How to Develop Sustainable Habits

atomic habits.png

Instead of dropping some nutritional knowledge on you this month, I want to talk about something even more important - how to develop sustainable healthy habits. After all, what good is knowledge if you don't know how to implement it?

According to researchers at Duke University, habits account for about 40 percent of our behaviors on any given day.  Understanding how to build new habits is essential for making progress in your health, your happiness, and your life in general.This is a summary of an article written by James Clear, author of Atomic Habits.

1. Start with an incredibly small habit. 
When most people struggle to build new habits, they say something like, "I just need more motivation." Or, "I wish I had as more willpower." This is the wrong approach. Research shows that willpower is like a muscle; it gets fatigued as you use it throughout the day. Solve this problem by picking a new habit that is easy enough that you don't need motivation to do it. Rather than starting with 50 push-ups per day, start with 5 push-ups per day. Rather than trying to meditate for 10 minutes per day, start by meditating for 1 minute per day. 

2. Increase your habit in very small ways. 
Rather than trying to do something amazing from the beginning, start small and gradually improve. Along the way, your willpower and motivation will increase, which will make it easier to stick to your habit. Try adding one push-up to your total each day, or increasing the amount of time you sit in meditation by one minute. 

3. As you build up momentum, break habits into chunks. 
If you continue adding a little each day, then you'll find yourself increasing very quickly within two or three months. It is important to keep each habit reasonable, so that you can maintain momentum and make the behavior as easy as possible to accomplish. Building up to 20 minutes of meditation? Try splitting it into two segments of 10 minutes at first. Trying to do 50 push-ups per day? Five sets of 10 might be easier to accomplish. 

4. When you slip, get back on track quickly. 
Top performers make mistakes, commit errors, and get off track just like everyone else. The difference is that they get back on track as quickly as possible. You shouldn't expect to fail, but you should plan for failure. Consider what may prevent your habit from happening. What are some things that are likely to get in your way? What are some daily emergencies that are likely to pull you off course? How can you plan to work around these issues? You just need to be consistent, not perfect. 

5. Be patient. Stick to a pace you can sustain. 
Learning to be patient is perhaps the most critical skill of all. You can make incredible progress if you are consistent and patient. If you are trying to lose weight, you should probably go slower than you think. Do things you can sustain, or risk gaining the weight back when you can no longer maintain the extreme diet and exercise protocols. If you are trying to add more veggies into your diet, start by focusing on only one meal at a time. New habits should feel easy, especially in the beginning. 

For the full article, go to

Roxy Turner 
BHC Nutrition Coach