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Health & Wellness Articles  ›  Healthy Lifestyles

4 Mindless Habits That Are Hurting Your Weight Loss

Get Focused to Get Back on Track

-- By Megan Coatley, Behavior Expert
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If you’ve ever tried to break a bad habit, health-related or otherwise, you know how difficult it can be. Every morning, you awake to a daunting, gut-wrenching choice: to commit to change or to fall short of your goals. Those of you who have taken on the challenge of becoming your healthiest self can attest that this choice especially applies to creating changes in your diet and exercise routines. We all realize that the trick to lasting good health lies in mastering positive fitness and nutrition habits. But how can you put bad habits behind you and make wellness your main priority... every single day?
 
When attempting to dial back unhealthy behaviors, you’re up against several obstacles:
  1. It is likely that you’ve been practicing your unhealthy behavior over and over again for decades. Since your first childhood experience with brussel sprouts, you’ve become a master at avoiding vegetables. Since middle-school gym class, you’ve become adept at excusing yourself from exercise. Because you’ve been forming those unhealthy habits for so long, it isn’t easy to leave them behind.
     
  2. Efficiency and convenience are another knock against your good-health goals: unhealthy habits are often much easier than the alternative. Should I drive to work or ride my bike? Play football with the kids or rent a movie? Chop and prep fresh veggies or hit the drive-thru? Usually, unhealthy alternatives save us lots of time and require less physical and mental effort than their healthy counterparts. We’ve created such an efficient society that making good choices is almost impossible next to the not-so-healthy, yet quick and easy options.
     
  3. Finally, bad behaviors also come with sneaky, seductive pay-offs. It is understandable that most of us enjoy chocolate more than apples--it’s sweeter!  And why wouldn’t we avoid morning exercise when we could stay cozy and warm just by hitting snooze one more time? Of course, there are pay-offs for healthy habits as well: lower cholesterol, lower BMI, increased energy, longevity... But they’re usually not immediate or powerful enough to control our choices in the moment.
 
With the odds stacked against us, it’s easy to understand why conquering unhealthy habits with willpower alone can be rough. Luckily, the science of habit change gives us more effective ways to go about banishing unhealthy routines for good. Let’s take a closer look at some common unhealthy habits to see how we can put behavioral science to work for us.
 
Bad Habit: Eating on the Run
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About The Author

Megan Coatley Megan Coatley
Megan is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) with a master’s degree in applied behavior analysis from Western Michigan University. As a health and wellness coach, she combines her passion for nutrition and fitness with her professional talents to help others creative positive, lasting change and live healthier lives.

Member Comments

  • Great points I'd never thought about,and good suggestions, too! Thank You. - 11/22/2013 1:57:09 PM
  • This is a great article... the area I always struggle with is skimping on sleep. Too many things to do in a day, so few hours. :((( - 9/9/2013 9:27:07 AM
  • Really great. We should learn to keep health snacks around at those times. Like fruits and veggies but we don't. Since we are trying to have good health and lifestyle. I know it's easy to say than do. But we can do this. - 7/5/2013 8:26:04 AM
  • good one - thanks - 5/14/2013 7:50:11 AM
  • You knew my moves. Multi tasking/eating on the run. Grabbing that protein bar without completing a meal. Rushing skipping a meal.
    I've been doing this since Saturday. - 5/13/2013 8:13:49 PM
  • AZURE-SKY
    @WANT2LOOKHOT - You have a few choices. You can throw out the unhealthy food if it's too much temptation. You could package it into individual portions and freeze - many cakes can be sliced and wrapped in plastic & frozen, & the meats also. You can eat the foods, but only take small portions. It's your choice.

    You can also ask your husband to keep his snacks in a separate place so you are not tempted, or get him to buy the snacks you don't like. Remember - just because a food is in the house, doesn't mean you HAVE to eat it. - 5/13/2013 3:34:28 PM
  • I have been trying to get out of a rut and this article was SO helpful. Thank you very much. - 5/13/2013 12:31:13 PM
  • GLASGOWGIRL3
    I agree with MISSKAKEE, it's a great article, but my problem is putting it into action.
    - 5/12/2013 2:07:11 PM
  • I wish more people would focus on making their lifestyle changes DOABLE for the rest of their lives. Small, permanent changes over time will trump grand schemes every single time. - 5/12/2013 10:53:57 AM
  • WANT2LOOKHOT
    I try to keep junk food out of the house but my spouse loves the stuff & he does the grocery shopping. Plus his aunt is always dropping off junk food for the holidays, as a gift. Like today for Mother's Day it was half a chocolate bundt cake & a Tres Leches Cake. Other days its a huge BBQ fajita platter with Chicken, Sausage, Potato Salad, Spanish Rice, Guacamole. You get the pictrure. My husband refuses to tell her anything & it's extremely hard for me to have it around the house without falling prey to it. Short of getting a divorce I don't know what to do about it. - 5/12/2013 10:33:30 AM
  • COACHMEGMABCBA
    I appreciate all the feedback and comments, everyone! I apologize for being so late in responding - I wasn’t getting the updates from this article’s thread. I’m excited to know that you’re all being more mindful of your healthy (and unhealthy) habits!

    MILLIFRED & 135GOALWEIGHT - I think it’s great that you’ve found tracking your food intake and counting calories to be helpful for you! As important as it is to keep track of what you eat, committing to noting numbers every single day can get boring and brain-numbing after a while. The last thing you want is to lose motivation because your calorie-counting system is too taxing! Some days, instead of writing down every bite, it can be helpful to plan ahead and have all the healthy foods you like on-hand (and make sure there are no high-cal temptations around). When you make it super-easy to make healthy choices, you can put down your pen for a day and practice eating when you’re really hungry (which is what we all aspire to, anyway, right?!).

    NOTBUYINGIT! - YES! You’re in a great place if all of those inner motivations are what move you forward! Many people need an extra ‘nudge’ to reach beyond their current level of wellness. Planning external incentives (like buying a piece of jewelry or a golf lesson if you meet a wellness goal) is the proven way to help folks START practicing a NEW healthy habit. I’m not saying that those external incentives should stay in place forever. Once you’ve made a new goal into a habit (walking daily, taking the stairs, or choosing fresh fruits over sugary sweets), internal motivators will start to take over and feeling good about your healthy actions will be all you need to keep doing them!

    KITTYROX - Get those Zzzzz’s, girl! Lack of sleep can make you feel fuzzy, eat more frequently, and grab for unhealthy snacks. Good for you for starting to listen to your body and rest when you need to!

    Great work everyone! Keep breaking those unhealthy habits one by one, and you’ll be on the fast track to overall wellness!

    Cheers & Be Sparked!
    Coach Meg, MA,... - 4/30/2013 9:51:18 AM
  • This article was INCREDIBLY helpful and exactly what I needed to hear! - 4/18/2013 12:01:13 AM
  • GL1162
    Great article,I too have fibromyalgia. It leaves me painful,tired and sore after pretty much everything I do, however, I'm achieving my weightloss goals and I'm soooo happy. I use a prepaid mobile broadband and I find the very day it has run out of money then that is the day i instantly begin to feel that I can get away with eating a few other goodies and get away with it.Naughty,naught
    y. Never run out of credit again. - 11/26/2012 11:16:25 AM
  • SHERIF.GHARIB
    Bad habit hard to beat it but with some controlling and organizing my you can
    - 5/5/2012 6:22:44 PM
  • Excellent article!! I agree with the other comment about emotional eating. But there are many positive alternatives to it-setting up a rewards system at those times is the key. Things such as: working on a hobby, writing in a journal, calling a friend for comfort, mostly I think a work out buddy is a huge key (or fitness buddy). I know that would be a huge help to motivate-another person to cheer you on! - 4/29/2012 9:32:47 PM