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Step-By-Step Guide To Identifying & Overcoming Bad Habits

We all have them – habits that we know deep down we need to kick because they're not supporting our health, but don’t want to admit because they bring us so much joy. Understanding what triggers your unhealthy habits is a powerful tool in overcoming them.


What comes to mind when you hear the words "unhealthy habits"? What are your unhealthiest habits? What are the things that make you feel maybe semi-guilty for doing (or not doing) because you know that it’s not benefiting your health or helping you reach your health goals? Grab a notebook and write down at least 3 things. Be specific.

You may be thinking, “I know these things, why should I write them down?” Putting things into writing brings them to life. It brings them to reality. When it’s just hanging out in the back of your mind, you’re able to push it aside and ignore it, but when it’s written out for you to see, it becomes real and a constant reminder. They say the first step to fixing something is to become aware of it, so congratulations! Phase one complete.

Just becoming aware of and identifying less-than-ideal habits is powerful and it allows you to now begin to assess the underlying cause of these behaviors.


Where are you? What time of day is it? What are you doing? How is your mental health? What did you do earlier? What do you have coming up in your day/week? Why is it a habit of yours in the first place? Are you doing it out of boredom? Are you stressed? Is it a result of laziness? Being honest with yourself and recognizing the underlying issue is crucial to overcoming bad habits because you can begin anticipate the craving coming on which gives you the opportunity to remove yourself from the situation.


Let's say you associate your behavior of overeating with having ultra processed foods around. Your trigger is seeing or simply knowing that there are potato chips in the cupboard and they're easily accessible. Remove the temptation by not having them around. Stop buying them. By not having them in the house, you've made the bad behavior difficult to mindlessly execute. You'd physically have to go to the store in the moment to get them. You'd be surprised how "auto-pilot" these habits are - you don't even think about what you're doing. I mean, that is a habit, right, something that happens automatically. Make your bad habits inconvenient.


Once you identify a bad habit, identify the potential underlying reason why you do it, and identify what seems to trigger it, you can find a substitute for it and break the association. In the example above, your habit of snacking on potato chips can be replaced with snacking on some carrots, a quick mindfulness meditation, or stroll around the block - or anything that breaks your thought pattern and distracts you from the behavior. Making associations between your behaviors and triggers is powerful. Because of how auto-pilot habits are, sometimes all it takes is a quick distraction in the moment and then over time you will break the association.


Start with simple. Start with one thing. The 100%-right-from-the-start, let’s-do-this kind of attitude is motivating, but it tends to lead to quick burnout and failure. Often times cutting things out cold turkey will result in failure because we feel really motivated at the beginning of new challenges, but as that starts to dwindle, so does our willpower and we start to give in. Kicking a habit will be more sustainable by taking steady, small steps. Are you a soda drinker? This week focus on drinking half as much as you usually do. The week after, drink half of what you drank the previous week. See what’s happening here? You will slowly, but surely, phase soda out of your diet. Is your unhealthy habit that you don’t go to the gym? Start by committing to exercise 2 times a week. Once you’re comfortable with that, amp it up to 3 times a week. By taking things slower, your journey may take longer, but it will feel less intense by doing things in phases, making you more likely to succeed.

Breaking a habit will make you feel strong, motivated, and inspired. Succeeding and having confidence will have a domino effect by producing a desire to break another habit and make another positive change. You’ll realize you’re stronger and capable of more and more with each milestone you surpass and soon you will be unstoppable.

For more help on making sustainable changes, read the blog post False Assumptions About Sustainable Change. And for an incredible book: Atomic Habits by James Clear.


Let me help you! Apply for coaching by sending an email to or DM me on Instagram (@fit.bymandi). SO excited to help you become the healthiest and happiest you!


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