Stopping Your Autopilot : Self -talk yourself out of unhelpful habits

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Stopping Your Autopilot : Self -talk yourself out of unhelpful habits

Self Talk about nutrition

Sometimes it may seem it’s an impossible task to break an unhelpful habit but just as you talk yourself into acting in a way that is opposite to what you want, you can also talk your self out of it.

When you understand that any decision to get up and eat or not get up to exercise is completely under the control of voluntary muscles you can help yourself to make different decisions. Have you ever said, “It just happens and before I know it, I’m in the kitchen having a snack.”  I don’t mean to contradict but in fact you have made the decision to get up and go there as the muscles responsible for that kind of movement only work when your brain tells them to—they can’t make you walk without your ‘permission’.

It can certainly feel like automatic pilot but it’s actually not.

So how do you stop it?

Firstly, you need to work out why you would want to change that habit and also identify anything that you’re fearful of about changing that habit.

For example, if you want to stop snacking after dinner the list of benefits for changing that habit may be:

  • Decreasing weight – which may have a whole host of other benefits to you
  • Increase energy levels
  • Feel good about making better decisions
  • Improve confidence in your ability to manage your food intake
  • Decrease guilty feelings around eating
  • Save money

However, the things that may stop you can often be about the fear of the unknown outcome or feeling deprived that you can’t eat that food:

  • If I start eating well that means I have to keep going and then I’ll miss out on things that I like
  • I can never keep these good habits up for long anyway
  • I don’t think I’ll be able to do this because I don’t trust myself around snack foods
  • I deserve this as I’ve been really good

You may be able to add your own reasons, and that will certainly make it more meaningful.

Once you have thought through the reasons you want to change the habit and the reasons that stop you from changing, then you can think up a helpful saying or mantra that will help remind you at the time that why you want to do something differently.

A mantra needs to:

  • Reassure – reassure you that your fears are unfounded
  • Refocus – get you focussed back on the reason that you want to change
  • Re-motivate – increase your belief in yourself that you can achieve the change – just for this one decision.  

It’s important to understand that your mantra will help to change your habit , one decision or situation at a time. It doesn’t have to work at any other time than ‘NOW’.

Given your mantra has to play so many roles you can see the benefit to doing some thinking about the habit you want to change. The closer your understanding of your motivations and barriers means the more accurate you can make your mantra which ultimately means it is going to be more effective.

To support your mantra it will be very helpful to think about the practicalities/situations  that allow your habit to happen. This means:

  • Who are you with?
  • What are you doing when the trigger for the unhelpful habit occurs?
  • What are some ideas that will make it easier to curb the habit?
  • Is there an emotion you are feeling?
  • What else, beside your habit, could you do to address that feeling?

Now create a mantra that will help you get over your fear/ barrier / habit in that moment. If it doesn’t work the first time – think of something else.

Go change that habit!

Lisa APD

Lisa Renn
Lisa Renn
Lisa Renn | Dietitian | Behavior Change Coach | Author|
Lisa is a Dietitian, behaviour change coach, mentor, speaker and author. She has been practicing over 23 years and specializes in holistically customizing diet and lifestyle plans to each individual for weight loss and a healthy relationship with food. Her clientele often report they feel the best they have ever felt and wish they had started sooner, as they have no guilt around eating and have successfully changed the way they look at eating well and losing weight.

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