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3 things to do when you're off track with a habit



1 - be neutral

morality

You aren't a good or bad person because of how you eat, your health, etc. Our individualistic society will try to convince you otherwise, but it's bullshit. Social determinants of health are at play, and it's a real shit show out here. For the record, I just checked Google to see if shit show is one or two words.


self-judgement

Has intense negative criticism or tough love helped you reach your goals in the past? It's possible for some people. However, most people don't operate well under those conditions. Empowerment and intrinsic motivation generally lead to sustained results over tough love. I know it's hard, but try to be nicer to yourself.


be a good supervisor

Think of it another way. You make a mistake at work and your supervisor focuses more on criticizing you than exploring why it happened, what you learned, and what should change to be successful moving forward. Poor management damages the relationship and doesn't produce motivation or growth. There's absolutely a difference between unproductive judgement and honestly discussing what happened or didn't work.


See how it feels to think of yourself as a non-shitty supervisor of your daily actions and habits. Separating yourself from the failed habits gives you perspective and may motivate you because the interaction is less negative.


2 - get curious

shift your perspective

Curiosity is such an underused skill when it comes to changing habits. It goes hand-in-hand with viewing things neutrally. Curiosity is sort of the opposite of judgment. It shifts some of the negative emotions and opens up space for us to explore and learn from the experience. It also tends to keep us moving forward instead of ruminating in negative self-talk.

questions to explore

Below are things you might ask after you've veered off track.

  • what events or things were happening in my life when I was thrown off?

  • were these things in or outside of my control?

  • was I out of my routine?

  • what was my sleep like?

  • did I have any "all or nothing" moments?

    • example: I don't have enough time for a full 30-minute walk during my lunch, so I may as well not walk at all.

  • did I pick up on any correlations with dropping certain habits?

    • example: I didn't move my body much this week, and I was also really anxious.

  • how was I filling my time when I'd normally be doing x,y,z habit?

    • examples: scrolling on social media, working past regular hours, etc.

  • how was my mental health overall?

  • what part of your menstrual cycle were you in?

  • what feelings was I experiencing?

  • did I have a specific plan?

  • what could I have changed to make sticking to my plan easier?


3 - update the plan

new habits are hard

It's easy to fall back into old routines or habits because those neural pathways are much stronger than the pathways of those of new habits. Willpower is not a beneficial strategy on it's own. A detailed plan that considers new information you've gathered after a failure can provide you a fresh start.


do less

When you're trying to get back in the swing of things and find consistency, just the act of doing can be more important than how much or for how long. It's okay to move backwards and start smaller. For example, your goal is to go to the gym three times per week and you've been inconsistent. Just going to the gym is the important part. You walk on the treadmill, do a really short body weight workout, or just sit in the sauna and then leave. The routine part is important.


Doing less can also keep you out of the "all or nothing" mindset. If you haven't been to the gym in weeks and then convince yourself you have to do an hour workout, that's a lot of energy required for your brain, and you may choose to not even go. If consistency is your goal - do less.


the how

Logistics of a habit are critical and often overlooked. We'll stick with the gym example. You probably won't be successful if you're working with - I'm going to go to the gym three times per week. Other things that matter and should be planned:

  • when are you going?

  • how much time will it take between getting to the gym and the workout?

  • what clothes or other items do you need?

  • what are you going to do for a workout?

  • do you need to bring food to eat before and/or after?

  • do you need to schedule child care for that time?

  • what common barriers might come up?

  • how could you move through the barriers?



putting it together with an example from my life

A few habits I've committed to do regularly are:

  • stretching at least five minutes before bed

  • try to be in bed by 10pm

  • walk outside every day or on the walking pad while I work

  • two home strength workouts a week

Note: These work for my circumstances, and I'm not suggesting these are "right". Everyone is different.


Doing these regularly make a noticeable impact on my mental health. Within the past week or two, I've noticed I got out of rhythm and haven't been doing these reguarly. Let's explore.


1 - be neutral

Initially, I was disappointed in myself because I knew how good those things made me feel. I also had a flash of shame because my job is to help guide clients to make positive changes to their nutrition and mindset, but I can't do it myself? Okay, get a grip, Morgan. Therapists often have therapists, and dietitians might work with a dietitian for their personal health. You're a human being. I then reminded myself that the negative self-talk isn't productive and tried to shift to curiosity.


2 - get curious

Q: What events or things were going on in my life when it started going off the rails?

  • I stayed up until midnight one night doing work because I had a lot of creative energy.

  • I watched basketball past 10pm multiple nights, so I'd skip stretching before bed and get less sleep overall.

  • The weather was somewhat crappy, so walking outside wasn't always appealing.

  • I was out of my regular weekly routine for different reasons, so I wasn't walking or working out right away in the morning.

  • I'd been feeling extra lazy about meal planning and groceries. We'd sort of eat random stuff and it wasn't very well-rounded.


Q: What emotions and feelings did you notice around this time?

  • Was about to start my period, so my hormones were unhinged

  • Mother's day was coming up which brings up a lot of emotions for me.

  • The combo of these things made me retreat into my phone instead of doing things that I knew help me move through the funk.


Q: Did you have any "all or nothing" moments?

  • On nights I went to bed late, I definitely could've done one or two stretches instead of skipping the entire thing.

  • It felt like my work needed to be done immediately which sucked me in.


Q; What could you have changed to better stick with your plan?

  • Set strict limits on working times at night.

  • Prioritize sleep because that's the biggest thing that makes or breaks other things in my life.

  • Dedicate just 10 minutes to plan one or two meals for the week.


3 - update the plan

  1. Minimum three minutes of stretching before bed.

  2. In bed by 10pm on nights the Nuggets aren't playing.

  3. Plan meals for only two days at a time to avoid overwhelm from the planning.

  4. Minimum five-minute body weight workout twice for the week.

  5. Minimum five-minute walk outside daily.


See how much less I planned to do? Guess what happened after I stretched for just three minutes for the first time in days? I immediately noticed some relief in my body. It was like, "wow, I needed that, and it felt good." That set me up for good sleep and the spiral up continued the next day.


It can seem ridiculous to only do five minutes of something, but it's about getting back into the flow. It doesn't have to be perfect. You don't have to be perfect!


bottom line

  1. be nice to yourself or move towards being more neutral

  2. trade judgement for curiosity

  3. adjust your plan


If you are discouraged trying to find consistency with new habits, you could benefit from the Neutral Nourishment Program. This is a 9-week virtual one-on-one coaching program for you to start creating an easier relationship with food and your body. I'm launching this as a beta program at the end of May and will have 5 spots available for a significantly discounted price. To stay up-to-date with the details, sign up for my email list here.


thanks for stopping by!

If this blog resonated with you, I'd love for you to share it with someone in your circle that might also find it helpful.

xoxo, Morgan

disclaimer

This blog is for educational and informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of health conditions, nutrition counseling, or a client/provider relationship.


photo credit

  • sunset path photo - Morgan Hoover

  • light bulb - Nick de Partee from unsplash.com

  • notebook - Kelly Sikkema from unsplash.com

  • headshot - Morgan Hoover

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