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Habit stack your way to achieving your goals

What exactly are the health and fitness goals you are shooting for? This is the first question anyone will ask when trying to create a plan.

The response usually sounds something along the lines of " I want to lose 10 pounds", or "I want to fit back into my size 6 jeans again." Great. Now let's make a plan in accordance to that. This is where most people usually get stumped. You know what you want to achieve, but then you get lost and overwhelmed with the action plan on how to get there.

You can not control what your body does. But you can control what you do. Some days your body will be tired. Some days you will be ravenous and want to eat everything in sight. You can't predict when these type of things will happen. What you can control is how you react to this on a daily basis.

This is why behavior based goals are important. The first step to habit stacking your way to success is to turn your outcome based goals into behavior based goals.

Outcome Behavior


Lose 10 pounds Eat until satisfied (about 80% full) at each meal

Lower blood sugar Eat fruit for dessert instead of sweets

Squat heavier weight Squat 3 times per week at various intensities

Get more sleep Create a bedtime routine that relaxes you before bed

Have a better relationship Date night once per week with your partner


Each outcome goal you have set will have numerous behavioral skills that you can work on to get to that goal. For example: The outcome goal is to lose 10 pounds. The associated behaviors can include:

  • eating until satisfied

  • eating undistracted

  • putting the fork down between each bite

  • drinking a glass of water at each meal

  • eating vegetables with each meal

Focus on one skill at a time until you have created enough consistency to be comfortable adding on another skill. When creating your goals and behaviors, avoid making goals that remove something or includes stopping a habit. For example: stop drinking soda, stop eating junk food, or stop stress eating. These types of goals are psychologically counterproductive. When your focus is on not doing something, you are almost guaranteed to continue doing it.

Nobody likes being told what to do. This is called resistance, and it’s completely normal. The moment you tell yourself it's time for change, your natural reaction is resist the change. Furthermore, when the goal is to stop doing something, even the smallest slip can feel like a failure leading you to think you"fell off the wagon” and all hell breaks loose. Goals like that are a lot of psychological work. They take up a lot of mental and emotional energy. All you can think about is what you’re not supposed to be doing.

Conversely, "approach" goals place focus on pulling you towards something desirable which indirectly pulls you away from the thing you want to stop doing. Here are some examples:

Avoid Goal Approach Goal


Stop drinking soda Drink a full glass of water with at least 3 meals daily

Stop eating junk food Snack on cut up fruits and veggies that are pre- prepared

Stop stress eating when Stay "checked in" when eating. Eat undistracted, overwhelmed. put the fork/ spoon down between bites. Listen to your body when you eat


As you see, instead of constantly thinking about having to stop something, you focus rather on what you can add to your life. Instead of focusing on staying away from soda, focusing on getting 3 glasses of water in each day will help you be more hydrated, have less headaches from the sugar crash and likely have more regular bowel movements. Instead of eating junk food, having cut up fruits and veggies to snack on you will guarantee that you feel much less sluggish, have more regular bowel movements (see the trend here?) and eat overall less calories. Instead of telling yourself not to eat when you are stressed, eat whatever it is you desire but stay checked in. Listen to your thoughts, feel the sensations in your body. Enjoy each bite eating slowly, putting the fork or spoon down between bites. This will allow you to feel more calm, you will have less stomachaches and likely eat less thus not having the regret that usually goes along with stress eating.

Each habit like this can then be stacked on top of each other. Focusing on one goal/habit for at least 1-2 weeks will create momentum and then consistency. So what can you do today to get started on habit stacking?

  1. Write down some things you want to change.

  2. For each goal write 1 or 2 positive "approach" goals that pulls you to adding in something versus taking something away.

  3. Identify how each "approach" goal will benefit you (see examples above).

  4. Practice, practice, practice. Each time you practice the new habit is creates and reinforces new neural pathways in your brain. Making it 1% easier each time.

  5. Mastery. The longer you practice these changes the easier it continues to get until it becomes second nature and you no longer have to think about avoiding that soda or using food as a stress reliever.

If you still find yourself stuck and want more help establishing exactly what you want to achieve with your health and wellness goals click here to contact Sophrosyne Health

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