Break Unhealthy Habits With Exercise In 5 Simple Steps

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You can take charge of your fitness and break unhealthy habits with these easy tips. Cut the excuses and stay motivated to get results.

We have all had bad habits that we needed to break. Big or small, it can be a daunting task. But at the end of the day there is no secret trick, no trap door, no way around it. You have to just toughen up and commit to making a change. To tell yourself that you are dissatisfied with your behavior and WILL change it for the better. I’m going to give you the straight up, no mess around methods that will keep you motivated as you get closer to a healthier version of yourself.

  1. Be honest with yourself
  2. Use replacements
  3. Designate compromise time
  4. Reward your wins
  5. Hold yourself accountable

Be honest with yourself about your unhealthy habits

Let’s begin by addressing your problem areas. Identify any and all unhealthy habits that you have to break. How do you know if it is unhealthy habit? Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

Does this habit set me up for success?

Is it something my doctor be proud of?

Do I NEED this habit to be happy?

How often do I engage in this?

How long has this been a pattern in my life?

Would I want my kids to adopt this habit?

Chances are, you know if a habit needs to be broken before asking yourself these questions. But I find that when we are forced to face the reality of our actions, when we can be HONEST with ourselves, we take that first step to making a REAL change. And what is really happening is you are emotionally breaking up with that behavior. When you let yourself to see what you are doing is not good, it’s much easier to say goodbye. You’re igniting the fire of motivation! It gives you something to look back. It gives you a “why” when it gets hard.

I also want you to recognize any triggers, stressors, or associations you have with these habits. Do you tend to eat candy while you’re at work? Is girls night centered around fun but very high calorie alcohoic drinks? Do you skip your workout the days you work from home? Try to draw any connections so you can eliminate temptations.

Replace unhealthy habits with healthy ones

This one sounds like a big ask of yourself at first, but it is like we are just making a small adjustment that is conducive to a fitter lifestyle. You don’t need to completely uproot your daily schedule. Just making a small swap can actually make a big difference. Remember we want to break unhealthy HABITS. Something that you do often. So when a behavior is repetitive, you get results quickly, good or bad.

I’ll lead with one of my biggest challenges. I was raised as a TV snacker. Meaning if I was watching TV, I was eating. Whether it was apples, cereal, chips, candy, popcorn or whatever was around, I could not watch TV without having something to eat. Very, very, very. VERY unhealthy. I realized this was not something I could continue if I wanted to maintain a healthy weight. So I thought what is something that I can do to keep my mind off of snacks? I am a busy body so it had to be some kind of a task. Stretching! I sat on the floor and when a commercial came on I switched to a new stretch and tried to hold it for as long as I could until the next time my mind went to food.

This is the perfect example of changing something small without uprooting your routine. It didn’t require me to do much, and I built a healthy habit that was conducive to my fitness while breaking an unhealthy one. Some other examples are replacing unhealthy snack foods with veggies, water for empty calorie drinks, a TV subscription for a gym membership, screen time with stretching, a smoke break with a walk break, or whatever works for you.

Other easy ways to also start is by limiting your access to your unhealhty habits. Whether it means to stop buying junk food, sugary drinks, alcohol, or cigarettes. Maybe to limit your contact with triggers and associations like the friends that drink to much, stressful coworkers, or screen time that makes you lazy.

Desginate compromise time

This one works if you are motivated by seeing light at the end of the tunnel. For me, it is so much easier to struggle and work hard when I know a break is coming. So set a rest day that you can look forward to when you want to quit or skip a workout. Schedule some time out with friends that can be used as active recovery like a hike or walking the mall. Instead of girl’s night for martinis you can suggest a cafe with coffee and healthy food. Take family movie night as an opportunity to catch up on your stretching. Or include the family and get active with some chores or play sports instead of your workout that day. You can get quality time with the kids without the guilt of being inactive or missing a workout.

Just think of some ways that you can spend your time doing the things you like, but without the temptation of your unhealthy habit.

Reward your wins when you break unhealthy habits

I’m not a psychologist, but I am pretty sure positive reinforcement always works for breaking unhealthy habits, right? LOL. Aren’t we more motivated to earn a reward? Try it! After every successful week, month, accomplishment, give yourself a little win. Maybe that is with new workout apparel, a dinner at a healthy new resturaunt, trying a new workout class, a massage, sauna time, or new recovery equipment. Whatever it is that makes you smile and reminds you what you are staying strong for. As long as, AGAIN, it is conducive to your fitness.

Hold yourself accountable

The body can do whatever the mind tells it.

By this point, you should be pretty strong in working towards your goal. You should have removed many obstacles and setup cheerleaders for yourself along the way. But we are still human. And sometimes we mess up. Now I don’t want you punish yourself for slipping up. BUT I do want you to make sure that when you slip up, you are letting yourself know it.

That is by giving yourself extra credit in your workouts. What do I mean? Tack on 5 more minutes of your least favorite exercise like burpees, wallsit, planks, or anything that makes you struggle. Why? Because it is just enough to sit with you next time you feel a lapse in willpower. You will remember that 5 minutes of burpees was not fun. But ny pushing through, you are also making yourself mentally tougher. And that is where we are failing when we give in to unhealthy habits. In our minds. The body can do whatever the mind tells it. And I truly believe that.

If you want a tool to help hold yourself accountable, check out my FREE Accountability Chart. A nice visual is always helpful.

And since we are challenging our minds, here is a Squat Challenge Workout. All squats, all burn. A great workout to build your mental toughness!

About the Author

Coach Zoe

Fitness trainer and mom of 3! I love working out, hanging out with my family, and motivating others.

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  1. Great info.. I love the advice of stretching while watching TV instead of snacking! That’s an awesome recommendation. Thanks!

    1. It was a game changer for me! Happy to help!

  2. This is super useful! Thank you for sharing these easy tips and ideas to develop healthy habits to replace the old ones.

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