Breaking Bad (Habits)


Last night as I was thinking about the different topics I wanted to write about my mind quickly trailed off to the kitchen. I was mainly thinking of the Nutella in the cupboard and how a little spread of heaven (because let’s be real, it might be the best thing ever) over a piece of toast would taste ever so delightful. Then I came to my senses and realized I wasn’t even hungry and voila, I had my topic for my post: breaking bad habits, aka having Nutella toast right before bed.

Whatever your bad habit is, and mine for many years was insisting that I needed a bedtime snack, there are simple strategies you can begin to implement to change your behavior. First things first, you have to recognize that you have created a habit, or cycle that needs to be broken. Not all habits are bad. Exercising regularly, being courteous to others, or eating your greens are all habits as well, and ones I would hope you don’t try to break. Other habits, or bad habits for lack of a better term, don’t enhance the quality of your life or the lives of those around you. You may not realize this at the time but once you break the cycle you might recognize how much better things are since you’ve changed your ways.

Case in point: bedtime snacking. My whole life I enjoyed a bedtime snack. This usually was eating less than an hour before bed and because I have a sweet tooth, it was almost always a starchy, carbohydrate laden food. This past December I knew I could get in trouble with all the holiday goodies in abundance so I decided I would avoid having a treat before bed. Instead of setting a time I couldn’t eat past, I just went based off of how hungry I felt. If I wasn’t hungry, I wouldn’t eat. Well guess what? I was rarely hungry the hour or so before bed. The first two weeks it was really tough because it was a habit I’d formed 27+ years ago. As time went on I realized how much better I slept and that my tummy wasn’t making weird noises before bed (hence it wasn’t full of sugar) and I made a connection between most of my sleep issues that had been wearing on me for years – I was eating too close to bedtime!

Whatever your bad habit is, I guarantee that once you begin to overcome it you’ll slowly start to notice little changes in your life. Little did I know that cutting back on a bedtime snack would help me sleep better at night! Whatever it is you need to break try these easy steps:

1. Identify your trigger. Really think about what is causing the behavior. For example, late night eating due to boredom or routine. Snacking while watching TV or looking at too many tasty recipes on the web.
2. Distance yourself from the trigger.  Can you move away from or even break free of the trigger? For me it was easy, don’t spend time in the kitchen at night and minimize the amount of tempting treats I have around the house.
3. Take action: Plan to make a change, however small or grand. One day I just said, “Today’s the day, Nutella, I’m saving you for special occasions and I can’t keep replacing you once you run out!”
4. Increase Awareness: How do you feel now that you’ve broken your habit? I was really surprised that I started sleeping better and I contribute much of that improvement to going to bed without a sugary stomach.

What habits are you currently trying to make or break? Remember, it’s easy to start a bad habit but even easier to start a good one!