I lost count of how many times I started an exercise regime only to quit a few days/weeks/months later.
It was always the same old story. Summer was just around the corner and I wanted a bikini body I’d be proud to show off.
I’d buy a bunch of workout DVDs (hey, these were the days when they were all the rage), move the furniture around in my bedroom and do the routines.
And then I’d die. My body wasn’t used to a 20 minutes’ walk. After an hour of push-ups, squats and running up and down the room, my legs were screaming in pain.
After every exercise session, I’d need 4 days to recuperate. And when my body was finally read to try again, I’d get an unexpected visitor, a last minute work assignment or a nasty cold. I’d have to postpone. Again.
Before I knew it, I had gone back to my coach potato habits and spent the summer in my full-length jeans. 🙁
The worst part? I felt like a loser. Why else wouldn’t I have the willpower to make exercise a regular habit?
Truth bomb: quitting a bad habit isn’t a matter of willpower. If that were the case, we’d all be screwed cos no one can quit a bad habit with willpower alone.
Quitting a bad habit takes all you’ve got: the right motivation, a lot of effort and a brand new good habit to take the place of the old one.
It doesn’t matter if you want to stop checking your phone every 5 minutes, buying more pairs of shoes you can afford or eating so much sugar, here’s a quick guide to quit bad habits – any bad habit:
1. Have The Right Motivation
Doing the right thing for the wrong reason doesn’t work. Having a bikini body sounded nice, but it wasn’t a good enough reason for me to get through the pain of those first few exercise weeks. Getting healthy so I don’t get a stroke at 50 and have a better quality of life as I get older is. Now, whenever I feel like skipping a workout session, I tell myself that if I did, my legs wouldn’t be able to carry me around in my old age. I don’t know about you, but I want to get there in the best condition I possibly can. Whenever you feel like quitting or going back to your old bad habit just this once, connect to your why. It’ll push you through.
2. Find Your Triggers
What events trigger your bad habit? Maybe you eat another box of chocolate chip cookie when you’re stressed out, you buy another pair of Jimmy Choo you can’t afford when you’re feeling down and like everyone is doing better than you or you skip a workout session when you’re tired and the thought of preparing your workout bag, going to the gym and change into your Lululemon clothes feels like too much work. I skipped so many workout sessions for this reason. Now I exercise in my bedroom as soon as I wake up, so I don’t have to interrupt my day and shower/get changed all over again. Once you’re aware of your triggers, you can develop a plan to get around them.
Related: A Simple Trick To Break Bad Habits
3. Figure Out Why You Need The Bad Habit
I know this sounds crazy. What would you need a bad habit?! Truth is, your bad habits are just coping mechanisms your subconscious mind has found to deal with a need. For example, eating junk food helps you relax and cope with stress. Buying another pair of luxury shoes is a way to show people you’re successful so they’ll like you better. Skipping a workout session is a way to stay stuck in your comfort zone and avoid change – because even if you’d like to have a body that attracts men, subconsciously you’re afraid of receiving too much unwanted attention. Once you know what need your habit habit is meeting, you’ll be able to create a new – good – habit to meet it instead. And this brings me to my next point.
4. Replace The Bad Habit With A Good Habit
Let’s face it: no matter how determined or excited you are to quit a bad habit, sooner or later (usually sooner), something’ll happen to trigger the bad habit and make you fall back into your old ways. That’s why it’s not enough to say, “From tomorrow, I’ll stop eating chocolate chip cookies.” You need to say, “from tomorrow, every time I feel like eating a chocolate chip cookie, I’ll do 5 minutes of meditation.” In other words, you need to find a healthier way, a good habit, to meet your need. If you don’t have a replacement habit, next time you’re stressed, you’ll fall back on eating chocolate chip cookies on autopilot. FYI, this takes a lot of conscious effort so if you slip up and go bad to the old habit, forgive yourself and vow to do better next time.
It’s not enough to say, “I’ll exercise tomorrow.” Often, when tomorrow comes around, you’re too tired or busy to get round to it. So put it in your calendar. Write down, “exercise at 6:00pm”. This way, when 6pm comes around, you can’t say you don’t have time for it! But don’t stop at this. Prepare your workout clothes or gym bag so you’re all ready to go when it’s time to exercise. Don’t forget to tell your friends about it. Having someone to keep you accountable doubles your chances of doing it. Cos you don’t want to be that girl who doesn’t keep her word, do you?
Quitting a bad habit is hard work, but you can totally do it. I believe in you.