How to break a bad habit | Step 3

How to break a bad habit 3This is the third post in my How to break a bad habit series. You can see Step 1 here and Step 2 here. So far we’ve identified why we have our bad habits in the first place and made the decision to stop. A much harder decision to make than you’d think!

One of the main reasons it’s so hard to really, truly decide to end a bad habit is that we forget to focus on the habit itself. Instead, we put all our energies into hating the outcomes of habits and not on changing the pattern of behaviours that led us there in the first place. This is where Step 3 comes into play.

How to break a bad habit

How to break a bad habit - step 3 outcomes

Step 3. Change habits not outcomes

Here’s the thing: being fat is not a habit, it’s an outcome of lots of little habits showing up on your body (I think we all know that there is no such thing as ‘secret’ chocolate eating). Biting your fingernails might be a habit, but it might also be an outcome of not coping when you’re feeling anxious and needing comfort. Not getting enough exercise isn’t a habit, but watching too much TV or driving the car everywhere or taking the lift instead of the stairs – these are all bad habits that stop us from getting enough exercise.

Be mindful of exactly what you are trying to change. “Drinking too much alcohol” isn’t necessarily a bad habit, rather it’s the outcome of pouring yourself three glasses each evening instead of one or spending all night at the pub with your mates each weekend.

“Being in debt all the time” isn’t the habit, “shopping for clothes every Saturday” and “using my credit card when I’ve got nothing in the bank” and “buying things for my house that I don’t need” are the habits.

“Eating too much junk food” is just the outcome of your bad habit of buying too much junk food. You get the idea.

If you want to lose weight, don’t tackle your ‘weight issue’ — man, if you’re anything like me, that’s definitely trying to eat the elephant whole. Rather, eat the elephant one bite at a time by tackling one bad habit at a time. Break down the elephant in the room into smaller bite-size portions. The great news is, if we change our habits we can change our outcomes!

Here’s my strategy for tackling my weight via tackling my bad habits:

  • Start eating breakfast every day
  • Make at least 85% of the food we eat from scratch
  • Eat at least one piece of fruit every day
  • Stop using the car for short trips
  • Stop drinking diet coke
  • Stop snacking after dinner
  • Stop snacking on nuts and cheese

I think that will solve my weight issue, but if it doesn’t I’ll just add in some more bad habits to break (I’ve got lots to offer here!)

As you can see, my weight issues are an accumulation of lots and lots of bad choices. In the past, I’ve always tried to “lose weight” without considering how I got to be overweight in the first place. Sure, I tried to change my entire lifestyle again and again by taking on a prescribed way of living, but it always resulted in me falling back into my bad habits and putting the weight back on again.

This time, I’m not tackling the consequence of my bad habit (hello fattyboomsticks), but rather the habits that got me there in the first place. It’s a manageable, realistic, achievable way for me to do it and I’m slowly, slowly, very patiently seeing a new outcome.

Homework for today

Take another look at the bad habits and consequences you listed in Step 1 and Step 2 and decide whether it is truly a habit you are wanting to tackle or an outcome. Back with the ‘biting my nails’ analogy, ask yourself whether the nail biting is actually the outcome of a deeper habit like: avoiding facing up to stress or anxiety; not feeling comfortable with being alone or with others; fearing boredom; being hungry (that’s a joke… I think… never been a nail biter!)

Often our habits are really emotional crutches that mask what lies within.

Do you think your habit might be an outcome of something deeper?

{When you’re ready, click here for Step 4!}

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  1. says

    I’m trying to cut back on eating rubbish foods – but I’m not going cold turkey! I’ll still allow myself chocolate, but a smaller amount, and then fruit afterwards. And drink lots more water! I want to be healthier and have more energy and not rely on coffee to keep me functioning! :)

    • Maxabella says

      Good on you, Emma. I confess that I just can’t have a ‘smaller amount’ of chocolate. One bite seems to awaken my inner ravenous beast. So I haven’t tried to tackle the chocolate yet but I did find that after I gave up the diet coke, my craving for sweet things was substantially dimmed. So good! Best of luck with your goals. x

  2. says

    I find many of my habits, if not all, stem from much deeper down than an action. For example, my ‘habit’ of spring cleaning 4-5 times a year probably relates more to control issues rather than wanting a clean out, although I do like to think of it as the latter.
    Other habits relate to procrastination, like being on social media when I should be working!

    • Maxabella says

      So much deeper than an action. Procrastination issues are at the heart of many of my poor habits for sure. x

  3. says

    I need to read your previous two posts because I have a few habits I need to change. I think they started when we added a third child to our family though!

    • Maxabella says

      Habits have a habit of popping up when we experience life changes, I reckon Bec. So many of them are crutches for something much deeper. x

  4. says

    Well your homework has got me thinking today, I guess you’ve just challenged me. I think it’s actually an outcome not a habit I’ve been lackluster attempting to change. Wanting, scratch needing to exercise in particular to tighten tum muscles. But via your definition that’s an outcome, I guess my habit is… would have said not exercising but perhaps it something deeper. will think more

    • Maxabella says

      Yep, wanting to fix the tum is definitely wanting to fix an outcome rather than a habit. Perhaps your habit is actually making too little time for yourself??? x

  5. says

    One of the biggest habits I kicked was smoking, back before I had the kids. I don’t think I actually kicked it though – I just replaced it with an addiction to drinking tea (I figure in the bigger picture it’s probably a more benign addiction at least!)

    • Maxabella says

      Substitution at it’s finest! I think some of us are bound to be addicted to SOMETHING. I am just like you. For me, lately it’s herbal tea. I can live with that one. Quite literally. x

  6. says

    Good work! Something I read a while ago was, in order to change a habit, it can help if you can make your alternatives more appealing than the habit. Which I remembered but didn’t act on, although I am trying to now. So I’ve been trying to ‘add’ rather than subtract – ie. add vegies to breakfast (spinach as the base of a green smoothie – to my surprise, it is actually quite tasty, and so much better than kale!), and drinking more water, again in the morning (knock these things over early in the day). It is meaning I’m less inclined to drink diet coke (because I’m not as thirsty – note, I haven’t managed to give it up yet) and if I slip up with my lunch, well, at least I’ve got some nutrients into me early on. x

    • Maxabella says

      A most excellent strategy. Adding things when you are taking something away really helps stop those feelings of deprivation!! I talk more about that tomorrow. x

  7. says

    Yes, I think that my habits are the result of 3 years of chronic sleep deprivation :) I’ve put on an extra 10kg since my daughter was born last year. Note, it’s not the baby fat, I actually lost 10kg in the first trimester of my pregnancy. Now, I eat sweet things to get through the day. It probably doesn’t help that I gave up smoking four years ago, so I swapped one bad, coping habit for another.
    Good advice here, it is such a great thing to have mental tools to stop that spoon of nutella enrute to your mouth…

  8. says

    What a great way of looking at it Bron. I’m wanting to stop snacking when studying. I’ve been doing good while the kids are home, but the real test will come next week. I’m going to have to think about why it is that I snack now.

  9. says

    EXCELLENT post. I think you also have to be ready to back it up to other people (unfortunately). When I told people I was quitting chocolate, the usual response was, “But why? You’re hardly fat.” Yep, thanks, I realise that. It’s actually got nothing to do with that! (Ah, society. Assuming a change in diet stems from a weight-loss goal instead of a health one.) People still mock me for the decision.

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