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I know what I should do... So why can't I do it?

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

Habits are routines. Changing habits is possible if we repeat the same action again and again. 

If you think about it, when you were little, you had to be reminded to clean your teeth, wash your face and brush your hair, for example. Perhaps you had to be reminded to wipe after going to the toilet. Now these things come naturally, they are ingrained habits and you don't have to think about them.

So, one solution can be to create a routine. I always recommend that clients start small. Change one thing. This is because trying to change too much at once is not only overwhelming, it's also incredibly challenging. 

The 'I will start the diet on Monday' mentality is not helpful either. The suggestion that when Monday comes, suddenly we will give up all of the things that we love, brings with it a sense of panic and can lead to bingeing on those very things in the run up to Monday. When Monday comes and we didn't see it through, no surprise, we feel even worse.

The other issue is that habits that we want to break are the things we turn to to make us feel better. This is because the brain's reward system is activated.  Eating sugar and fatty foods actually feels nice at the time of consumption. As does scrolling through social media. It's the same reward system. But it's short term, and afterwards we often feel worse.

In terms of nutrition, I find that the approach that helps people the most is to think of doing extra, rather than less. At least in the beginning, and potentially, ongoing, depending on how the client responds.  Eat more fruit and veg. Drink more water.  Two simple actions that can be of great benefit to health and can help you to satisfy your hunger. Addressing protein and carbohydrate intake is of course important too, and yet trying to do it all at once can be overwhelming so I will take things slowly with my clients.

Understanding the Disconnect Between Knowing and Doing: Why Lifestyle Changes Can Be Challenging.

Despite an abundance of information and resources promoting healthy lifestyles, many people struggle to translate their knowledge into consistent action. This disconnect between knowing and doing can be attributed to a complex interplay of psychological, environmental, and social factors.

One of the primary reasons for this gap is the influence of deeply ingrained habits. Our daily routines and behaviors are often formed over years and become deeply ingrained in our subconscious minds. Breaking these established patterns requires conscious effort and sustained motivation, which can be difficult to maintain in the face of competing demands and distractions.

Another significant challenge lies in the inherent appeal of unhealthy choices. Processed foods, sugary drinks, and sedentary lifestyles often provide immediate gratification and pleasure, while healthier alternatives may require more effort, planning, and sacrifice. This can lead to a vicious cycle of unhealthy indulgence followed by guilt and self-recrimination, further undermining motivation for positive change.

Environmental factors also play a crucial role in shaping our health behaviors. The pervasiveness of unhealthy food options, limited access to fresh produce and exercise facilities, and cultural norms that promote unhealthy eating habits can create significant barriers to adopting healthier lifestyles.

Moreover, social influences can exert a powerful impact on our health choices. Surrounded by friends and family who share unhealthy habits can make it difficult to resist temptations and maintain motivation for positive change. Conversely, supportive social networks and role models can provide encouragement and reinforcement for healthy behaviors.

Finally, psychological factors such as stress, anxiety, and depression can significantly impede efforts to adopt healthy lifestyles. When faced with emotional challenges, individuals may turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as overeating or avoiding exercise, further exacerbating the underlying issues.

Overcoming these challenges requires a multifaceted approach that addresses not only individual behavior but also the broader social and environmental factors that contribute to unhealthy habits.

Strategies that can promote successful lifestyle change include:

  • Setting realistic and achievable goals: Setting overly ambitious goals can lead to discouragement and demotivation. Break down larger goals into smaller, more manageable steps that can be celebrated along the way.

  • Identifying and addressing underlying emotional issues: Seeking professional help for stress, anxiety, or depression can create a more supportive environment for adopting healthy behaviors.

  • Building a supportive social network: Surround yourself with individuals who encourage healthy choices and provide accountability.

  • Creating a healthy environment: Keep healthy snacks readily available and stock the kitchen with fresh produce. Make exercise a regular part of your routine by scheduling workouts and finding activities you enjoy.

  • Seeking professional guidance: Consult a registered dietitian or nutritionist for personalized advice on healthy eating and a certified personal trainer for exercise guidance.

Remember, adopting a healthy lifestyle is a journey, not a destination. There will be setbacks along the way, but with consistent effort and support, you can achieve your health goals and improve your overall well-being.

If you enjoyed this blog post, please check out my podcast 'Changing Habits'

The episode explores why we find it so hard to make lasting changes - and what we can do about it.

To listen on Amazon Podcasts please click link here

To listen on Google music please click link here

To listen on Spotify please click link here

As a CIMSPA-certified personal trainer, with a specialism in women's health, I can help you to create a sustainable and realistic lifestyle fitness plan, taking into account the time that you have available, and the things that you enjoy doing.

Why not contact me to arrange a free explorer call, where we can discuss your needs, goals, and how I can support you to make lasting changes in your life.

Best wishes


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