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How to Stick to Your Fitness Habits the Easy Way, According to Science

Saying no to bad habits

It might seem like a simple matter of self-control. But it turns out that people with high self-control may not necessarily be better at resisting temptation. They might just experience it less often in the first place.

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How to Stick to Your Fitness Habits the Easy Way, According to Science

How to Stick to Your Fitness Habits the Easy Way, According to Science

https://betterhumans.coach.me/how-to-stick-to-your-fitness-habits-the-easy-way-according-to-science-139884a006b4

betterhumans.coach.me

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Key Ideas

Sticking to a healthy lifestyle

Staying in shape is mostly about program compliance.

It’s not about having the best fitness program, but about having one that’s good enough, eating less junk food and making sure you actually stick to it. 

And most people have trouble doing that.

Off limits foods

Successful dieters usually declare certain foods to be completely out of bounds, or allowed only during occasional designated cheat meals, rather than expecting themselves to eat everything in moderation.

Saying no to bad habits

It might seem like a simple matter of self-control. But it turns out that people with high self-control may not necessarily be better at resisting temptation. They might just experience it less often in the first place.

"Have to" and "Want to" goals

  • Have to” goals are set externally  ( e.g.: a doctor tells you that you should lose weight) and may be more effortful to reach;
  • “Want to” goals are the ones you feel internally motivated to accomplish  (you do your workout because you love how it makes you feel) and usually don't need as much self-control.

The Instagram Effect and food porn

Counterintuitively, you’d be better off viewing photos of junk food, instead of healthy food, because viewing the photos induces satiety, decreasing the desire for and enjoyment of foods of the type shown in the photos.

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Ego Depletion
Ego Depletion

Ego depletion happens when people use up their available willpower on one task.

We all have natural urges, desires, and tendencies that demand attention. When we curb those ...

Self Control

People having a high level of self-control experience better relationships and have higher achievement levels. Lack of self-control is associated with social conflict and low-grade academic performance.

Example: While following a diet regime, a person spends a lot of willpower the whole day trying to avoid junk food, but by the end of the day, all his mental energy has been exhausted, and there is no self-control left, resulting in snacking on unhealthy food.

Causes of Ego Depletion

Many emotional and physical factors contribute to ego depletion, like:

  • Emotional distress
  • Struggling to learn something new
  • Mental fatigue due to anxiety
  • Low levels of blood sugar
  • Too much choice
  • Conflicting beliefs and actions (cognitive dissonance)
  • Heart Rate
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Being young and immature.

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The reasons we crave junk food
  1. The sensation of eating the food: what it tastes like, what it smells like and how it feels in your mouth.
  2. The blend of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates t...
How craving are stimulated artificially
  • Salivary response: the more a food causes you to salivate, the more it will cover your taste buds.
  • Rapid food meltdown: this tells your brain that you’re not full, even though you’re eating a lot of calories.
  • Calorie density. junk foods are designed to convince your brain that it is getting nutrition, but to not fill you up.
  • Memories of past eating experiences: When you eat something tasty, your brain registers that feeling and will bring it up in the future.
Building better habits means changing your environment

Most people think that building better habits or changing your actions is all about willpower or motivation. But your environment has an incredible ability to shape your behavior.

Nowhere is this more true than with food.

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Willpower is like a muscle

Just like going to the gym and building up strength, the more you train your willpower by accomplishing tasks on a consistent basis

Self-Discipline - a series of healthy habits

Long term change is better served by building better habits, than by forcing your willpower. 

You will choose the apple over the cake for a number of times ... and then give up. Building a habit to start the day by going to the gym will work better.

Habits = “automatic” responses...

 ...to familiar environmental cues. 

They form when you engage in a behavior repeatedly in the presence of consistent stimuli.

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Self-Control

 ... is the ability to regulate and alter responses in order to avoid undesirable behaviors, increase desirable ones, and achieve long-term goals.

Research on Self-Control
  • A 2011 survey found that 27 % of respondents identified a lack of willpower as the primary factor keeping them from reaching their goals. 
  • One study found that students who exhibited greater self-discipline had better grades, higher test scores, and were more likely to be admitted to a competitive academic program. 
  • The study also found that when it came to academic success, self-control was a more important factor than IQ scores.
  • A health study found that people who were rated as having high levels of self-control during childhood continued to have high levels of physical and mental health in adulthood.
  • Research has found that self-control is a limited resource. In the long-term, exercising self-control tends to strengthen it. 
Motivation and Monitoring

A lack of willpower is not the only factor that affects goal attainment.

  • There needs to be a clear goal and the motivation to change. Having an unclear or overly general goal and insufficient motivation can lead to failure.
  • You need to monitor your actions daily towards the achievement of the goal.
  • You need to have willpower.

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Avoid willpower depletion

Building willpower is similar to building muscle. Continually exercising without giving yourself a break is not the best way to increase your strength or performance. 

...
Use your imagination
Imagination can blunt the cravings that erode your self-control.

If you imagine lying on a peaceful beach, your body will respond by relaxing. If you imagine being late for an important meeting, your body will tense in response. Use this to your advantage in building willpower.

Think about something else
You can even use your imagination to keep unwanted thoughts away. 

Every time that unwanted thought occupies your mind, consciously think about something pleasant instead. 

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Self-control is not fixed

Self-control is not a quality that remains stable throughout a person’s life, similar to IQ or personality. 

A person’s level of self-control tends to wax and to wane over the cou...

Why we fail at self-control
  • Factors such as negative mood, fatigue and alcohol play a large part in self-control failure.
  • Previous effort is one especially well studied factor that decreases self-control. All else being equal, a second self-control attempt after an initial one is more likely to fail than one that comes after a relatively restful period when no self-control was exercised.
Understanding self-control
  • Self-control is indeed a resource, but a renewable, psychological one.
  • Goals that are motivated from within—for reasons that are personally important to us—are more likely to succeed than those that are motivated from without.
  • Succeeding at self-control is more about the desire rather than the ability to do so.
Self-control
Self-control

It’s your ability to resolve conflicts between your short-term desires and your long-term goals.

For example, successful self-control means sacrificing immediate pleasure (cookies a...

Why self-control matters

People who have high self-control aren’t missing out on enjoyment. Not being able to resist temptation and enjoying life are not the same things.

They tend to eat in a healthily way, exercise more, sleep better, drink less alcohol, smoke fewer cigarettes, achieve higher grades at university, have more peaceful relationships, and are more financially secure.

Biological limits to self-control

Research showed that self-control is ultimately limited by our biology. We can’t exercise effortful self-control indefinitely – the brain has to do regular maintenance to remain functional.

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Copying successful people

Putting highly successful people on a pedestal can unknowingly hinder our own efforts. We get caught in comparisons and it’s easy to forget that they’ve had and still have their own set of struggle...

Maximize every moment

Working well is not about maximizing every waking moment of the day, in order to get more done. And the focus on maximizing time may actually diminish our creativity.

Instead, try identifying and focusing on the few hours of the day you are most productive.

Setting Big Goals

To achieve sustainable productivity habits, it’s best to build up with easily achievable tasks.

Small chunks of accomplishment will amount to something big eventually.

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“Micro quotas”

In the process of finding a balance between your desire to dream big and your day-to-day activities, create macro quotas.

These refer to the minimum amounts of work that...

Behavior chains

Creating new habits that stick is easier if we make use of our current routines, instead of trying to fight them.

Use "if-then planning": choose a regular part of your schedule and then build another “link in the chain” by adding a new habit. For example: "If it is lunch time, then I will only eat meat and vegetables.”

Simplify decision-making

Making repeated choices depletes our mental energy, even if these choices are mundane and pleasant.

If you want to maintain long term discipline, aim for fewer decisions during the day: identify the aspects of your life that you consider mundane and then ‘routinize’ those aspects as much as possible.

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Brute willpower doesn't work

So we should stop worshiping self-control and start thinking about diluting the power of temptation. Because resisting temptation either only has short-term gains or can be an outright failu...

Willpower is not the lucky ticket to success

Studies have shown that people that are really good at achieving their goals are not the ones that put more effort into exerting self-control in the face of temptations, but the ones that experience fewer temptations to start with.

People who are good at self-control
  • They actually enjoy the activities some of us resist (eating healthy, studying, exercising)
  • They have better decision-making habits
  • Some people just experience fewer temptations
  • It’s easier to have self-control when you’re wealthy - when you’re poor, the future is less certain.

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