A while back, a few of my colleagues and I decided to write down every single weight-loss habit we have ever used ourselves or with our clients. In four days, we had listed 167 of them. That’s a lot. Recently I asked those 50 coaches to look at the list again and pick the one habit you should have to lose fat easily.
And it wasn’t on the list.
To be fair, a habit is sort of nebulously defined. I think we can all agree that a habit is anything you do regularly, but according to the definition we use in psychology, a habit also needs to be done automatically — as in, without really thinking about it. Which is why identifying habits by yourself is so hard. How can you think about the stuff that you don’t have to think about?
Which is probably why we missed this habit. And it’s exactly why this habit is so important for fat loss.
You see, all habits need a trigger — a little reminder that says, “Hey, you should do this action now.” They also need a reward — a little reminder that what you just did was a good thing. But these are really hard to identify by yourself because they happen below our level of consciousness. It’s really hard to remember new triggers, and it’s hard to remember to reward yourself. Habits are hard. But this is the one habit that makes all the other 167 habits on our list easy. As a result, we decided that The Number 1 Habit You Should Have to Lose Weight (™) is:
FINDING PEOPLE TO SHARE YOUR JOURNEY
Permanent lifestyle changes happen in relationships. Whether they take place with peers, a coach, family, friends, coworkers, the other anonymous people at the meetings or the other new recruits who joined the Marine Corps with you, new habits happen when people get together and help each other out.
Finding your own triggers are hard. Seeing other people’s is easy. Remembering to tell yourself, “Great job!” is hard. Remembering to tell other people is easy. Figuring out how to work new foods, new activities, and new steps into your own life is hard. Watching and learning from a whole bunch of other people like you who are trying to get to the same place you are is just so much easier! Even my colleagues, habit experts all, needed each others’ help to figure this problem out.
I call this habit, this all-important,Number 1 habit, “Creating a community of consistency.” And it can be as big a commitment as hiring a coach, or as simple as telling a friend what you’re doing to lose weight or inviting them to join MyFitnessPal. Whatever you can do to share the load of learning, planning, remembering and rewarding will be one less thing you have to worry about.
Oh, and it doesn’t have to be around a campfire singing kumbaya. Support doesn’t have to fluffy to be effective. In fact, my Marine Master Sergeant at the Berkeley Officer Selection Office taught me more than a thing or two about being consistent, and he sure as hell never sang kumbaya with me.
We sang Marvin Gaye.