Healthy Habits 101

I am on a weight loss journey.

I am perpetually on a weight loss journey.

On the “healthy living” spectrum, I’m usually somewhere between kale chips and Taco Bell tacos.

I used to think that losing weight was all about motivation. Phone conversations with my mom usually went one of two ways: either, “Life is so good! I lost five pounds! I hope I can keep up my motivation,” or, “Ugh. I ate a whole bowl of cookie dough yesterday. I really need to find my motivation.” I was so off-target.

Here’s what I eventually figured out. Motivation really has nothing to do with weight loss success. Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Motivation is not the answer.

Losing weight, crushing goals, and bettering yourself is all about habits. That way, when the motivation dwindles (which, let’s be real, is undoubtedly going to happen), you have healthy habits in place to rely on.

The cool thing about habits is that they are just there. You don’t have to think about them. You don’t have to plan them. Habits just happen (once you create them, of course).

Here are my favorite healthy habits that help me stay on track even when I am terribly unmotivated.

Start with a healthy breakfast. I have never been a big breakfast eater. I never wake up hungry. I never have. In high school, my mom finally quit force-feeding me peanut butter toast and just let me go to school breakfast-less. This was a huge contrast to my four-bowls-of-cereal-eating sister, so it was probably pretty hard for Mom to just let it go. Everyone says that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but that phrase made me literally roll my eyes. Yes, I was one of those teenagers. Now that I’m an adult, though, I see the value. For me, because I don’t wake up ravenous, it is pretty easy for me to stick to my previously-planned healthy breakfast, which really sets me up for healthy choices throughout the day. I like to make eggs for breakfast (scrambled or omelet, please!) because they keep me full for a long time. That way, when I walk into the staff meeting and there are donuts, I am full enough to easily say, “No, thank you,” instead of, “Oh hey, thanks! I didn’t get breakfast this morning.” Whenever I feel myself falling off the healthy-eating wagon, I always make sure my breakfast is in check first.

Schedule your workouts. “I don’t have time,” is such a common excuse, and I use it for everything. When I had a two-year-old with a full-time job working on two separate online degree programs, I would tell my coworkers that I didn’t have enough time to work out, and, in all honesty, I was so busy that they didn’t question it; however, I did have time. It wasn’t until I scheduled out my day that I was able to find a 30-minute chunk to be able to do a quick workout video. That became a daily appointment, and I kept it like I would a parent-teacher conference or a doctor’s appointment. Now, working out is just something I come home and do, so there is no question of “Should I work out?” or “Can I fit that in today?” Making time for my daily workout is such an important habit in my life.

Work in extra steps. I do the best that I can to walk as much as possible throughout the day. It gets a little excessive sometimes — I even pace the living room while reading books with my toddler. It actually drives my husband crazy because whenever we go to town, I always park way far away from the store so that we have to walk farther (and I’m a claustrophobic driver, but that’s a story for another day). I also avoid elevators at all costs (okay, maybe that’s claustrophobia, too). I do these things as second nature, but they add so much more movement to my day and help me to be active without much effort.

Healthy habits are the secret to healthy living. Motivation feels awesome, but when it fades and when our brain gets tired of making decisions, we need concrete habits to fall back on. What are the habits that keep you crushing goals when all motivation is lost?

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