Habits. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are supportive. Some are self destructive. Some are inherited. Some are incredibly innovative…..
We all have them. They drive behaviour and create predictable outcomes.
It’s a vital topic in nutrition because how we eat, what we eat and how we think about eating are all to a very large extent, governed by our current habits. We’ve talked about this before.
Not all habits are equal, however. This is important to understand.
Charles Duhigg talks about keystone habits in his book, The Power of Habit. A keystone habit is one, perhaps small, new habit that initiates a whole cascade of positive changes.
Think of a keystone habit as the first domino, when it falls it starts a chain reaction and if you can harness the power and momentum of the ensuing cascade, your road to weight loss will be much easier and more enjoyable.
So what’s so special about a keystone habit? A keystone habit has the ability to make you see yourself in a different way. It miraculously encapsulates the vision you hold for yourself.
A personal example – two years ago everything changed – my darling sister died from ovarian cancer, I left Canada and moved home to Northern Ireland, I left a well paid corporate job, my Calgary home and most of my belongings, the list goes on….
I found myself struggling to create a supportive nutrition and athletic training plan, two familiar and core aspects of my life. No matter what I did I couldn’t get anything to stick. I’d gather myself up for a few weeks and then fall off again. It was very frustrating and a sign that, overall I was struggling to find my way.
About 6 months ago I made the decision to call in reinforcements and I found myself a personal trainer. For just one hour a week I threw myself around the gym under his watchful and encouraging eye.
I stuck with it and started to see myself as strong and capable again.
That was the first domino falling. From that one hour a week, other habits emerged, consistently running in the park 2-3 times a week, planning ahead with nutrition, cooking and freezing lunches. I started to go to bed earlier because I was training in the morning.
I’d found my keystone habit.
As a nutrition coach I encourage my clients to explore what their keystone habit or habits might be and I have been amazed at the rapid changes once it has been identified.
For one woman, starting to track her food choices using a well known App, MyFitnessPal was a game changer. Not so much because of the calorie count but because it made her feel that she was finally putting her nutrition (herself) at the top of the list. Soon she began to cook more wholesome food for herself, she joined a local running group and is enjoying steady weight loss.
For another client the simple act of jotting down his three healthiest food choices that day worked like a charm. He started to feel the benefit of celebrating small wins which, grew to wanting to celebrate bigger and bigger wins. He started to plan his healthy food choices in advance.
I don’t know what your keystone habits might be but I do know it’s vital to uncover them.
Once you do, hang onto them, build them because sooner rather than later the cascade of dominos will start to fall and you’ll be carried towards success.
About Jillian Mooney
I am a nutritionist and life coach. Together we create strategies that deliver the nutrition outcomes you want while working within your life structure.