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Habits That Heal: Small Steps to Achieving Your Health Goals

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

a walk along the River Boyne in Drogheda is example of a good health habit

We recently conducted a mini-survey on our Instagram account where we asked readers what their top health goals were, and what they believed was stopping them from achieving them.

Results from Instagram poll from @ciara.ryannt showing respondenets' top health goals inlcuding reach heppy weight, balance hormones and regain lost energy
Results from Instagram poll from @ciara.ryannt

Not surprisingly the main area of concern was weight management, followed by lack of energy and hormone balancing.

Having a plan to lose weight and knowing how to do that are of course vital but as this poll shows that’s only part of the picture. Sometimes there feels like there’s so much holding us back from achieving what we want.

There’s a real catch 22 situation here which I have seen so often over the years. Tiredness and lack of energy can be as a result of blood sugar imbalances and/or poor eating and lifestyle habits. If our blood sugar is not in balance this has a direct effect on the other hormonal systems such as our thyroid, stress and female hormones. This can lead to weight gain, further emotional eating, lack of focus and motivation, lack of self care and the cycle goes on and on.

We are creatures of habit

If we drill down into what’s standing in our way and how to remove those obstacles, there’s a lot comes down to habit. For instance, reaching for a sugary snack when you get tired because that’s what you’re used to doing, plus it hits the spot and it’s a quick fix. Another is choosing to lounge on the couch instead of going for a walk because it’s easier to default to what we always do and are familiar with.

Humans truly are creatures of habit. Research suggests that almost half of the daily activities we engage in are done out of habit. Think about it, no-one needs to tell you to brush your teeth in the morning, put on your deodorant, make your cup of coffee or tea.

A habit is simply a learnt behaviour that has been repeated many, many times, so it has become something we do without thinking. Habits and routines can be incredibly powerful. Habits can also be very detrimental to our health and wellbeing too, of course. We all have unhelpful habits that we wish were easy to change. Getting new habits to stick is tricky, we can’t simply decide to make a habit of exercising every day and expect to start doing it without thinking.

How do we create good health habits?

All of the leading experts in human behaviour agree that in order to create good habits it has to be EASY. If it’s too hard, we simply won’t stick with it, that’s human nature! I’ve lost count of how many times in the past that I’ve tried to create a new health habit and failed. Why? Because I made it too difficult, too unrealistic for myself and inevitably after a couple of weeks of trying really hard, I gave up and reverted back to my old ways again!

Keep it simple

Keeping things simple with definite action steps and a good dose of accountability is the key to success when it comes to making habits stick. That’s why we love to incorporate coaching when working with clients and mapping out their nutrition and health action plan.

Decide what habit you would like give up or do less often and what habit you would like to adopt or do more often.

Here are a few suggestions but you will have your own ideas.

Unhelpful habits

  • Staying up too late

  • Scrolling on the phone/internet

  • Eating when bored

  • Skipping meals

  • Drinking too much alcohol

Helpful habits

  • Getting fresh air every day

  • Being more organized with my food/meals

  • Taking time out to do things for myself

  • Build in regular rewards and things to look forward to (non food related)

  • Being around positive people.

So how do we break these bad habits that are standing between us and our health goals and instill new habits that are going to bring change?

Make it easy for yourself

Pink alarm clock
Using an alarm clock instead of your smart phone helps eliminate late night scrolling

We now know that if we want behaviours to become habitual and automatic they should take little mental or physical effort. The easier you make it, the less motivation you require to do it. This is important as motivation naturally goes up and down over time.

For example, if you want to be on social media less, sign out of your accounts and disable the auto-sign-in setting so that you have to log in manually each time. Leave your phone in another room when you are relaxing in the evening. Get an actual alarm clock and leave your phone downstairs at night. Simple, but very powerful.

Create more time in your week

So many people are time poor these days (myself included). We’ve all become very busy with work, family commitments, housework, cooking, homework and all the other jobs in between. Self care and our own priorities take a back seat because we simply don’t have the TIME. And when we’re short on time we’re guaranteed to fall back on our default habits.

Getting to the gym, going to a yoga class, getting out for a walk or run with a friend. Even with the best intentions these health positive activities often take second place to home and family life. But sacrificing our own needs to meet those of others can eventually lead to burnout and then we’re no use to anyone, not ourselves or those depending on us. Which is why it’s so critical to prioritise and make time for our health and well-being.

So how do we make a habit of setting aside time each week to focus on ourselves? Time for exercise, time for eating real food, time to recharge our batteries?

Make a plan and stick to it

Woman sitting with milky coffee notepad and pencil about to write
Plan your time in advance and prioritise self care

One of the best pieces of advice I can offer is to “plan the plan”. Look at your schedule for the week, ideally do this at the weekend for the following week. If you don’t have a schedule then consider making one on your Google calendar so that you can see the entire week at a glance. Put in your work days, your appointments, kids activities and whatever else is coming up for you that week.

Look at the time that’s left. Are there a couple of free spaces in there to book an exercise class, a personal training session or a walk? Book them in there and then, schedule them into your diary. It doesn’t have to be several times a week, twice a week is much better than zero times a week. Give it some degree of priority in your week or it will constantly slip off the to-do list. Once it’s in the diary it’ll get done and once you get used to planning the plan like this you will be amazed at how time can open up for you.

Planning ahead is also very powerful when it comes to eating the right foods. Make a shopping list and stick to it. Make sure you’re stocked up with the kitchen cupboard essentials (check out our video here) and that way you’ll always have something nutritious to fall back on when you’re time poor. This will stop you reaching for the processed food that knocks you off track.

Batch cooking and freezing is another fantastic way of planning ahead that helps you to stick with your health goals. Check out this nutritious and filling dahl recipe, or healthy tonic soup which is great for midweek lunch. Planning ahead not only opens more time in your calendar it is also a budget friendly way to eat healthier.

Physically eliminate the source of the problem

If you want to eat less sugary foods. Don’t go down that aisle in the supermarket (we all know which aisle I’m talking about J), don’t stop off for fuel in the garage on your way home from work, don’t go into that coffee shop that has all the lovely, overpriced pastries at the counter. Change things up.

Have alternatives at home to snack on, go to a different coffee shop or bring your own with you, have something in your bag or in the car that will satisfy you if you want something sweet.

Use visual aids

If you would like to create the habit of drinking more water but it’s something that doesn’t happen naturally for you, set up a notification on your phone for a visual reminder. Water Reminder or Aqua Alert are just a couple of options. Obviously, have water with you or access to water during the day. If you forget to bring water to work with you, try filling up your bottle in the morning as the kettle is boiling.

Use positive self-talk and celebrate the little wins

If many of us talked to other people the way we talk to ourselves, we wouldn’t have a single friend left. We can be our own worst critics. It’s important to celebrate the tiny wins so don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back.

Using positive language also helps so saying something like ‘I am choosing to move my body this week because it makes me feel better physically and mentally’ works a lot better than ‘I need to cop or I’m lazy so I have to go to the gym 3 times this week’.

The ripple effect

Man lying on couch with pizza and tv remote control
Swapping bad habits for good ones can have a positive ripple effect

The great thing about creating healthy habits is the very powerful ‘ripple effect’. This is when tiny changes in routine trigger new positive changes in other areas. For example, I had a client who was snacking on junk food in the evening whilst scrolling on his phone. He did this as he was feeling tired and stressed after a long day at work. Over time, he began to change these habits and create a new, more positive and healthier evening routine. The result was that his sleep improved and he had a better quality and longer sleep, he felt less stressed and he had more energy. He began to exercise and performed better at work. His confidence increased and his relationship improved. Tweak or change one part of your health and other pieces of it will also begin to change and improve.

It’s never too late to start

Achieving our health goals often seems like a daunting task, especially when faced with obstacles like weight management, low energy, and hormonal imbalances. Our recent poll highlighted these common challenges, but it's important to recognise that breaking the cycle of unhealthy habits is the key to success.

Creating good habits starts with simplicity. They should be easy to integrate into our lives and planning plays a crucial role in this journey. Scheduling your health-focused activities and making time for self-care is essential.

Over the course of the next few weeks we will be addressing some of the major challenges most people face when trying to achieve their health goals. The first of these is our over reliance on sugary and refined carbohydrate based foods and how to switch to a low GL way of eating. This will include meal planning, healthy snacks and food swaps and how to get on top of cravings so you can stay in control of your health. Make sure you’re subscribed to our newsletter to be the first to receive these updates.

Remember, it's never too late to transform your habits and work towards better health. We’re determined to help and support you every step of the way.


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