In my coaching practice, I’ve helped hundreds of runners ditch old bad habits and create ones. This is really the core of the work we do together - creating new habits that get you to your weight …
My name is Patrick McGilvray, and I’m an experienced marathoner, ultra runner, Sports Nutritionist, Master Life Coach, and weight loss coach for runners. I’ve dedicated my life to helping runners just like you properly fuel your body and your mind. So you can get leaner, get stronger, run faster, and run longer than you ever thought possible. This is Running Lean.
Hey there, and welcome to episode 118 of Running Lean. My name is Patrick McGilvray, the weight loss coach for runners. And today I’m going to be talking about the biggest mistakes of habit change. So in my coaching practice, I’ve helped hundreds of runners ditch old habits and create new ones. And this is really the core of the work that we do together, creating new habits that get you to your weight loss goals and get you to your running goals.
So when it comes to changing a habit, I know what works and what doesn’t. I’ve also seen a lot of people make the same mistakes over and over again. So today, I’m going to share a few of those biggest mistakes of habit change that I’ve seen.
And these are the things that people do that make it very hard to create any kind of lasting change any kind of permanent change in their habits. And my hope here today is that this is going to help you to avoid making these same mistakes yourself.
So I just want to let you guys know that we just finished up a whole month of working toward eliminating emotional eating for good over in the Running Lean coaching project. It was an intense learning experience for everyone in the group. We all learned some powerful skills for permanently ending emotional eating stress, automatic eating whatever you want to call it, it’s basically the same thing.
And in case you don’t know, I’ve just opened up my brand new immersive coaching program called the Running Lean coaching project. This program combines the best elements of my group coaching program, and also includes personal one-on-one coaching with me to help you get all the knowledge, guidance, encouragement, and accountability that you need to hit your weight loss and running goals.
And starting in April, our whole focus for the month of April is going to be on building healthy habits that stick there’s an art and science to habit change. And all month long we’ll be doing live trainings, q&a sessions, workshops, and coaching to learn how to ditch the old habits and replace them with new healthy habits that get you to your goals. I hope you’ll join us you can learn more and sign up now at runningleanpodcast.com/join. I would love to have you in the Running Lean coaching project where the project is you.
Alright, so let’s talk about why habit change is so hard. And the biggest mistakes people make around habit change. Okay. So why is it so hard? Why does it seem to be so grueling for us to stop doing our bad habits? Like why do we struggle when we want to change a habit? Break an old habit develop a new habit? Why is this such a struggle? Okay.
You know, you should be doing this, but instead, you don’t do it right? You know, you really want to stop doing this. But you keep going back to that old behavior time and time again. Okay? Why do we do this to ourselves? So that’s what I’m going to be talking about here today, okay, I’m gonna be talking about the importance of not making these mistakes, the same mistakes that I see a lot of people make, okay, you have to avoid these mistakes.
If you want to create healthy habits that actually stick that become automatic, become part of who you are and what you do that becomes easy and effortless behavior for you going forward. Okay. So this is the crux of, of the work that we do in my coaching programs because when it comes to building a better you, it’s all about what you’re doing day after day after day after day after day.
It’s not about one thing that you change one time, it’s about consistency in habits and consistent behaviors over time. And if you don’t understand this, and if you don’t wrap your head around the fact that you’re going to have to create new habits, it’s going to be very challenging for you.
Okay, so here are some of the mistakes that I see people make around this. And there’s more probably, but I’ve got a few to share with you today. These are the big ones. All right. So the first one is this. The first mistake of habit change is not understanding how your brain works and not understanding that your brain is actually designed to fight against you.
So most people don’t understand what their brain is doing and they get very frustrated. When they try to create some kind of a new habit, because they’re suddenly faced with all this resistance, it’s like internal resistance. And they don’t really see that they don’t know where it’s coming from. They don’t know why it’s such a struggle for them mentally and emotionally to like, stick with their plan.
Okay, so you have to understand what’s going on in your brain. So here’s what you need to understand. Your brain has one job, and your brain’s job is to keep you safe and to keep you alive. And whenever you make any kind of big change, your brain goes into freakout mode, it goes into fight-flight or freeze mode.
So doing a new habit, like say, you want to get up early, you want to get up earlier than normal to start running before you go to work. And this is a great idea. But to your brain, this feels uncomfortable, it feels unsafe, it feels unfamiliar, and your brain will reject this behavior. Your brain will seek comfort, and safety.
And whatever is familiar to it, even though what you’re trying to do is actually good for you. And will make you healthier, and we’ll make you feel better. Because getting up early to run, you know, it’s great for you, right, it helps you start your day with some good endorphins, you’re less stressed throughout the day, you feel more invigorated, you’re generally happier when you start your day with exercise. So this is all good.
There’s no logical reason why, you know, your brain would be against this idea. But here’s what’s going on your brain, this to your brain, this whole idea is like, foreign, it’s not what you’re, it’s not what it’s used to. Your brain is used to you hitting the snooze button three or four times and then grabbing quick coffee as you sprint out the door at the last minute, that’s what your brain sees as normal.
That’s what your brain sees as safe and comfortable. And familiar. Even though it’s not good for you, it’s not good for your mental health or physical or emotional health. But this is what just seems safe and familiar and comfortable to your brain. So that’s what your brain wants you to do. Right?
It just wants you to just keep doing what you’re doing, stay comfortable, stay with the familiar. So doing something different. Getting up early, putting your running shoes on, and going outside and running just seems so foreign and like unsafe, like your brain is literally thinking we’re gonna die if we did this, you know.
So you really have to understand this, you have to understand that your brain will force your progress in these scenarios, right. And it will cause you to self-sabotage just to keep you comfortable, your brain just wants to keep you comfortable and safe. You have to understand this have to, have to, have to.
So this is one of the biggest mistakes that I see people make all the time, they don’t understand this, they don’t get it and they can’t figure out why they just can’t get up in the morning, you know that they put their shoes out, they set the alarm, they made an intention, but they just can’t do it.
You know, they can’t stick to their food plan, they made a food plan and they’re, you know, trying to stick to it, and they just can’t do it, they can’t make any traction towards their goals. Because they’re just letting their brain run the show their primitive brain, you know, that’s that part of our brain that just wants to keep us safe. That’s called our amygdala that’s like that old primitive reptilian part of our brain.
Okay, so you have to override your brain, you have to take back control of your own behavior. And so, you know, one of the ways you need to do this is to embrace the discomfort of habit change, you have to embrace the discomfort that will be there. I talk about this all the time, right, you got to embrace the suck, right?
You have to be willing to get uncomfortable because your brain just wants to keep you comfortable, and you have to do the opposite. You have to get uncomfortable. And if you want to create new habits, and ditch old ones and create new healthy habits, you absolutely are going to have to get uncomfortable. And this means doing the opposite of what your brain wants you to do sometimes and you just have to be willing to be uncomfortable to do it. Okay.
So that is the first mistake that I see people make they don’t understand this. They don’t understand what’s going on. They’re not willing to get uncomfortable. And they just go with whatever their brain is, is trying to do by default, which is to keep them safe and comfortable. Hit snooze. That’s what feels normal. Don’t get up and go running. It doesn’t feel good. That’s hard. Right? But you know that that’s what’s good for you. You know that that’s required.
Another big mistake I see a lot of runners make when it comes to changing habits is procrastination. And I know you’ve done this, you’ve probably said to yourself, I really want to lose weight, or I really want to run a marathon. But right now, it’s not a good time. Not right now you’ve got this big thing going on at work, maybe when that’s done, or, you know, the kids are in school, so I got a lot of stuff going on with that.
So maybe after the kids get out of school, or when we have more money I can invest in myself, you know, or when I have more time when I have some free time, then I’ll do it. And we just keep going on and on and on about all the reasons why we should put this thing off till later. When we all do this, we all procrastinate. No one is immune, I do it. I’m very guilty of doing this.
But here’s the thing, in order to change your habits, you have to be taking action, you have to be actively practicing new behaviors. That’s what habit change is all about. You have to be actively practicing new behaviors.
The problem is new behaviors are hard. And it’s uncomfortable. See mistake number one that I just mentioned about our brain wanting to keep you safe and comfortable, right.
So we do whatever we can to just not do it. And we use this excuse of procrastination as a reason to not have to do anything right now. So you just tell yourself this little light, you’re like, I’m going to do it later, I’m going to lose the weight, I’m gonna run a marathon, just not right now, later, later, later, later, later, is the killer of hopes and dreams later is a goal crusher.
You want something for yourself, but you just keep saying later, I’m just going to tell you right now, it’s not going to happen. And I say that this is a lie that you tell yourself that you’re going to do it later. Because you really, you’re just you just don’t want to do it. You don’t want to do it at all. And so you just convince yourself that you’ll do it later. But in reality, you’re never going to do that thing.
And the reason you don’t want to do it is because you are afraid you’re afraid that you know, you might fail. That’s what this boils down to. You might feel in your heart that you really want to run that marathon, but you’re scared, you may not be able to do it. You know, what if I don’t finish?
What is that gonna be mean about me, I’m gonna feel like a failure. Or you really want to lose the weight, but you’ve failed so many times before. You just can’t bear to do that again. You know, what is that going to say about you? It’s this fear of failure that’s often at the root of all procrastination. So you have to know that this fear of failing is going to be there.
And that putting off starting something, doesn’t do anything to make that fear of failure, go away, still gonna be there. It just makes you feel worse because now you have this thing that you really want to do. But you’re not doing it, you’re kind of procrastinating because you’re afraid you’re gonna fail. So you put it off till later. And that even makes you feel worse.
But what if you just took action today toward that goal? What if you said to yourself, no more delaying this, let’s go. And you actually signed up for that marathon? Or you change something about your diet starting today? How would that feel? Well, honestly, it would feel a little scary, right?
But here’s the thing with procrastination, taking action is always going to feel scary. Because you don’t know if this is gonna work or not, you don’t know, if you’re gonna be able to lose the weight, you don’t know, if you’re gonna be able to cross that finish line that marathon. And delaying it is not gonna make it any less scary. It just means you’ve wasted a bunch of time that you could have been using to train for that marathon, or get your diet figured out.
You know, you’re still going to feel the fear. When you set out to do that thing later. You might as well just take action now and not waste all this time. Because you know that later, it really means never stop putting off that thing. And take action today.
Another big mistake related to this whole idea of habit change and kind of related to procrastination is getting into what I call information overload. And here’s what this looks like. So let’s say you want to lose weight. So you Google weight loss. A
nd you get a billion articles that all tell you different things. And I actually just did this. I’m like, I wonder how many articles if I just type in weight loss and Google will come back 1.6 billion results B with a B billion. With this much information out there on this topic. Why on earth does anyone have trouble losing weight?
Right, it would seem like all the information you need is out there. But oh my gosh, the problem with this is that there’s like, so many different ways to approach this thing, right, and everything, not everything works for everyone, everybody’s different. And you kind of need to figure out what works for you.
And I have to tell you that this is kind of a struggle for a lot of people. I’ve been there I’ve tried it. And I’ve tried so many different things. And I’ve gotten into this information overload too. And I’ve gotten stuck with like, what about this idea? What about that? Well, this says this, and this says this is all kind of contradicts each other too, right?
And I’ve tried so many different things. It didn’t work for me. I was Googling this stuff for like years, years of the Googles. And it just didn’t work I couldn’t figure it out was very frustrating. Super overwhelming. But here’s the thing, you can’t just get stuck in this information overload mode, right?
You have to get out of that state you’re in. Because what happens when you get overwhelmed, right, you end up like doing nothing, you get stuck in this analysis paralysis. And you don’t do anything because it’s all too frustrating. It’s too complex. There’s too many contradictory methodologies. There’s too many options. There’s too much information. And this is again, where your brain is just like goes into freakout mode and just like shuts down and just wants to do nothing.
But you know, that’s not the answer. That is not going to get you there. You have to do something, right. So what’s the right plan for you? And honestly, I wish I could tell you that I wish I could just tell you right now, here’s what you do. And this is what’s gonna work for you because this works for everybody. And the truth is that we’re all different. And there is not one thing, there’s not one diet, there’s not one plan that works for everyone. There’s no one size fits all, when it comes to nutrition and weight loss, there just isn’t.
And this is one of the big principles that I use in my coaching practice that I treat every person is an individual. And we look at your specific goals, your metabolism, your activity levels, your lifestyle, your food preferences, your likes, your dislikes, we put all this stuff together. And we create an individualized plan that works for you. And it’s something that you can feel good about.
So you have to get out of this mode of information overload. So get out of this, like research mode on Google, like to try to figure out what’s going to work for you. Because I’m just going to tell you right now, it’s going to drive you crazy, it’s going to drive you crazy, like looking at all this information out there.
Okay, sometimes you just have to get into action, and sort of figure it out as you go. Now, obviously, having someone knowledgeable there to help you put your plan together is ideal. But even if you try to go it alone, just get out of information overload and get into action, try something, try something that feels good to you.
That feels in alignment with your goals, your values, and then see if it works for you. And if it doesn’t, you can always try something else. Okay? Get out of information overload.
Another big mistake I see people make when they’re trying to change habits is they play the blame game. They set out to change a habit, they can’t seem to make it work. And then they blame everybody else in their life and everything in the world for their inability to make it work. So here’s a scenario you might be able to relate to.
Let’s say you’ve decided you’re going to stop eating sugar, like sugar is a problem for most people, right? It makes it really hard to lose weight. If you have a regular sugar habit. There are no real positive health benefits from consuming sugar. So you make this decision. You’re like, you know, I’m just gonna stop eating sugar. Okay. And it’s going okay for a week or so. And then your husband is doing something nice for you. So he decides he’s gonna bring home doughnuts for breakfast on like a Sunday morning. Right?
And he’s like, just have a doughnut. You know, just live a little. Have a little fun. You deserve it. You’ve been doing great all week. Just treat yourself. It’s just a don’t, it’s gonna be fine. And of course, you agree with him. You’re like, yeah, I have been doing great all week. I do deserve this. I do want to have a little bit of fun. And so you cave and you eat, you know, a few donuts.
And then you’re like, well, you know what I mean? I’ve already blown it for today. So I might as well just like, you know, this whole day it’s shot. Sometimes we’ll just like eat more sugar. Alright, so you just spend the rest of the day scarfing down muffins and cookies and cupcakes and for a snack, you’re eating like candy and oh, you have ice cream for dessert and whatever.
And of course, you feel like crap because you’ve been sugar all day. But you also feel bad because you let yourself down and so you’re like in this downward spiral now, right, and of course, you’re coming off with a sugar buzz. And so what’s gonna make you feel better? That’s right, more sugar, it feels great to eat the sugar.
But then you’re back on the sugar train, and you just say, eff it to the whole, not eating sugar thing. And you justify it, you justify it by telling yourself that it’s really not your fault. If your husband didn’t force you to eat those donuts, you’d be fine. If your husband would just support you, you’d be able to make this work.
But since I don’t have a supportive husband, this is just not going to work for me, right. And this story is really not a made-up story. I hear stories like this once a week, once or twice a week from people who legitimately think that it’s not their fault that they can’t stick to their food plan.
They blame other people, they have lots of stories, lots of excuses, lots of justifications for their behavior, and they believe in these things fiercely. And they will defend these stories and excuses and justifications, right? They blame their spouses, their friends, their kids, their kids’ friends, their boss, their stressful job, their culture, society in general, they blame the seasons, the weather, it’s too hot, it’s too cold, you name it. Nothing is ever their fault.
And if everything and everyone around them would just change, then they’d be able to stick to their plan. But here’s the thing, if you want to change your habits, it’s going to require that you take ownership of your own behavior. You cannot blame anyone else for your own choices. No one ever holds you down and forces the donuts into your mouth. And if this is happening to you, you need to seek some professional help right now, right?
But I really doubt that that is the case, right? Nobody’s making you eat doughnuts. You make your own decisions every minute of every day. And changing a habit requires that you are 100% responsible for everything that you do or don’t do. You cannot blame other people, you cannot blame anything outside of yourself.
You have to stop blaming and start taking full responsibility for everything that you do. Here’s what you can control, you can control your own thoughts, your own feelings in your own actions. That’s it, nothing else is within your control. You can’t control other people, what other people think how they feel or what they do.
This also means that no one else can control your thoughts or your feelings or your actions. No one else is ever to blame for what you are choosing to do. So stop acting like you are powerless and out of control. You’re always making decisions about what you are doing. Every bite of food you put into your mouth is a decision and a choice you’re making at that moment. Always, always, always.
In order to change habits, you have to take full responsibility for your own behaviors and your own results. If things aren’t going the way you’d like them to be going. Other people don’t need to change. You need to do something, you need to do something different. You need to change something within yourself. Okay.
So those are the biggest mistakes I see around habit change. I hope you will avoid these mistakes for yourself. And remember, we’re going to be spending the whole month of April on the art and science of habit change over in the Running Lean coaching project you’ll learn exactly how to ditch the old habits and make healthy habits stick and we’re going to have some fun doing it.
I hope you’ll join us just go to runningleanpodcast.com/join. Love you all keep on Running Lean, and I’ll talk to you soon.
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