If you often find yourself halfway through a tub of peanut butter without knowing what happened, listen up.

We all have good and bad habits and are perfectly (and painfully) aware that we should “really stop smoking” or “finally start working out again,” right? Have you noticed that the further you go down the “habit hole” the more you want to change? Everyone and their cousin Fred is talking about health and wellness and the advice is flying, but getting rid of bad habits are not easy.

Did you know that we repeat 40 to 50% of our behaviour almost daily? Of course, plenty of those daily habits are neutral or positive – getting up and stumbling straight for the coffee, or grabbing your toothbrush after the shower… our brains are wired to repeat actions. So, when you reach for the cookie jar for the millionth time – your brain does not consider it as a task anymore – and you go on autopilot. Research from Duke University found that a habit leaves a lasting mark on certain circuits in the brain, encouraging you to feed your cravings.

The good news is that if you know the tricks, you can break any bad habit. Off course there’s a bit of willpower involved. You don’t eat ice cream every day and then magically crave Greek yogurt instead! Thing is, willpower is not a skill, it’s a muscle. The more you use it the stronger it becomes.

So, first of all, be intentional and start small. Make a list of things you want to change, and then pick one. Study after study confirms that it’s hard to maintain “big” changes long term. It’s never a good idea to go cold turkey. If you can’t go without junk food on a Friday night, pair it with a healthy salad or add a carrot stick to lunch every day.

According to the experts you should start “swapping up”. If you’re a buttery cracker kind of person, try whole-wheat crackers. White pasta lover? … Opt for wholegrain instead. Eventually tastes change and you’ll end up preferring the healthy option. Remove one bad habit with a good one. Cut alcohol to one glass per day and fill the inbetweeners with water.

Secondly, remove the triggers. The easiest way to avoid getting burnt is by not touching the fire. If you crave a cigarette when you drink socially, avoid restaurants, bars, or nights out with friends. Change the routine. Just for a while, until you feel comfortable with your new habit.

Thirdly, keep track of your progress. This will place the issue at the forefront of your mind and make you more aware of it. Retrain the judgemental brain and monitor negative talk. Replace “I’m fat” with “I’m getting healthy”.

And fourthly, visualise yourself exercising, being sober, or fitting into those jeans. The more you think about something - and do it – the more it becomes wired in your brain.

Substituting unhealthy habits with healthy ones rewards you with more stamina, better quality of life – and a healthier you.

And yes, you can do this.

Source: heart.org, now.tufts.edu, beautyredefined.net, brookenotonadiet.com, you-app.com/7-healthy-eating-habits-that-can-change-your-life-jamie-o, personalexcellence.co, zenhabits.net, webmd.com, dailymakeover.com, theworldcounts.com, psychologytoday.com, inc.com, refinery29.com, medium.com, womanshealthmag.com   

DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.