How come I keep stepping into the same puddle?
woman's feet 
It’s a popular question. THE most common question I get from many of my beloved clients. I grapple with it myself.
Why is it so easy to make the same “mistakes” or sustain the healthy habits I know how to do? 

Have You Ever Asked…About Habit Change? 

1. Why do I continue to overeat when I know it doesn’t feel good later?
2. Why can’t I make time for meal planning?
3. Why do I sabotage myself on the weekends?
4. Why can’t I keep up with my meditation practice?
 
Here are a few ideas and the content comes from working with open-minded clients plus habit research. 

1. We’re human.

“I’ll never do that again.” Ever said that one? Yea, me too. That’s a statement with an undertone of shame. And, the brain filled with shame cannot learn. On the flip side when we practice the work of self-compassion from Kristen Neff, we’re more likely to get unstuck. Her three step self-compassion model reminds us to:
  1. Remember, we are human and not alone in our suffering. 
  2. Focus on self-kindness vs. self-judgment. 
  3. Practice mindfulness vs. over-identification in ruminating thoughts.

While our world tends to preach black and white thinking, we can learn to be comfortable in the gray. Coming to yourself with self-compassion helps us progress. Progress does not require perfection.

2. We focus on outcomes, not the process.

“I can’t lose weight, it always comes back.” Instead of putting focus on outcomes, we’re better served to focus on the process. We must break down the steps it takes to move in the right direction. What helps us stay on track? For example, I know that when I do the following, I’m more likely to stay on track:
  • Meal plan on Fridays.
  • Exercise with a friend.
  • Eat around the same time each day.

What can I do today to serve myself well for tomorrow? That is process-led thinking. When we feel stuck – it’s good to assess, am I judging the outcome? Or the process?

3. We get stuck in evaluation versus progress.

Analysis paralysis. There is nothing wrong with examining why you chose to get fast food on the way home from work or why you missed a workout. But, a better strategy is to put your energy on how to do what you want the next time. For example:
  • Bringing a snack to eat on your ride home from work
  • Taking a different route home with fewer temptations
  • Scheduling your workout on the calendar

4. We let one thing turn into another. 

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. “Well, I already had one donut, so I’ll eat the second one, too.” According to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, getting off track on any single day has no impact on your long-term ability to stick to the habit. The key is finding your way back on track. If you find yourself saying, “I’ll start on Monday,” you’re caught up in all-or-nothing thinking. 

5. We value good feelings and momentum and undermine hard feelings and ambivalence.

Life is hard. It’s especially hard right now. Just like nature’s weather patterns, we’ve got our own. Can we wrap our head and heart around ALL feelings and see them as informative vs. good or bad? Gray and rainy days don’t mean we’ve done anything wrong. Embracing all of the ups and downs, lights and darks as a part of who we are. We’re still in a pandemic, and maybe we need to offer ourselves a bit more grace and a slower pace. Success can breed success, but please remember, #1, we’re human.
Want more? Read more about blogs on habit change.

Jennifer McDaniel

Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.