IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

3 reasons people don't change unhealthy habits, and what to do instead

Sticking with your New Year's resolutions can be tough. Fitness and lifestyle guru Laurent Amzallag shares the simple mental shifts to make you more successful.
/ Source: TODAY

Losing weight, eating better, learning new hobbies or promising ourselves to live life to the fullest, we make these promises to ourselves. But so many times, we don’t honor them.

Why is it so difficult to stick with our resolutions? As a personal trainer who frequently works with people on this issue, I think it comes down to three reasons.

1. We tend to make big promises instead of small changes.

Our brain adapts better to micro goals. Adding or cutting down on one item is easier than trying to change everything all at once.

Let’s focus on one thing first, the most important thing to you. Think small.

If trying to cut sugars or carbs from your diet is your resolution, let’s start by cutting down on one bad thing instead of running away every time you see a pie. Do you eat ice cream every night while watching television? Let’s make Monday night the official ice-cream-free night. Start with that.

Like everything in life, once you start cutting something like sugar, your desire for it will slowly dissipate until you reach the point where your cravings greatly decrease.

The same is true for working out.

Remind yourself this will take time; patience is crucial in changing habits or behaviors.

If you promise to do every exercise class on the schedule, you will not make it through the end of the week. Instead, start with a walk. Once you begin to realize how amazing you feel after this moderate exercise, you will want to add other fitness days to your weekly schedule.

It’s about sustainability. Create a plan you are able to stick with for the rest of your life.

2. We get impatient.

Remind yourself this will take time; patience is crucial in changing habits or behaviors.

How much time? It could be anywhere from a few weeks to months. It really depends how strong your desire is and how disciplined you are.

If getting back into shape is your New Year’s resolution, you may have to push yourself at the beginning to wake up an hour earlier until it becomes your new pattern. It’s always hard before it becomes easy. But nothing good comes without some sacrifice, right?

Every time you repeat something (good or bad) you are actually helping your brain create a new neural pathway. Do you ever think about brushing your teeth at night? Not anymore because you’ve done it for so long that it’s become automatic. The brushstroke pattern is probably the same every time. But I know, as a father of a 3-year-old, how difficult it is to instill this fairly new habit. I literally have to run after her and pin her down to get her to brush her teeth. I now reward her when she goes one month without a fight.

We even have a calendar where she puts a sticker on every time she brushes her teeth. It comes down to basic human nature. We chose joy over pain. For my daughter, receiving a little gift every month is more fun than the pain of brushing her teeth. That essentially motivates her to let me brush her teeth.

What about you? What brings you the most joy? Feeling more energized, happier and healthier after a workout or skipping your sweat session in favor of a happy hour at the local bar?

3. We often compare ourselves to others.

Just because Janet in accounting lost 10 pounds by January 10, that shouldn’t be a reason to doubt yourself or put yourself down because you still haven’t lost an ounce. Everyone is different and changes will happen at a different pace even if you are put on the same fitness and diet regimen.

Instead, focus on your new healthy changes rather than dwelling over where you should be by a certain date. It is healthy to give yourself a reasonable time frame in order to accomplish a goal. What's not healthy, is putting yourself down because someone else reached his or her goals before you did.

So what have we learned?

You all have what it takes to change your body, bank account or whatever else you want to improve in 2019. All you need to do is to focus on changing certain behaviors necessary for success. If something you are doing right now doesn’t work, change it, and see what happens. Everyone is different.

We do not come with a universal manual. The only thing that is universal is the behaviors needed in order to succeed.

Focus on change instead of results.

So go ahead and create new neural pathways. Start your mornings with one single exercise, especially if you are crunched for time. Bring your lunch to work, keep a full bottle of water on your desk, walk around the office every couple hours, cut down on one bad thing from your diet, surround yourself with a “support group” that will keep you accountable.

Focus on doing something every day that will help you get closer to your goal: get more sleep, include breathing exercises before you go to bed and celebrate the small victories. These are some of the habits successful people use. It works for them and it can work for you.

Laurent Amzallag is a fitness motivator, speaker and author featured on The Dr. Oz Show, Elle magazine and more.