• Melanie Hartskeerl

What's your habitual ritual?

One of the most common things I see with patients and PT clients is the acknowledgement that they know what they should be doing but just cannot seem to be able to do it!

Its an interesting statement from them and it makes me wonder why is this?

There can be many things that influence people’s choices when it comes to eating one of them is the habit or ritual of eating at certain times. Such as: when you sit down at the end of the day with a cup of tea and something sweet, when you’re feeling a little bit flat mid afternoon and feel like you need a little pick me up, when you sit down to watch a film or catch up with friends often it can be a subconscious act driven my emotions – I know I fit in to that category at times.

So I guess the big question is what can we do to change this?

One of my favourite sayings is “if you want change you need to make change” it sounds so simple but can be a real hurdle for a lot of people especially when we are dealing with habitual rituals.

Mindfulness and being self-aware are in my opinion the two biggest drivers of making these changes. As I mentioned before we all know what we should be doing and how to do it so lets just do it. Doing things on autopilot and without thought is a very common thing we do when it comes to food, as a mum we often finish what’s on our children’s plate or even eat the equivalent of a whole meal while preparing dinner and then sit down for an whole other meal with the family. We just go about life doing what we do and do not stop to take the time to question it. Do I need that? Am I hungry? What are my other options? What can I replace that ritual with?

Changing the ritual will help change the habit – I have a patient who gave up smoking; who then had to change the route she walked from the train station to avoid the urge to light up as she used to do. Once she made that change she no longer had the urge to smoke on her walk to work. Another patient who is working from home during Covid 19 lockdown noticed the occasional times she had to go in to work she got that 3pm slump and needed a pick me up; this was not occurring while she was at home working though! These are two very real and relevant examples of how little things can trigger our need for something without us even realising or being aware. The importance of becoming self-aware and questioning our actions has a huge impact on our success in making changes for our health.

So, what’s the quick fix for this? Unfortunately, there isn’t one and this is only one of many reasons people do the things they do. Diet and exercise will also drive appetite and blood sugar regulation as can many other health conditions; so, like many things to do with health and fitness it’s not a one size fits all approach. However it’s a great place to start, becoming more aware of what we do and why we do it is a great learning experience but it takes time and acknowledgement and a good way to get started is to write things down, note why your doing it and what you could do differently to change that habitual ritual. It’s worth a try!

This is one of the focusses I have on my 2 Week Curb Your Cravings Online Program. My aim for this program is to help participants build good habits for cutting cravings through making diet and lifestyle changes as well as to give them the tools to move beyond the two weeks program into changing those habits and creating a more amazing version of themsleves.

But remember there are some habitual rituals you want to embrace and keep on doing, like hugging your children and kissing their cheeks while they sleep, telling the ones you love that you love them and smiling at anyone who’s path you may cross – these all make for a happier soul.

Yours in health


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