Why are habits so hard to change?


Why is it so goddamn hard to change things? 

You decide on a habit you want to change. Make a plan maybe. You begin. It's all hunky dory, exciting even........then bam! No matter how hard you try to stay on, you fall off the wagon and can't get back on again. You're stuck. Won't budge. It's so frustrating!

I had a conversation with a client about this exact topic last week. We talked about all sorts of reasons.......and that's part of it of course - there isn't going to be just one. Here are some of the reasons why you might be feeling stuck

1 You're trying to force it

If you only think you need to do something; that you 'should' [eat less X, eat more Y, get off your backside etc], it probably ain't gonna happen. Not in the long term anyway. Change comes from believing it's right for you and definitely NOT because it will make someone else happier.

You may be wanting to change habits that have been ingrained for the last 25 years or more. This is especially true for eating habits. So be prepared to be persistent. And patient!

You may have distorted beliefs; false ones, otherwise known as mis-truths about food, your eating and possibly exercise habits that you need to identify and work through before you become open to change.

You may need to change your perspective of what's important and best for you. You may want to move away from weight loss to nourishment, from restriction and punishment to enjoyment and wellness. In other words, get on a different wagon. Then you can set new goals that are aligned with you - it's vital you look at working with your body, not fighting against it. Doing this will help you work towards what you really want out of life

2 Lack of self belief

Change typically brings fear. Can you do it? Will it work out this time? 'I bloody hope so' doesn't do it does it. So you may well need to work on your mindset (this is a biggie; another blog and another cuppa), but in the short term, identify your barriers and get some decent support too! How can you support yourself and get others to do the same? How can you remind yourself you CAN DO THIS!

BUT be wary of the most common mistake many of us make - trying to change too much at once! Keep it simple. Really simple! Baby steps. One habit at a time.

3 Overwhelm

Life is busy. In fact it can be crazy at times. So choose the right time to do what you want to do - as with no.1, you can't make change happen if it's not the right time. 

But equally, if you never have enough time, when ARE you going to commit? You may need to work out exactly how you are going to create some headspace and free up some time.

What do you need to let go of? What WILL you let go of. Remember you are human and you can only do so much at any one time. Change that only adds to your current pressure and stress is pointless. 

4 Self sabotage

This is linked to no.2. 

Call it self-defeating behaviour or accidentally-on-purpose shooting yourself in the foot. If you set a goal, you can make sure it doesn’t happen with self-sabotage. Typical reasons to do this include:

A lack of worth - Be honest with yourself, do you truly believe you deserve to [eat better, get fitter, feel healthier etc.] Or, as hard as it may be to admit it, do you feel you don’t deserve to be well? Ask yourself this - 'do I love myself enough to......?' And it's not a fault if you recognise you need to work on this. If this is the case, the last thing you need to do is criticise yourself. Focus on self kindness. Be compassionate towards yourself. 

Did you know that people who have self-compassion are happier and have greater overall life satisfaction; they have less anxiety and fear of failure. It is critical for a healthy self-esteem too.

Control - It feels better to control your own failure than to let it blindside you yes?  As weird as this may sound, it feels better to stay in control when we know the outcome is the exact opposite of what we wanted. Have you ever let a 'cheat day' turn into a 'cheat month'. Even though you know certain foods don't agree with you, have you ignored the facts and still gone for it? Yup, self-sabotage.

Boredom - Once in a while, we self-sabotage simply to push buttons. We pick an argument to get a rush or release anger. Here, sabotage re-creates that familiar feeling of instability and chaos. Plus, if we’re stuck at the bottom, it can feel good to work your way up again.

Familiarity – we like to be consistent. Time and time again, we even choose consistency over happiness. If you’re used to feeling xxx, it’s oddly comforting to keep putting yourself in that position rather than face the fear or the unknown.

5 You're trying too hard to control stuff

Again like no.1, we can't force change. I know this from experience as well as it being known fact. The problem I had with eating was that I used it to give me a sense of control when I was losing everything around me. So the more I felt out of control, the more I felt the need to control what I ate.

But in doing so I underestimated the power of my inner rebel - you know that voice that tells us to do the exact opposite of what we are trying to do. Like not eat any chocolate or biscuits.  Which pisses our inner rebel off [go to self-sabotage again] as it thinks who the hell are you telling me I can't do this. Of course I can, just watch me!

So what have we learnt so far?

Don’t try to change too much at anyone time. Seriously, focus on one thing at a time. And if you’re looking at diet, focus on the things you CAN have, not what you tell yourself you can’t.

Work on your self-belief and if need, go back and explore your belief system – where did your beliefs come from? Are they true or based on myths? Because our beliefs determine our thoughts, feelings and actions. In other words, how we think affects what we do.

Be wary of sabotaging your own success? Do you believe you are worthy enough to succeed this time?

And lastly, do put a plan together! And review your progress. Check out an earlier blog about how to create healthy habits for more practical tips.

 Next up......why does it feel impossible to say no to some foods? I'm not talking sugar addiction or lack of willpower.....I'm talking tricks of the food industry that make us crave more. And more. And more!

If you think you could do with a chat about improving your eating habits or shifting your beliefs about food, drop me a message at mel@wakemannutrition,com and let's talk!



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