Kicking a field goal, playing the piano or lifting like an Olympian: These are all skills that take time and effort to develop before you can rely on muscle memory to get them done. But once you put in the grind time, you don’t have to think about the nuances of the action; your body just makes it happen.
When it comes to nutrition, habits are the “muscle memory” you can rely on. We’ve talked about how motivation comes and goes and how some days are just plain harder than others, and this is why developing habits that we can come back to when life throws us a curveball is so important.
So, how do you create a habit that you can rely on? By following these steps:
- Make it specific – A vague habit is hard to check off your list. Make sure your habit is something that allows you to clearly say, “Yep, I did that” or “Nope, I didn’t.”
Unspecific ex.: Drink more water.
Specific ex.: Drink 1 oz. of water per pound of body weight each day.
- Start small – Instead of trying to go from 0–100 in 60 seconds, start with something you know you can commit to every day! This will keep you feeling empowered, meaning you’re more likely to stick to it long term.
Ex.: Drink a glass of water every morning.
- Connect it to something you already do – Habits are easier to build when we associate them with our day-to-day patterns.
Ex.: Drink water before I drink my morning coffee and while I eat my meals.
- Hold yourself accountable – Make sure you have a way to track if you hit your habit for the day. Whether you’re using an app or giving yourself a daily visual like a calendar on your fridge, make sure you’re keeping track!
Ex.: Log my water intake in the “water” section of MyFitnessPal so I can make sure I’ve hit that 32 oz. each day.
- Enroll your family and friends – You are more likely to stick with something if you have other people asking you how it’s going. Create accountability partners who can keep you moving if you need a little push.
Ex.: Tell my spouse not to pour me any coffee until I’ve had my 8 oz. of water!
Here are some habit-hacking resources: