Why You Form Bad Habits (The Science)

Posted by:Lindsay S. Nixon Category: Advice

Most bad habits are caused by one of two things: 

Being stressed or bored. Usually stressed… who has time to be bored?!

When my routine is shaken up I feel more out of control which makes me either stress eat or I get to a point where I’m so hungry that I’ll eat a bag of chips or a bunch of crackers instead of taking 5 seconds to peel a banana. 

Why is that? Why do we do this? 

Turns out it’s an evolutionary thing:

When things are not organized we are in survival mode.

Something always needs to be done. We can’t relax.

This builds tension which makes you feel overwhelmed. You can’t make optimal choices in that state… that’s why I eat the chips and not the banana.

Here’s the double whammy: The temporary relief I get from my hunger (and the stressful situation I was in) by eating the chips? That acts as a positive reinforcement to my brain thinks, “great that worked! Now we have a ‘plan’ for next time” (!!) 

This is exactly how bad habits are formed. 

Your brain doesn’t care if it’s a ‘helpful habit’ or a bad one. Any habit will do because it’s a predictable routine that saves you from survival mode. 

A change in your routine creates a new routine. 

This is also how I became an overeater. Believing I could “eat as much as I wanted” (lies) or that I should “eat until I was comfortably full” I started going back for a second plate of food. Pretty soon 2 plates of food was my ‘normal.’ Then 3. This happened with bagels too. One time I ordered 2 because I was starving after a hike. Then I did it again the following visit… and pretty soon I was always ordering 2 bagels automatically. What?!

Most people don’t go from eating at home to eating out five days in a row. It starts with going out once… maybe you were extra busy. But then the next day you’re extra tired from the day before so you go out “one more time!” By the third day, it’s feeling normal to go out… you’ll get it together next week when you have more time, right?

“Another day when I have more time” (biggest lie we tell ourselves)

You’re going to form a habit and a routine one way or the other. 

Put your effort into a creating GOOD routine. (Having a good routine is the only way you can break a bad habit anyway, according to behavioral psychology research.)

A weekly meal plan that automatically shows up in your inbox every week will guide you into that routine. 

Get your monthly membership for $14.99 here.

Having a monthly meal plan membership:

  • Releases tension 
  • Frees up your time
  • Enables you to do more 

Having a routine makes you feel prepared and organized. 

Feeling prepared and organized releases tension. 

That’s why you’re so attracted to meal prep photos like this:

And if you can’t “meal prep” like pottseatsplants…

If you have to cook nightly… a meal plan is a must! 

“Figuring it out” last minute sends you into survival mode.

Simple healthy recipes (with a shopping list) makes good habits possible. You know this. A meal plan gives you that tool AND frees up your time so you can focus on the DOING part.

The accountability component of a monthly membership also makes it almost impossible to fall off track, so you’re forced into good habits. 

Winging it just doesn’t work if you want to optimize your time and energy.


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