No diet or workout can fix bad habits

2020 new years resolution
2020 new years resolution

Truly succeed with your 2020 new year’s resolution

The 3 pieces of habit you didn’t realize are Essential for Health and fitness Success in 2020:

The 3 pieces of habit formation that you must keep in mind while creating your New Year’s resolutions. I hear many share the popular “No great workout out runs a poor diet”. Catchy and there is truth to that saying, however, no diet or workout outruns poor habits, the biggest piece of health and fitness success. The question is, how do our daily habits affect us and how easy is it to change them? Habits are the body’s automations that we’ve created through reinforcement. Not realizing, there are specific activities that you do or that you no longer do, daily, that have deconditioned and sculpted (from a physical, movement, and mental way) you into the person you are today.  The following are three important processes to make sure any goal that is set, is achieved!

Habit Formation 1: The 4 stages of competence-

The 4 stages of competence either boost our abilities to dominance or our demise. There are various levels and intensities that these stages fit. We’ll be focusing on the smaller ones that we may not realize affect us on a high level. If a task we often do can be automated it allows us to focus on other tasks that take thought. For example, if you’ve woken up went to brush your teeth and at the same time, in your head, went through the main points of your extremely important presentation at school or work. A few hours later, you may not even be sure if you brushed your teeth because of the focus on the presentation. The task of brushing teeth is, for most, an automated process. The 4 stages of competence is the process the body uses for task automation. The 4 stages are defined below:

  • Training Aspects, Weight Loss, Sports Coach, Sports Performance, Health, Healthy Lifestyle, Fitness, Fitness Coach, Health Coach, Fat Loss, Losing WeightStage 1 Unconscious – Incompetent:  The individual doesn’t understand how to do the task and isn’t actually aware that the task is even needed. Example: If There was a time, where coffee wasn’t a part of the morning routine. Whether, the first cup was an instant favorite (for most it isn’t, still not this writer’s drink of choice ) or it was indulged due to necessity, that would be considered stage 1.
  • Stage 2 Conscious – Incompetent: Now with the awareness of the task, the individual decides to add it in to the schedule and learn to use it.  Example- Tasted coffee, enjoyed it’s energy boost, now decided to understand how much or little is needed to drink, what can be added to it, the flavors of coffee and any other tricks of the trade.
  • Stage 3 Conscious – Competent: Aware of the task and now somewhat skilled but still has need to think through steps.  Example: The flavors of coffee, the amount, how much sugar or cream should be added are now known but still take some thought. If arguing on the phone while making your coffee, you’ll probably mess it up because it still takes focus.
  • Stage 4 Unconscious – Competent: It has become “second nature” Can now be performed at the same time as another task. Example: Walking into a coffee shop on the phone arguing about something important and not even thinking about how much or what to add to your coffee. It needs no thought.

The 4 stages of competence is an important process the human mind goes through. Becoming aware and able to complete a task without thought. It is an extraordinary ability and it has its many positives, however it has some drawbacks as well. The ability to make certain task automated allows for more processing power to focus on the tasks that aren’t as proficient. Stage 4 becomes automatic. Unlike a computer, when a person makes something a regular process good or bad it becomes a part of them. The only way to over ride the now natural task is to create a stronger process and avoid the one learned.

Habit Formation 2: The Habit Loop

2020 New year's resolution health and fitness
   example with stress eating

The brilliance of the human body,  Fight or flight! The body must survive, with all the remarkable capabilities a human being has the ability to automate processes to conserve energy. One of the processes is called the habit loop. The habit loop is present during the 4 stages of competence. The habit loop reinforces the act and makes it automatic. Based on 3 parts: The cue, the routine and the reward.

The cue is what sets off the habit. It’s the trigger to begin the regular routine. Been strong on a diet for a month, you sit down with a friend and as any great host put a batch of home made cookies in front of you. You say “No thank you, I just ate”, like the good dieter you are. As the conversation continues to pick up without realizing the person offered the cookie to you in the middle of a story you’re telling them, you grab the cookie and without thinking about it you eat it.

The routine- the diet may be on the forefront of your mind but subconsciously eating the cookie allows for the reward. Once your mind is focusing on the stories and discussions you realize you are chewing a cookie!

The reward- For each person and situation it may be different, whether it’s being a part of the experience of eating and talking with friends or the taste. The reward may be a negative affect once the loop has been complete, but once the cue triggers, there needs to be a stronger reward that can override the current routine. Translation- If coffee with extra cream and sugar is the desired drink in the morning changing it to black coffee may not be the long term answer. It would be better to identify a drink that gives similar reward, taste, timing, experience etc. instead. The goal is to create a habit loop stronger or won’t make you feel like your missing out too much.

Habit Formation 3: The Healthy Life Style Puzzle:


Looking back, when you were in the best shape of your life. What was a prominent theme in your life, regular activities, what were the people surrounding you into? Most likely, sports, active hobbies, active lifestyle, active friends, support, more time/less obligations  etc. The people we surround our lives with and the things we do, sculpt us into the people we are today. Most groups of friends, family, teams act and look similar. The person that doesn’t have similar qualities usually ends up choosing to do other activities or spend time with others. As mentioned earlier, No amazing diet or workout regimen will change a weak life style and poor habits. It may change for the short term even a few years. However, unless there is true commitment to the new lifestyle there won’t be true results.

Bringing it all together:

There are many places to invest in training, nutrition, surgery… before making an expensive mistake, understand what your goal is and if it’s an aggressive one adjust your expectations or be ready for an overhaul, depending on how strong the current habits are in your life puzzle. Placing a new puzzle piece into a puzzle isn’t just a one piece change, the whole puzzle may need a change.

For part 2: follow the link
Part 2: The one exercise that will help you succeed in the new year

Kirill Vaks
Sports performance movement specialist

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