Apr. 15. 2020
Healthy Practices
Written By:
McKel (Hill) Kooienga
McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Founder of NS and Creator of The Method Membership

We’ve all been there.

We’ve been doing really well with following our healthy habits… and then an excuse pops up or something causes us to break from that habit, or just life happens and we get thrown off a little bit. It’s okay, it happens to all of us myself included!

But the key question here is, how do you handle it?

Do you feel guilty or like you’ve fallen-off-the-bandwagon? Do you feel like you have to wait until next Monday to start up again?

If so, this all-or-nothing-mentality can actually be preventing you from making progress towards your health goals.

Our lives are filled with change, messiness, challenges, and imperfections — it isn’t black and white and this is the most beautiful thing about life! This is where we get the opportunity to learn about ourselves, to build resilience, to cultivate stronger awareness, mindfulness, and intuition.

Trying to be perfect or follow some idolized way of eating or healthy living isn’t going to support you in creating habits that help you reach your goals in the long-term. And you’ll be missing out on viewing these situations as learning opportunities to find something that greater aligns with yourself.

In this video, I’ll walk you through two strategies to use when you unintentionally break a habit.

The Challenge of Maintaining Healthy Habits

There are so many situations in our lives when we do want to stray from our normal routines and habits, whether that’s to enjoy a dinner out or because we’re on vacation and want to sleep in rather than follow our regular morning routine. 

But there are times when we stray from our habits and we regret the decision, either because we didn’t plan for a situation or we came up with an excuse at the last minute. 

First, I want you to know that anytime you’re trying to form a new habit (or break an old one), you’re going to experience obstacles. I promise you, there’s not a single person, myself included, that can wake up and perfectly practice a new habit every single day. In fact, I wouldn’t want to because there’s so much magic in learning the nuances of life and our capacity to be flexible with it and move with the flow.

When you’re changing your behaviors, it’s normal and expected to experience challenges and to have moments when you break your habits. What’s most important is that you don’t need to feel guilty when you do break from them.

People who show themselves self-compassion in these moments are better able to get back on track, while those who feel really guilty or shameful struggle more. 

In addition, research shows that for most people, once the pattern of doing the habit is broken, it doesn’t matter whether it was broken by a little or by a lot. 

This might sound like, “Oh, I skipped my class on Monday, I’ll just skip the rest of this week too,” or “I didn’t workout today, so I’m also going to eat junk food today since I already ruined it.” “This food wasn’t on my diet plan and I just ruined the entire day so I guess I’ll just eat this way until Monday”.

This is the all-or-nothing-mentality creeping in and making you believe that if you can’t do everything 100 percent perfectly, there’s no point in doing anything at all. 

But that’s not the case!

Overall consistency is much more important than perfection, because the things we do consistently are the things that will make the most impact on our daily lives and our wellbeing. 

Honestly, perfection doesn’t have a say or space in your health!

So when you experience a misstep, use these two strategies to help bring back consistency to your habit.

#1 Plan for Next Time

Excuses, changes of environment or routine, and unexpected events are part of life and take us out of our normal schedule, which means we have to learn how to navigate these situations. 

When you come across a new challenge or situation and stray from your normal path, bringing awareness to this helps you identify how you might handle things differently next time, so you can plan ahead if you’re faced in that situation again. 

To do this, write down your answers to these questions:

  1. What caused you to break your habit?
  2. How did you feel after, looking back on your decision?
  3. And how you might handle things differently next time? 

For example, let’s say you go to a workout class three days a week in the mornings. But one day you decided to skip your workout because you felt like you just wanted to stay in bed that morning. 

I totally get that! — let’s be completely honest, in the very first moments of waking up, I don’t think anyone actually wants to get out of the warm, cozy bed to go to do anything. 

So if that happened to you, what could you do differently next time? How could you plan ahead for those mornings where you really don’t feel like getting out of bed to protect yourself from making a last-minute excuse?

Planning ahead is such an important strategy for not making last-minute decisions and instead, making choices ahead of time when you have a clear mind and you’re focused on your long-term vision.

Get Back to Your Habit as Soon as Possible

The second strategy is to get back to the habit you’re trying to create as soon as possible. 

For most of us, that can mentally be tricky, because we have this idea that if we’ve already made a mistake with our habits, we need to start over again tomorrow, next week, or next month. 

One way to get over this mental block and get back on track quicker is to look at your day in 5 sections: morning, lunch, afternoon, dinner, evening. 

If you break a habit in one of these parts of your day, you get back on track during the next one. 

This little mental switch can help you look at these different parts of your day as a way to get back on track rather than feeling as if you’ve ruined an entire day or entire week simply because you had a misstep. 

It also helps you take positive action sooner. If you skip your morning workout, but then had a nutritious lunch with a 10-minute mindfulness practice, you’ve put yourself back in a winning position where you feel aligned with your goals, and instantly create more forward momentum for yourself. 

Having a two-minute check-in with yourself at these 5 different points of the day can help you break your day into mini-wins and be more consistent overall. 

So if you’re ready to put this into practice, grab my guide for creating healthy habits with ease, where I’ll walk you through my process along with journal prompts for navigating these situations.

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