Building Healthy Habits – Decide to Stop Deciding

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The main aim of this blog is to share with you all my journey of becoming healthier by losing weight sensibly. A big part of this journey has been building healthier habits into my day-to-day life. One of the things that has helped me most with this aspect of my journey is a book called ‘<a href="http://<iframe style="width:120px;height:240px;" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" src="//ws-eu.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=GB&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=fatfightingfo-21&marketplace=amazon&region=GB&placement=1444769014&asins=1444769014&linkId=1c6d618cb61639ef446759d6dd055e1d&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066C0&bg_color=FFFFFF"> Better Than Before’ by Gretchen Rubin. I came across this book when listening to Rubin’s podcast Happier and thought it sounded like just the thing I needed to help me to build the healthy habits that I have struggled to get to grips with so far.

In the book, Rubin shares 21 strategies to use for building good habits. Not all of them are applicable to everyone – after all different things work for different people – but I thought I’d share with you some of the strategies that I’ve found work best for me, starting with…

Deciding not to decide

When people are struggling to build a new habit, they often talk about lacking willpower or self-control. Rubin refers to studies showing that when we try to use willpower to resist temptation, we are only successful about 50% of the time. She argues that instead of relying on willpower to help us form new habits, we should instead rely on decision making. Habits don’t require us to make decisions; we just ‘do’ them. For example, we don’t decide to brush our teeth each morning or wear a seatbelt every time we are in a car, we just do those things out of habit. So we should decide that we will adopt a healthy habit, and then stop making decisions about that habit: we’ve already decided we’re going to do it, so we no longer need to keep thinking about whether or not we are going to do it or trying to resist the temptation of not doing it, which requires a lot of willpower.

I’ve used this to good effect in helping me to drop a couple of bad habits and establish a good habit over the last few months. At the school where I work, we’re lucky enough to have a plentiful supply of biscuits and bread and butter for toast in the staffroom. In the past, I have over-indulged in these items or found myself eating them even when I’m not hungry – I find them hard to resist, especially if I’m having a hard day. So, when I went back to school in September, I made the decision that I don’t eat biscuits or toast at work. I’ve found this to be really liberating. No longer am I doing daily battle with my self-control in resisting the temptation to indulge because I’ve already made the decision that I don’t eat those things in that setting.

The habit which this strategy has made the most difference with so far, is exercising regularly. I’ve never been that active. I’ve had many fits and starts of exercising but I’ve always found it difficult to maintain a regular exercise routine for a sustained period. At the beginning of the summer though, I decided that I wanted to give it another go as regular exercise is so important for good health. So I decided that I was going to exercise 3 times a week. End of story. No further decision making required. As with the formation of many habits, at the beginning I was really motivated to keep up with it. As time has progressed though, there have been occasions when I’ve not really fancied going, for a variety of reasons, but when this has happened, rather than getting into an internal dialogue with myself about why I should or should not go, I’ve just reminded myself “You’ve already made the decision: You go to the gym 3 times each week”. No will-power battle required. I’m now 17 weeks in and I haven’t missed a single session. Not even when I’ve been on holiday or away for the weekend. I’m still often surprised that I’ve managed to establish this habit so securely and that it has felt so easy to do so compared to my previous attempts.

There are several other strategies I’ve employed as well to help me form these healthier habits, including the strategies of scheduling, accountability and convenience, but I’ll talk more about these in future posts.

Are you trying to form any healthier habits? How could you use the strategy of deciding not to decide to help you on your way?

Throwback Thursday – Are You Being Nice to Yourself?

In one of my early posts, I wrote about rewarding myself for my weight loss achievements.

These days, I think about the idea of a ‘reward’ a little bit differently (more about that in a future post) but I still believe in the importance of treating yourself, be that with something simple like a fancy cup of tea and half an hour with a good book, or something more indulgent like a spa day.

Self care is so important to your mental health so make sure you take some time this week to treat yourself.

What are you favourite ways to treat yourself? let me know in the comments section; I’m always looking for new ideas.

Thanks for reading,

FFF

Progress Report – October 2019

I’ve decided to approach my progress reports slightly differently for the time being for a couple of reasons:

  1. I was finding writing weekly reports a bit tricky to keep on top of
  2. It’s probably not that interesting for you to read each week whether or not I’ve lost weight

So I’ve decided to try monthly updates instead. I think it’s important for my obliger nature to have the external accountability of letting you know how I’m doing, but hopefully it’ll be more manageable for me and less boring for you!

So, how’s my month been?

Weight – altogether in October, I’ve lost 5.5lb bringing me to a total of 1st 4.5lbs lost so far.

Inch loss – 12 inches lost in total and I’m delighted to see that my collarbone is beginning to reappear. I haven’t seen that for years!

Exercise – I’ve continued to maintain my exercise schedule, even when I went to visit my mum for the weekend, and I’m definitely seeing my endurance and strength improving:

Exercise Starting Point Current Performance
Plank 3x 1 min 3x 1min 15sec
Side Plank 3x 1min each side
Deadlift 3x 20 reps 16kg 5x 20 reps 24kg
Lunges 3x 10 reps 10kg 5x 12 reps 10kg
Chest Press 3x 20 reps 12.5kg 5x 18 reps 20kg
Bicep Rows 3x 20 reps 15kg 5x 18 reps 20kg
Upright Row 3x 20 reps 10kg 60sec recovery 5x 20 reps 10kg 30sec recovery
Lateral Raise 3x 20 reps 3kg 3x 20 reps 4kg
Lateral Pulldown 3x 20 reps 20kg 5x 18 reps 25kg

I’m really not a fan of having my photograph taken but I was pleasantly surprised to see the difference in a photo taken this time last year to one taken now.

My biggest challenge this month was having a 2 week holiday from work with the temptation to sit around eating biscuits and chocolate all day that that brings. Although I did indulge in a couple of treats, I generally made healthy food choices and rigorously stuck to my training plan and even added in a couple of walks.

Speaking of food choices, although I have generally been making healthy choices, I haven’t been tracking what I eat so that’s something I want to focus on in November as it’s very true that we often eat mindlessly and forget what we have actually consumed.

November is sure to bring with it some challenges as the nights get darker, we get closer to Christmas and it’s also my birthday month, but I’m just going to keep on trying to make healthier choices for the benefit of my future self and with the shorter term aim of looking as good as I can by the time my Christmas holiday comes arounds.

Thanks for reading,

FFF

This week I’m loving – Philadelphia Milka

I am not paid for any of the reviews I write and products that I review are paid for with my own money. Read more on my disclaimer page.

As regular readers of the blog will know, I LOVE cheesecake. But why does it have to be so flipping calorific?! Ditto both points for chocolate.

So when I spotted Philadelphia Milka on a recent supermarket trip, I HAD to try it and I’m pleased to report it might just be the best £2 I’ve ever spent!

It tastes just like a good chocolate cheesecake filling and is rich, sweet, tangy and creamy in all the right proportions.

At only 4 Smart Points for a rather generous 30g serving, it’s delicious spread on WW Shortbread Biscuits or a good old digestive for a little cheesecake hit for a fraction of the Smart Points/calorie spend.

If you love a bit of cheesecake too, you might like to make my Breakfast Cheesecake and read my review of Costa’s Baked Vanilla Cheesecake.

Thanks for reading,

FFF

Be Kind to Your Future Self

One of the things I’ve previously struggled with when trying to create and, more importantly, maintain, new habits, it to keep the motivation going over the long term. I’ve often found that I’m good at getting motivated to begin a new habit, but once the initial wave of optimism fades, I find it becomes trickier to balance the demands of keeping the new habit going with the routines and unexpected happenings of daily life.

Recently, however, I’ve come across a new mantra courtesy of Gretchen Rubin and Liz Craft’s Happier podcast. In one of the episodes I listened to this summer (apologies, I can’t remember which one – note to self: jot things down in future!), Gretchen and Elizabeth talked about the idea of being kind to your future self. In short, there may be things you don’t really feel like doing in the moment but which, if you do do them, your future self will thank you for. For example, you might feel too tired after dinner to wash the dishes but if you leave them, when you wake up in the morning, you’ll wish you had just done them at the time. Therefore, thinking of your future self at the time you don’t feel like doing something can help to encourage you to do it.

I’ve been using this to my advantage in helping to stick to my healthy eating and exercise habits. There have been (several)times when I haven’t felt like preparing a healthy lunch or going to the gym, but I’ve stopped and thought about how grateful my future self will be that I did make the lunch or go to the gym. Similarly, I’ve employed this strategy when trying to avoid certain behaviours such as binge-eating or when tempted to indulge in more sweet treats than ar good for me. I’ve also found that picturing how that future self will look and feel – strong, lean, healthy and confident – when she’s thanking me for my actions has helped to boost the motivation to stick with my healthy habits.

 What are you going to do this week that your future self will thank you for? Let me know in the comments section.

Thanks for reading,

FFF

Progress Report 1.10.19

Weigh-in Result: -2lb

What do you do when plans go awry? That’s how my healthy eating plans have felt this week. I’ve been trying to streamline my meal planning and shopping process to save me time but this is in the early stages and this week I ran into a few problems involving missing ingredients. In the past, my reaction would have been to throw any ideas of sticking to my plan out of the window as I headed to the chippy. But this time has been different. I’ve reminded myself of the progress I’ve made and how much better I’m feeling and I honestly haven’t wanted to resort to takeaway food.

I’ve been back in the kitchen baking along with the Great British Bake Off and this time it was the turn of my colleagues to ensure that I didn’t eat the entire cake!

This week was book club week and, as I mentioned last month, this would usually be an excuse for me to indulge in a glass of wine and a slice of cake without tracking either of them. Last time around I chose cake, this time, I opted for wine. It was actually the first glass of wine I’ve had since my summer cruise and it was nice to savour it whilst discussing this month’s read.

The weekend saw me visiting my parents in Wales. Previous visits have always had quite a boozy theme to them – although there are 9 pubs in the small town (population 2013) that she lives in, so it can’t really be helped! But this time around, my mum knows how focused Mr FFF and I are on improving our health and fitness so, rather than just getting us some drink in for our arrival on Friday after work, she asked us about it first and we politely declined.

We went out for dinner on Saturday night (almost all of the pubs serve delicious, home-cooked food) but I again stayed in control of my eating by having a light breakfast and lunch and only having two alcoholic drinks with dinner.

A warming bowl of cawl made a delicious lunch.

I continue to surprise myself with my attitude towards my fitness. Rather than seeing spending the weekend at my mum’s as an excuse not to exercise, I took my walking boots to Wales with me. Unfortunately, we were thwarted by the Welsh weather but we managed 20 minute walk and also walked to and from the pub! What I did notice was that climbing the steep hill on the way back from the pub no longer leaves me breathless.

I’d also booked an appointment with my PT for the Sunday afternoon when I got back and was delighted that I was able to tell him that I’d been gyming-it consistently whilst he’s been on holiday.

After a busy couple of weeks, I’m looking forward to a quieter time over the next couple of weeks.

Here’s hoping…

FFF

Progress Report – 24.9.19

Weigh In Result: STS

As I wrote about last week, I knew that this week was going to present the biggest struggle so far in terms of sticking to my exercise goals because it was a busy week involving several changes to my normal weekly routine. I had a governor’s meeting on one of my normal ‘gym nights’; my PT is on holiday; my mum came to visit from Wales and we went to the cinema; I had to work on Saturday morning; we went out for a meal on Saturday evening; and I’d made arrangements to meet up with friends for coffee on Sunday.

Fortunately, I’d taken the time to think about how I was going to deal with each of these situations and so I was well-prepared for them when they rolled around.

Exercise – Due to the meeting, I’d changed my gym night to Friday. Not how I’d ideally have liked to start my weekend but it was the only other week-night option due to my mum visiting on the Wednesday and attending my WW meeting on Mondays. I also had to rearrange an essential appointment (getting my nails done!) which I’d booked for the Saturday morning before I knew I was going to have to work. The only time I could reschedule for was straight after work on Friday. This made me even less inclined to go the gym on Friday night. I asked myself “Would it really matter if I miss just one session?” I decided that no, missing one wouldn’t hurt, but I didn’t want to miss one. So I got myself to the gym, completed my program and went home feeling rather smug!

Cinema – In days gone by, a trip to the cinema would be an excuse to eat a ton of junk – a hot dog, ice-cream and popcorn would be pretty much standard. But I made the decision to rein myself in this time. I cooked an easy but tasty meal for us to eat before we went and I took some skinny popcorn with us to share. My mum also brought some chocolate to share which I hadn’t planned on. I took a smaller portion than I would have normally and savoured every mouthful.

Saturday working – When we have to work on a Saturday morning, we always get sausage or bacon butties and hash browns along with cakes and donuts to eat during the break time. In the past, I’ve also had a standard breakfast (usually a bagel or porridge) before leaving home too as I get up early and would be ravenous by the time we got to eating the butties. This time around, I considered not having a butty at all, but reasoned that this was the one positive aspect of having to work on a Saturday. So I decided to have some melon and quark before leaving home then to enjoy the butty and hash brown but avoid the cakes and doughnuts as I’m never usually hungry by the time they come out anyway – I only eat them ‘because they’re there’.

Dinner Out – We went out for dinner for the first time since getting back on track with my healthier eating goals (we used to eat out at least once a week but usually, more like two or three times). I decided that just because I was eating out didn’t mean I had to consume a day’s worth of calories in one meal. After all, it’s definitely not going to be the last time I ever eat out. Instead, I planned ahead and made some small changes to enable me to enjoy the evening but stay in control of my food choices.

Coffee with friends – I’d arranged to meet up with some friends for coffee on Sunday. We met at this fabulous book farm that has a café where they serve the most amazing array of cakes. I knew that with both of my friends would be ordering some and I’d most definitely feel I was missing out if I didn’t indulge in a slice. But I had a couple of strategies for working it into my healthier eating plan: as we were meeting at 2pm, I decided to class the piece of cake as my lunch. With this in mind, I had a 3-egg omelette for breakfast which I knew would keep me feeling full and planned a simple Sunday roast for my evening meal with only a small amount of potato and plenty of veg. You’ll be pleased to know, I’m sure, that my cake was delicious and I actually couldn’t finish it all! I may have only left one mouthful, but this is progress indeed!

I’ve got to be honest, I’ve found it difficult to stay focused this week, especially with completing my gym sessions, but I think this was simply down to the fact that it was a busy week with several schedule changes. Now I’ve gotten to the end of it though, I’m really pleased that I’ve managed to get all of my exercise sessions in as I’m not likely to get a week much busier than this one has been. I’ve shown myself that it is possible to juggle my schedule and prioritise my healthy lifestyle goals even when life gets busy.

What has been a great motivator this week is that two people commented on the fact that they can see I’ve lost weight which made me feel great and determined to stick with it.

Thanks for reading,

FFF