It’s almost the end of January. Three weeks ago, you joined the gym, started dry January, bought new pair of trainers and more celery that our country grows.

Now what?

Are you still on track to achieve your goals? If so, then great!

If not, don’t worry, most us fail after few weeks. We all have individual triggers that push us to behave in the way we tried not to.

Does this look familiar?

Trigger > unhealthy behaviour > feeling rewarded

For example

Stress at work > grabbing a cake in the cafeteria > feeling relaxed

Is breaking a bad habit easy? Unfortunately, not!

If you have certain unhealthy habits that you tried to break in the past, you are facing two glooming facts

  • if you fail at changing the habits in the past, you are more likely to fail again than succeed. Unless you change the approach.
  • With developed strong habits, you are less aware or pay less attention to the consequences of your behaviour and often choose to ignore information that is not in line with your current habits. This, in turn, makes it hard for you to identify the relevant triggers that lead you to demonstrate unfavourable behaviours.

One method that has been shown to be potentially successful in maintaining habits is vigilant monitoring, i.e. paying more attention to your behaviour and the moments where relapse is possible, combined with counter-conditioning behaviour that replaces the less healthy response with a healthier one.

Trigger > unhealthy behaviour > feeling rewarded


Trigger > recognition > Choosing specific healthy behaviour over the previous one > feeling rewarded.

Example 1
stress at work > grabbing cake in the cafeteria > feeling relaxed


stress at work > going for a walk or listening to your favourite music > feeling relaxed

Example 2
anxiety > smoking > relaxation


anxiety > calling a friend > relaxation

Breaking bad habits is hard and it is never a straight path, try to work on recognising the trigger, then choosing appropriate behavioural response, keep yourself accountable, either by writing this in your diary, telling your coaches at the gym or your friend.

7 steps to prevent self-sabotage and giving up in January, or ever.

  1. Identify situations that put you at greater risk of relapse (certain social situations, shopping for food whilst hungry, not being able to get to the gym, etc)
  2. Set a plan on how to cope with these situations (time management, relaxation training, confidence building, reducing barriers to activity)
  3. Change the way you look at the activities you want to stick to (For example, when you are tired at the end of the work day you may expect to feel refreshed if you rest rather than exercise but end up feeling guilty, whereas the activity would likely have been invigorating)
  4. Expect a relapse and plan for one, schedule alternative activities, bring fruit to work, ask your trainer to write you a programme when away, etc.
  5. Minimise the feeling of guilt after a relapse, get back on the wagon.
  6. Take pleasure from what you’re trying to do, remember that this is a journey of betterment and self discovery.
  7. Avoid urges to relapse by blocking self-dialogues and images of the benefits of not exercising or treating yourself to high-calorie foods.

Acknowledging exercise barriers is an essential component of promoting long-term adherence to adopting exercise habits.
You got this!


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