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How to Create Behaviour Change

How to Create Behaviour Change

As a personal trainer and fitness professional, I am really interested in how to create behaviour change. Aside from providing successful diet and exercise programmes, my other major role is helping my clients to positively change their behaviour to help them achieve the goals they have set themselves.

how to create behaviour change, weight loss progress, Personal Trainer Stockport, Weight Loss, Fat Loss, Obesity, Food First Approach

Within reason, we all know what we need to do to stay healthy. Most people know they should eat a good diet, exercise regularly and sleep well. The reality is, however, that hardly anyone actually does these things – we live in a world where there are increasing levels of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, medicinal drug use and overall declining wellbeing is the norm. It’s a trend that has to be reversed.

How to create behaviour change…

The good news is that change is possible – in fact most of the people I know or deal with have even managed to create temporary positive change in their lives for some reason or another. Improving their diet before a holiday, quitting drinking for a month or two, eating less junk for a month. If it can last for the short term, why can’t these behaviour changes last for a lifetime?

It’s all about strategy.

Enthusiasm is an incredibly powerful thing. In January, gyms the world over are full of people on a ‘health kick’, and for a fortnight they will go to the gym 5 days per week, train themselves into a sweaty mess and eat a diet they can’t stand. Often times, they will do really well too – lose weight, feel better and actually enjoy it.

So what happens?

Real life happens. That’s what. A night out gives them a hangover and they miss a session in the gym. Work gets busy and they eat badly. Their bad food choices and lack of exercise leave them feeling crappy and guilty. Their 5 days per week in the gym and super strict diet set a standard so high that it was impossible to stick to.

Once the high standards slipped, the momentum stopped and old habits returned. Within a few weeks they are back to square one – not training and eating badly. The health revolution lasted a few weeks because their strategy was all wrong.

This level of extreme is not how to create behaviour change – not for the long term anyway.

Research shows that successful behaviour change occurs when you change one thing at a time. Set yourself up for an easy ‘win’ to change the psychological balance in your favour. Set yourself a single goal to achieve for a whole month. Examples could be…

  • Don’t eat and bread or pasta for a month
  • Train at least 20 minutes 3 times per week for a month
  • Drink 3 litres of water per day, every day for a month

Set yourself an achievable goal. One that you know you can hit. If you try to do too much at once, chances are you will fail. As a species we are resistant to change – in all aspects of life. Work change, relationship break ups, routine changes, dietary changes. For the most part, change makes us feel uncomfortable and anything that makes us feel uncomfortable is unlikely to be stuck to.

When you think about how to create behaviour change, start with something you can actually do – even if it is easy. Create a successful mindset by achieving at the start.

For lasting behaviour change, ease into the process gradually. Identify what you would like to change in your life and take baby steps to facilitate that change. In many ways it is an exercise in patience – if you want to lose weight for example, see it as a process rather than a quick fix. It took you your whole life to get the body you have – allow it a few weeks/months to turn into the body you want.

I typically work with clients over the long term. We build relationships and the strategy  varies depending on the goals. Some people eat well, but their exercise motivation is zero. Other people are overweight. Some have health problems I can help with. The point is, there is no ‘one size fits all’ strategy with behaviour change.

Overall, my advice on how to create behaviour change would look like this…

  1. Identify what you would like to achieve.
  2. Identify the steps required to achieve this.
  3. To start with, modify one behaviour.
  4. A month later (when the first behaviour change is a habit), add a second change.
  5. When you feel ready, add in the next behaviour change.
This is repeated until the behaviour has become habit and the goals are achieved.
If you are overweight and want to reduce your body mass index, start with your diet. This could be dropping starchy carbohydrates, not eating snacks, eating a high protein breakfast etc. Just set yourself a goal and stick to it.
For the short term, don’t even worry about exercise – remember, one thing at a time.
When you feel you have a handle on the diet, add in exercise. Be careful though – don’t set yourself up for a failure by saying you will train 5 times per week. Start small and create momentum – look at three, 20 minute sessions per week. If you do more, great! Just don’t do less.
When the diet and exercise are set firmly in your life, look to improve your diet further. Maybe look to cut out all processed foods for example.
The next change for your exercise could be to increase your workouts to three, 30 minute sessions per week. As always, if you do more, great! Just don’t do less.
Build on each step – make it a gradual process and in time, you will get to where you want to be. Patience is a virtue, and you won’t change the habits of a lifetime overnight. Just work through this process and you will get there!
For any extra help or personal training in Stockport or Cheshire, feel free to contact me on or 07866361964.

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Owner of Personal Trainer, Father and fitness copy writer. Working hard making the world fitter and healthier!

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