The new year is here. Time for a fresh start! Are you ready?

Yes! You’re ready to drop some old habits and adopt a healthier way of life. If 2020 has taught us anything it’s that our health needs to be a priority. Life is a game of risk, so having a healthy lifestyle minimizes the risk of disease and enhances our quality of life. But, let’s face it, drastic changes don’t last. Remember that fad diet you started last year that promised to slim your waistline in 6 weeks? Did you get the results you were looking for? If you did, kudos to you! But more than likely… you didn’t, or the results weren’t sustainable. 

Well, you are not alone! The reality is only about 10% of people actually stick to their New Year’s resolutions (Google it). So, here we are year after year setting another resolution when we never completed the last one. The good news is with the right knowledge and tools you can become successful! Ditch the resolution, and start a new you evolution!

A new you means changing old habits

Changing a habit means you must change your behavior and the way you think. Habits change by replacing an old one with a new one. But here’s the trick, it must still yield a similar reward. There is a science to changing habits and it all lies within your brain’s reward center, so you’ll have to retrain your brain.

Retraining Your Brain

Habits are routines executed by the unconscious mind. Your brain tells you to do something without you consciously thinking about it. This phenomenon is known as neuroplasticity1. Habits are hardwired into our brains, the good and the bad. So creating a new habit will not be second nature at first. It will be challenging and it is on you to consciously think and be consistent with this action until it becomes hardwired into your subconscious.

Sounds complex, but  “If you can think it; you can do it!”Richmond Akhigbe

Every time you fail to change an old habit (or start a new one) your brain gets a message that you are resistant to change. Anything that deters you from your natural habits is even harder for you to execute. See, your success is all in your execution. Therefore, we must ‘trick’ our brain into actually liking this new habit, and you can trick it with rewards!

Tips to Make it Stick: Reward Yourself!

I’ll let you in on a little secret, your brain loves being rewarded. Habits form much easier when we are rewarded, which is why bad habits are so easy to form and even harder to break. The tricky part: imagine you just finished an intense workout, it was spin class. You could think, “I’m never doing that again”, or you could think, “I can’t believe I did that and I feel great!” Even if you feel like you’re going to puke or pass out (been there), you send your brain a message about your conscious thinking which will then be attached to that particular activity. The very next week you have another spin class. If the last time you thought, “I’m never doing that again”, you will probably find every excuse not to. However, if you left there thinking, “I can’t believe I did that and I feel great,” you are more likely to plan ahead, get there early, and grab the best equipment.

Here’s where the reward comes in: If your goal is to lose weight in 2021 you must reward yourself when you complete a workout, and not with cookies! A bad reward can cancel out a good habit. In fact, using food as a reward promotes an unhealthy relationship with food; “If I exercise today I can eat bad later.” The reward is unhealthy food, so your brain will crave this rather than that workout you just busted your butt completing. Eventually you’ll start skipping workouts and find yourself right back where you started.

Here’s a easy way to form new habits: Relate your reward to a feeling. “If I complete my goals this week I can buy those cute jeans I’ve wanted.” Remember, this is a temporary solution to form a new habit so don’t break your bank, but the reward center of the brain must be stimulated after a goal is met. Use rewards that stimulate positive feelings and emotions to help you form a new habit.

You can apply this tool for any habit by the way… not just exercise. 

Quick Tip for Success

  • Be specific about the habit you want to change
  • Set realistic goals that are easy to reach without a major struggle. Plan these goals in steps. The mountain isn’t hard to climb if you’re only doing a few steps at a time. If you want to lose 10lbs, set a time frame that’s realistic for you, or even longer so when you reach it early you feel better about yourself and your commitment.
  • Only plan to change one habit at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself with trying to change your whole diet and start a workout challenge 4-5 days a week. Start with a few healthier meals that week that are planned and continue your other routines. If you currently don’t work out, start with walking 2-3 days a week. Then slowly increase the intensity. This is supposed to be a shift into a healthier lifestyle so you must enjoy the process. If it’s too hard or too foreign you are more likely to quit.
  • Prioritize: Dedicate time for this in your schedule Your health is a priority so plan your day including some ‘me time’. If it’s your stress you’re trying to release, plan some yoga or meditation in your morning routine, which means a little earlier wake-up time.
  • Put reminders & motivation around your house. Print pictures of yourself or motivational quotes. Those jeans you want to get back into, hang them up in your closet where you can see. Constant reminders will trigger your brain into thinking consciously about staying on track.
  • Plan and reward yourself, seriously do it! This includes celebrating milestones, even the small ones. Plan your reward ahead of time. You just did your weekly weigh-in and you reached your goal weight for the month! YES! Celebrate that!! Have a dance party in your room and boost that confidence. Then reward yourself, book that massage, get yourself flowers, a new yoga mat, or plan a happy hour with your best friend. Have a glass of wine and cheers to your accomplishments!

I hope you found this post helpful. In my next post will focus on the tips that will keep you motivated and on track for your New You Evolution in 2021!

References: 1. Medium