A bulletproof plan to make healthier habits stick once and for all.

It's nearly that time of year again when you consider what the "new you" looks like. Oh yes...when the clock strikes twelve, this is it! – No more binging pringles while watching Netflix for 8 hours straight. Oh wait, how did that work out for you last year? 

If you're like most, you probably gave it a good go through January or even February but succumbed to "I'll start again on Monday syndrome" soon after. Unfortunately, our intentions rarely match our habits. We all have great intentions, but the environments we live in today are different places than those our grandparents grew up in. 

Today, they make it easier and faster to become to the unhealthiest version of yourself. To overcome it, you need a plan, not just any plan, a plan takes combines the evidence base with practical steps to make healthier choices the default. 

Let’s dive into each step.

Step 1: Clarify goals.

Firstly, it's essential to be clear on your goals and what you actually want to achieve. Avoid writing down anything you can objectively measure because it will be difficult for you to see if you're progressing or not. For example, writing down a goal that says "lose a bit of weight" wouldn't be an objective measure because it's not specific enough; however, "I want to lose 20 pounds" is distinctive because you can measure it.

Step 2: Brainstorm behaviours that support this goal

The next step is the easiest of the lot; you simply list as many behaviours as possible that support this goal. Don't hold back here; simply write down as many things you feel can help you achieve this goal. In the case of the example above, these might be: 

  •  Walk every day
  •  Go to the gym 3 times a week
  •  Workout every morning 
  •  Track calories daily 
  •  Add a portion of veggies with each meal
  •  Have protein with every meal 
  •  Walk to work
  •  Walk home from work
  •  Cycle to work 
  •  Join a running club 

...And so on.

Step 3: Match it to your current ability.  

In the next step, you explore each individually and match which one suits your current ability. This is where you be completely honest with yourself and consider all your previous history and cross off what is probably not practical for you right now. 

For example, suppose you joined the gym previously but never developed it into a consistent habit. In that case, that is probably one you can cross off. Similarly, if you're not really a morning person, working out every morning may be another you cross off the list. Leave yourself with no more than 3 on the list, and now you have some actual potential new habits to start with. Finally, use the hard to easy scale mentioned in chapter 5 to rank them and only leave the one/s that you feel are an 8 out of 10 or above.


Step 4: Pick a good prompt 

Relying on willpower alone is not a good strategy for forming new habits. Instead, picking a good prompt that reminds you "to do your habit" is much better. Simple prompts like putting a post-it note on your laptop or fridge door can work, setting alarms on your phone remind you, or any other triggers you feel will work for you put in place. 

One of the most effective triggers is using an existing habit as a prompt, also known as an anchor habit. This means picking something you already do and adding your new behaviour just after it. In turn, you're setting up little habits systems for yourself to follow along mindlessly. Below I’ve left some examples across some pillars of health:


After I boil the kettle, I will drink a full glass of water. 

After I get home from work, I will eat one piece of fruit from the fruit bowl.

After I sit down to eat, I will eat the protein first on my plate.


After I see it’s past three p.m., I will drink water instead of coffee.

After I wake up, I will open a window and take three deep breaths.

After I turn on the shower, I will say a quiet prayer of gratitude.


After I hear my alarm in the morning, I will get up without hitting snooze.

After I put on my shoes in the morning, I will go outside for a 5-minute walk.

After I finish eating lunch, I will get outside into the natural light of the sun.


After I get into work, I will take the stairs instead of the lift,

After I put on my shoes in the morning, I will go outside for a 5-minute walk.

After I finish eating lunch, I go outside for a 15-minute walk.


Going into something relying on willpower is never a good idea, to illicit change it has be unique to you and your current situation, by leveraging off your current behaviours you give yourself the best opportunity to lock in new ones...that stick! 

Once you’re doing them with noticing you’re doing them is when you know you’ve mastered it. Now get planning and get executing. Enjoy the journey.

Article by Declan Doyle

Qualified Nutritionalist, Health & Wellbeing Expert

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