An Old Habit is Hard to Break!

cookies-and-fresh-fruit--closeupWe humans are creatures of habit and often do things, not because we need to, but rather because it’s just the way we’ve always done them. Some common examples are:

  • Salting your food
  • Eating during commercials
  • Always purchasing food at the movies even if you’ve just had dinner
  • Eating while studying
  • Always over-eating at parties
  • Snacking while making dinner
  • Eating poorly when you’re with friends
  • Always eating the same exact amount of food regardless of your hunger level
  • Stopping for a treat on your way home from a weekend destination regardless of your hunger level

The movies just wouldn’t be the same without popcorn right?! This is a habit and often, people will find themselves ordering popcorn even though they’ve just had dinner and aren’t even hungry. Another example is people who get into the habit of stopping for one of their favorite treats on the way home from a regular weekend get-away regardless of their hunger level. Students will often get into the habit of eating while studying for exams.

The first step to getting control of these nutritional habits is to become aware of your patterns. 

Completing a log that tracks your exercise and dietary habits is helpful to allow you to examine your behaviors. Once you discover what actually stimulates your less-than-healthy behavior, you then have the choice of either changing the stimulus or situation or changing your response to the stimulus or situation. Review the following examples to help clarify the action steps.

Step One:  Recognize what stimulates the unhealthy action.  Become aware of the habit.  Monitor what you eat, when you eat, who you are with and how you felt.

  • Whenever I’m depressed I eat junk food
  • Whenever I go out with Patti, we always drink too much and eat terribly
  • Every Friday night, friends come over to watch a rental movie and I always eat 4 slices of pizza
  • Every time I eat ice cream, I always order a double scoop
  • I always eat 2 sandwiches at lunch
  • I always go to the cafeteria and buy 2 chocolate chip cookies for my mid-afternoon break

Step Two:  Either change the stimulus or change the response

Looking at the above situations, you have 2 choices:

i.e.       Either change the stimulus

  • Try not to get overly depressed, instead, attempt to examine whether there could be any positive outcomes from the very difficult situation.  Try to develop the skills to become an optimist. It’s the glass half empty vs full approach.
  • When you go out with Patti, bring along another friend who may be a better influence
  • Instead of watching a movie, schedule a hike or a walk with your friends
  • Instead of ordering ice cream, order a fruit salad
  • Bring a bowl of chili to lunch
  • Take a short walk on your break instead

i.e.       Or change the response

  • When you get depressed, watch a funny movie or call a best friend or go for a long walk
  • You and Patti make a healthy dinner at home and decide that you’ll drink 2 glasses of water for every beer or alcoholic drink
  • Order Japanese instead of pizza
  • Order 1 scoop of ice cream instead of 2
  • Make 1 sandwiches instead of 2 and make a salad too
  • Eat an apple on your break and see if that curbs the craving. If not, allow yourself one cookie.

Sherri McMillan, M.Sc. has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for 25 years and has received numerous industry awards including International Personal Trainer and Fitness Presenter of the Year. She is the author of five books including “Go For Fit – the Winning Way to Fat Loss” and “Fit over Forty” and is the featured presenter in various fitness DVDs.  She is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver and can be seen running, hiking or cycling with her two children, Brianna and Jackson.  She can be reached at or Note:  As an avid Columbian reader, you can redeem a 2 week pass at her world-class training studio to help get you started.  Contact 360.574.7292 for more details.  

Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan, holds a master's degree in exercise physiology and has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for more than 33 years. She has received numerous industry awards including 2010 CanFitPro International Presenter of the Year, 2006 IDEA Fitness Director of the Year, 1998 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, 1998 CanFitPro Fitness Presenter of the Year and 2005/2006 ACE Fitness Educator of the Year - Runner up. She is a fitness trainer, fitness columnist for various magazines and newspapers, author of five books and manuals including "Go For Fit - the Winning Way to Fat Loss" and "Fit over Forty" and the featured presenter in various fitness DVDs. She has presented hundreds of workshops to thousands of fitness leaders throughout Canada, Australia, Mexico, Jamaica, New Zealand, Germany, England, Spain, South America, Asia and the U.S. She is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver, the founder of WHY Racing Events & WHY Community, participates in various community fundraisers and can be found running, biking, or hiking around the community. Find more information at

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