What one thing do you always do that you just can’t seem to stop doing? And I say ‘seem’ because, well, in reality, you can stop.

Here’s the thing with bad habits – they get on the way of being who we really want to be; they get in the way of goals, they damage our health, sometimes they even hurt others around us.

The difficult thing with them is that they’re so in-built they’re basically reflexes. We don’t think consciously about them, and so most of the time we can’t uncover what’s causing them. Author James Clear of Atomic Habits lists a number of reasons for our bad habits; including stress, boredom, deep emotional issues, or even limiting beliefs.

With any type of habit, any one of these could be the cause, but let’s just focus on unhealthy habits and poor eating habits.
How do you break them?
Here’s the answer: Replace them

Each bad habit is tied to some reason or another and fulfils a certain need. Because of this, cutting a habit out is never as simple as cutting a habit out. The key is to find another, healthier habit that will fill the same need. Here are just a few suggestions for unhealthy habits and what to substitute for them:

1 – When you crave a cigarette, have a glass of water and wait ten minutes. Obviously it depends on the strength of the craving, but as you practice this you’ll get better at hydrating instead of giving in to the urge to smoke.

2 – When you feel sleepy or stressed and want to make your fifth or sixth cup of coffee, take a quick 5-minute walk instead. The fresh air and circulation will help to wake you up.

3 – If you’re anything like me, candy is a weakness. Combat it with fresh fruit and tea. Keep fresh fruit at home, and bring it to work with you as well. And try adding a little dash of honey to your tea for sweetness.

4 – If you’re always cancelling workouts, put on your workout gear and just take a brisk 10-minute walk. Being outside can often inspire you to do a little more, like a jog, or a stretch, and, even if it doesn’t, you’ve already gotten a little exercise in – perfect!

5 – Make it easier to do good habits and harder to bad ones. Make sure your house, your car, and your desk at work or school are set up to make it harder to do your bad habits and easier to do the good ones. Keep a gym schedule close to your bed, or put cigarettes in your car rather than your purse so you have to walk further to get them. Don’t forget people play a part too; if there’s a friend who doesn’t smoke, take your lunch breaks with them, or if there’s a restaurant one of your friends loves that just isn’t good for you, switch to a restaurant that is.

What are your bad habits? When do you do them and what or who causes you to do them?

Femi A-Williams is a health and fitness convert trying to reconcile a healthy lifestyle and a happy food life. She is 80% whole grain and 20% donut.

All posts by Femi A-Williams