tackle. It is not necessary for a good time, I just need to grow up a bit and convince myself of that.