People only have a limited amount of willpower, so it’s important to use it as little as possible. Instead, make healthy choices habitual so they’re easier to accomplish.
The Fogg Behavior Model says you need motivation, ability, and a prompt to trigger a behavior. If you’re motivated and your goal behaviors are reasonable, it’s possible that you just need a prompt to trigger the behavior.
Some ways to remember to take healthy action are to set a timer, write it down as a reminder, or ask a trusted person to remind you.
Habit stacking can also help you build healthy habits. It involves attaching the desired behavior to a behavior that is already habit.
Lark offers a friendly and encouraging program that can help you establish healthy habits to reach your goals 24/7 when you use the app.
It’s common to blame yourself when you’re struggling to hit your weight loss goals, but disappointing progress isn’t due to lack of willpower. Mayo Clinic News Network says that there are strong forces that lead to unhealthy habits that can get in the way of weight loss - and willpower may not be the right tool to kickstart weight loss. Instead, it may be more effective to make healthy choices easier so you don’t have to depend so much on willpower.
Establishing habits can make healthy choices easier by turning them into automatic behaviors. That way, you can work towards your goals without feeling like you’re working hard. Along with motivation and the ability to do the healthy target behavior, you also need a trigger to do it, and that’s what we’ll focus on here. Keep reading to learn about triggers for making healthy choices, and how you can use triggers to hit your goals.
Triggers Can Help Form Habits
The Fogg Behavior Model, a well-known model of behavior change, says that you need three things to engage in a behavior. Here they are, using “eating more vegetables” as an example of a target behavior.
Motivation. Why do you want to eat more vegetables? A reason may be wanting to lose weight to feel more energetic.
Ability. Are you able to eat more vegetables? You may need to know where to purchase them and how to prepare them.
Trigger. What causes you to actually eat more vegetables? It may be seeing vegetables in your fridge and cooking them for dinner.
Assuming that your motivation and ability are there, how can you create triggers so that your healthy choices actually happen? Reminders, habit stacking, and replacing unwanted habits with desired ones can help.
As you’re starting to make healthy changes, you may need a little help remembering. Reminders can come from many different sources.
Reminder apps are available for computers, tablets, and phones. They may let you customize when you’ll be reminded and what it’s for.
Lark can remind you to log meals, break up sedentary time by standing up or moving around, weigh yourself, and log physical activity.
A phone timer can go off at designated times, such as weekly on Sunday afternoons to remind you to make some healthy lunches for the week, or an hour before bedtime to remind you to finish using screens and start your bedtime routine.
A person in your support network can text or call you at key times. For example, they may before lunchtime to remind you to order healthy foods at a restaurant.
Written notes can go in places where you’ll see them. For example, a note to choose fruits and vegetables for snacks can go on the fridge so you remember when you are ready for a snack.
Use the types of reminders that work for you. It may take some experimenting, and keep in mind that different types of reminders may be best for different types of health behaviors. For example, you may find that it’s helpful for your significant other to remind you to purchase healthy foods on the way home from work, but that it’s more helpful for your phone timer to go off to remind you to drink water regularly throughout the day.
Habit stacking involves pairing desired behaviors with behaviors that are already habits. That way, when you do the habitual behavior, you can start to remember to do the new behavior, too.
For example, let’s say you want to make your own lunches to take to work instead of eating out since home-prepared food can be more nutritious and portions can be more appropriate for your goals. A way you could use habit stacking is to start packing your lunch in the evening when you are cleaning up after dinner and putting away leftovers.
Here are some more examples of habit stacking.
Set out workout clothes when folding laundry
Drink a cup of water when you set the table for a meal
Weigh yourself after you brush your teeth in the morning
Prep vegetables after you get home from grocery shopping
Breaking Unhealthy Habits
As hard as it can feel to establish healthy habits, it can feel just as tough to get rid of unhealthy ones. Luckily, changing your mindset can help diminish habits that get in the way of your health and weight goals. While you may find a void left in your day when you try to eliminate undesired habits, you may see more success if you gradually replace these habits with desired ones.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re used to having two chocolate chip cookies at 4:00 p.m. most weekdays, and you decide that it’s not a good habit. One approach would be to get rid of the cookies, but that may leave you feeling deprived at 4:00 p.m. Another approach, which is gradual and involves replacing the unhealthy habit with a wanted one, might include having just one cookie and adding a piece of fruit and a glass of water. Eventually, you might enjoy nothing but fruit, water, and a half-ounce of nuts or a low-fat string cheese stick at 4:00 p.m., and no longer depend on those cookies.
Here are more examples of changing your thinking from eliminating undesired habits to gradually replacing them with healthy habits.
Instead of “eat less fatty red meat,” think about, “eat more plant-based proteins.”
Instead of “stop tasting while cooking,” think about, “set out some celery sticks to munch on, and put what you’re going to taste in a little bowl.”
Instead of, “don’t watch tv so you can get to bed earlier,” think about, “Read, meditate, stretch, or do another activity that doesn’t involve screens.”
With these strategies, you can gradually reduce unhealthy behaviors and build health habits at the same time. It’s a double win!
Establishing healthy habits involves steps forward and backwards. The American Heart Association reminds you to keep trying. You may forget many, many times for every one time you remember, but that’s okay. The important thing is to forgive yourself and keep persisting.
How Lark Can Help
Building healthy habits can help you lose weight more easily without depending on willpower. You can use reminders, habit stacking, and replacement habits to help trigger your desired behaviors and turn them into habits. Lark can be there 24/7 to remind you, cheer you on, and support you as you make healthy choices that can make you feel good.
Click here to see if you may be eligible to join Lark today!
Lark helps you eat better, move more, stress less, and improve your overall wellness. Lark’s digital coach is available 24/7 on your smartphone to give you personalized tips, recommendations, and motivation to lose weight and prevent chronic conditions like diabetes.