So you want to give up ___? (The power and secret of behavior change and breaking habits)

So you want to give up ___?

You better be ready to replace it with something else.

There’s a power and secret to behavior change and breaking bad habits.

Change is good when you’re wanting to break poor habits and behaviors that aren’t helping you. “In order to change your life, you much change something you do DAILY.”

So you can bet I’ll be supportive when someone expresses ‘I’ve got to give up/I’ve got to change ___ thing in my life.’

How we go about change is often what either makes or breaks our success for the long term. Almost anyone can commit and do something for a short period of time (anything less than a year, month, week, or day). I want to know what you’re going to KEEP doing for a year and well beyond. THAT is the marker of true change us coaches are working toward, and what’s going to equate to you being satisfied and successful.

Some changes I hear others express often have to do with ‘giving up something’.

“I am going to give up sugar”

“I’m going to quit eating at night”

“I’m going to stop drinking soda”

These are all great behaviors that I too think can be huge result drivers, but HOW we approach them sets us up for failure.

Simply giving up something leaves you with an empty space. This is great if you want to sit and meditate in lieu of doing what you’re giving up, but honestly, most individuals I hear from have difficulty simply sitting. (also something I practice cultivating in myself and my clients, but it’s not going to work as the replacement immediately) Asking a client to do ‘nothing’ when used to always doing ‘something’ - even checking their phone - feels like HELL.

You’re still not destined for failure because fortunately there’s always something you CAN do, and that’s the whole point of this blog.

In order to quit one behavior, you must be ready to replace it in some way with a new behavior and behavior pattern.

There’s three parts of a behavior pattern.

The trigger.

The action or behavior.

The reward.

The trick is to replace the action or behavior with something different that will yield a similar reward.

Case in point, after a long day at work, you may get home, walk in the door and head straight to the kitchen, pour a glass of wine or pop open a beer, follow that by heating up some queso while pulling out a bag of chips, and ending up sitting in front of the tv zoning out to a favorite show. In the end you just wanted time for yourself where you’re not thinking and stressing over your day.

After a long day of work, which could have been stressful ... maybe you’re just not into your job and are at wit’s end but aren’t dealing with those feelings... you almost automatically have taught yourself the above pattern.

The reward in this case is the relaxation and zoning out that comes with sitting at the tv and eating/drinking. The behavior is what you’re doing - which is NOT helping you solve your stressors, and isn’t serving your health, energy, nor your body composition or fat loss goals if you have them. The trigger is the work stressors, and also the automation of walking in the door and to the kitchen.

Fist thing, identify your reward.

Next, ask yourself what else you can you do to still get this reward. What do you enjoy doing that is relaxing and enjoyable for YOU? For example, maybe you enjoy having a homemade meal at the dinner table, a hot bath, socializing with a friend, or learning something new. You pick.

Then, you want to create a new trigger - something that will prompt you to take this new action and yield the reward.

One way you can do this is to plan ahead at the beginning of the week or before you head to work what you will eat, do the grocery shopping or write the list, and have the kitchen cleaned and ready to cook in. On your way home from work you will stop at the store pick up those groceries. When you walk in the house, you’ll turn on your favorite music of choice then heat up some hot water and make yourself some tea or crack open a can of seltzer water while you prepare your meal. Of course you could already have the meal prepared and ready to heat up, and in this case you’ll make the tea or open the seltzer, heat up the food and dish it out, then sit down at the dining table that’s been set to enjoy your meal. In the end, you are listening to good music, sipping on a beverage, enjoying good food, and relaxing after a long day. The more you repeat this new habit pattern from beginning to end the more ingrained and automated it will become. It will feel different at first for a while, but it does become easier, more subconscious and natural.

This is just one example, and yours will be unique to YOU.

I want to provide one other sort of example/scenario because it’s something I often hear clients and members share.

“I need to give up carbs, so I’m going to do a detox.”


“I eat too much sugar, I’m going to give it up for ___ days or period of time.”

Now, first off, you MAY be eating too much sugar or carbs, you will likely benefit from cutting back, limiting or giving them up, and if that’s the case and you end up with a calorie deficit you will most likely also lose weight and see a change.

Here’s the kicker though... how you’re going about it may be setting you up for failure.


You can give up almost anything for a period of time, but if you fail to plan ahead for after that time, you’re going to get stuck. If you don’t have a plan to begin with that includes replacing what you’re giving up with another thing you’re going to feel like there’s a hole making it easier to give up. By taking the ‘all or nothing’, ‘going cold turkey’, ‘never again’ approach, you’ll end up feeling restricted, resentful, and having more cravings or desire to have what you said you weren’t having.

Here’s what to do instead when you make these statements and want to give something up...

Identify what you’re going to REPLACE what you’re giving up with. You simply cannot remove without putting SOMETHING in its place. That may be another good, beverage, or another non food action.

One suggestion if you’re giving up sugar >>> add in clean PROTEIN and maybe good fat and/or fiber and water rich produce. The benefit of adding in protein is that it actually helps tame hunger and cravings and eliminates the need for sugar as a fuel source. Plus, who’s going to overeat chicken or eggs? I’d be full and bored of my food before I overate it in this case!

Of course, if hunger, energy, or cravings aren’t the reason you’re going for sugar, you can replace it with a non-food behavior. Maybe eating sugar is an emotional reaction to stress and coping. If so, then going for a walk, having a glass of water, calling a friend, or taking up a hobby, learning something new, or reading a new book could be your option.

It’s important to sit down with yourself and DECIDE WHAT you will do, how you will go about making a change once you decide you want to make it and BEFORE you begin. Going into something without a proper plan and idea of how things will play out sets you up for failure before you even start. This itself is a reason we don’t even begin or get one day in then drop out of what we initially committed to so wholeheartedly before.

Once you embark on a plan that you’ve come up with give it 100 for a period of time to determine what outcome you get. Also, be wary that you WILL hit obstacles and challenges of situations that will try to throw you off, and maybe you will actually start to revert back or relapse. You’ll need to be prepared for this happening inevitably, but by being prepared, you have the power and choice to then identify what three you off, make the decision to get back on track, and identify how you’ll side step this specific obstacle in the future before it kicks you.

I love the whole process of behavior change, and breaking habits or routines that aren’t useful. As a behavior change coach, I enjoy helping others along their way figure things out and break free of what isn’t serving them and create new ways that yield big wins and sustainable success.

If you’d like individual help, simply reach out.

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