September 12, 2019

How To Build Atomic Habits For Sustainable Weight Loss

by ironparadisefitness

Here’s 4 Takeaways From Atomic Habits By James Clear That Will Change The Way You Approach Weight Loss

Atomic Habits could, quite literally, change your life.

Most people think the key to sustainable weight loss lies in the perfect diet, macro split, or training programme. But this short-sighted view ignores the biggest piece of the puzzle.

Your day-to-day habits.

Think about it… If you fail to make healthy eating and exercise an engrained, automatic part of daily life, you’ll always be fighting an uphill battle. Struggling with willpower constantly. And scraping the barrel of motivation all too often.

But what if there was a simple way to build good habits and break bad ones? Becoming the person you want to be and building the body you dream of, would be a hell of a lot easier, right?

James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, IS that simple method.

This article is a summary of my key takeaways from the book. I’d encourage you to get a copy and read the full text for yourself, as I won’t be able to do it true justice here. The concepts in Atomic Habits revolutionised the way I approach life and achieving my goals. And I hope it has the same effect on you.

Over the next few minutes you’ll discover;

  • The Science Of How Habits Work
  • How To Form Atomic Habits Using The 4 Laws
  • Making Atomic Habits Stick For Long-Term Success
  • Practical Application For Achieving Your Weight Loss Goals

So, let’s see how to form Atomic Habits by learning from the Habit-Jedi (that’s not me by the way).

Why Are Habits Important?

Atomic Habits Iron Paradise Fitness

On face value, habits seem boring, difficult to implement, with no immediate payoff.

But the human condition revolves around habits. You might not realise it, or be consciously aware, but habits are the fabric of our day-to-day lives.

Almost everything we do each day is done on autopilot. What you do after waking up, the way you brush your teeth, the sequence you wash your body in the shower, the route you take to work, the list is endless. Very few of these actions require you to stop and consciously think about what you are doing.

Trouble is, you’ve probably got as many bad habits as good. And your efforts to build good habits and sever the ties with the bad, is where you hit a roadblock. Sure, you went to the gym 3 times a week for a month, but it didn’t take long for things to unravel.

Over time, the process of hitting the gym felt difficult. It didn’t fit into your daily life and simply felt forced. Consequently, you chose the path of least resistance and spent your evenings curled up on the sofa watching TV.

So now it’s time to start again.

You pick yourself up, dust yourself down, watch a few motivational videos on YouTube and charge headfirst down the same road.


Before you make the same mistakes again, let’s look at what went wrong.

How about we form some atomic habits so you never have to experience that huge sense of disappointment again?


The Science Of Building Atomic Habits

Atomic Habits Iron Paradise Fitness

Here’s one of the fundamental reasons you always slip back into your old ways…

Good habits rarely have an immediate payoff. The benefit comes further down the line after consistent, long-term application. Whereas, bad habits are often the opposite. Short-term bursts of gratification that are negative in the long run.

For example, grabbing a couple of donuts on the walk to work everyday will undoubtedly give you an instant sense of satisfaction as those iced, taste sensations pass your lips. But their calorie-dense deliciousness is highly unlikely to support you in achieving your long-term weight loss goals.

But this instant feeling of gratification is hard to resist. Especially, when not having the donuts has no immediate, visible impact on your weight loss.

(p.s. donuts aren’t inherently bad. I’m just illustrating a point).

The notion of good habits leading to long-term benefit is something James Clear refers to as, “…the compound interest of self-improvement.”

Much like investments in the stock market, investments in your habits, compound over time. Small, 1% improvements in the things you do, build and build over days, weeks, months, and years to transform you into the best version of yourself (whatever you define that to be).

In the same way tiny atoms come together and form remarkable things, your atomic habits can do the same.

And in order to start to making the right habit investments, you need to understand the 4 step process by which all habits are formed.


The 4 Step Process Of Habit Formation

Cue, craving, response, reward. These are the 4 steps by which all habits are formed.

All your behaviour is driven by a desire to solve a problem. Whether that be to obtain something good (ie. how do I get it it?), or to relieve yourself from pain (ie. how do I get rid of it?), the goal is the same… Solve the problem.

The 4 step process laid out in Atomic Habits can be broken down into the Problem Phase and the Solution Phase. The cue and the craving is the problem, and the response and reward is the solution.

Let’s use the donut example to illustrate the point.


The Donut Example

Here the cue is walking down the street on the way to work and getting a whiff of glorious baked delights. Then comes the craving. Donuts smell good, they taste good. So your desire rises.

This is the problem you now have to solve.

The response? You buy a donut and eat it. The reward? Your craving is satisfied by eating the donut. You’ve now created a relationship with walking to work and eating donuts. Repeat this enough times and BOOM, a habit is formed.

The concept also works for everyday tasks too. Here’s another example from the book.

  • Cue – You walk into a dark room.
  • Craving – You want to be able to see.
  • Response – You flip the light switch.
  • Reward – You satisfy your craving to see. Turning on the light switch becomes associated with being in a dark room.

It should start to dawn on you that these automatic actions are littered throughout your daily life. And this lightbulb moment is the foundation of creating atomic habits of your own.

But first, we need to understand how James suggests taking this idea and turn it into a practical framework.



How To Form Atomic Habits To Achieve Your Fitness Goals

Taking the 4 Laws Of Behaviour Change into consideration, you can begin to create the framework for building good habits.

Here’s how to convert the laws into a simple, proven, habit-building approach;

  • Cue – Make it obvious
  • Craving – Make it attractive
  • Response – Make it easy
  • Reward – Make it satisfying

The premise being that if you make a task obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying, forming an automatic habit becomes infinitely easier. Conversely, you can invert the approach to rid yourself of bad habits.

If you purposefully make something invisible, unattractive, difficult, and unsatisfying you’re much less likely to do it. This sounds a lot like me and my love life. But that’s for another article.

This approach might seem simple. Almost too simple. But it works.


Because it appeals to our natural human instincts. Trying to implement a new behaviour that doesn’t follow this framework is at odds with the way you are hard-wired. Ultimately, it’s like pushing water uphill. And you’re doomed to fail from the outset.


Atomic Habits In The Context Of Fitness

Habits relating to fitness will typically revolve around training and nutrition.

If you’re not currently a regular at your local gym, or you are but attendance is sporadic, then making this a cornerstone habit of your life is the goal. Likewise, meal prep might be a nutritional habit you want to nail, to ensure you’re on track for the week ahead.

Both logical approaches, so let’s turn these seemingly impossible tasks into Atomic Habits.

Start by thinking about the elements of each task, rather than it being one mammoth beast. For example, in order to meal prep you need to plan what you’re going to eat, buy the food, cook the food, portion it neatly into Tupperware, and take 35,000 photos for Instagram.

With the component parts laid out before you, things should feel marginally easier already.


How To Use Habit Stacking

Habit stacking is the next part of the process to help habits become more achievable. It works by bolting a new habit on to an existing one. This could be, “as soon as I get out of bed, I will complete 10 push ups in my bedroom.” Here, you’ve stacked a simple, positive habit on top of something you do every day.

So, in terms of meal prep, here’s a couple of ideas of where and how you can use habit stacking;

  • “After I’ve finished dinner on Friday night, I’m going to take 15 minutes to plan next week’s food.”
  • “While I’m having my morning poo on Saturday, I’m going to create a food shopping list for Sunday’s meal prep.”

By approaching new habits this way you’re making the task easy and almost automatic.

And you can take this one step further by making the habit obvious. If you plan to meal prep on Sunday, laying out your Tupperware and kitchen utensils the night before will provide a visual prompt you simply can’t ignore.

Follow this add you’ll achieve the 4 Laws Of Behaviour Change.

  • The Cue – You see all the things you need for meal prep laid out when you go into the kitchen.
  • The Craving – You want to meal prep successful to stay on track with your weight loss goals next week.
  • The Response – You cook the meals you planned. Meal prep is complete.
  • The Reward – You satisfy your craving to meal prep. Meal prep is now associated with seeing the utensils / equipment laid out in the kitchen.


Making Atomic Habits Stick

Reps. They’re important both in and out of the gym.

You’d be forgiven for getting sucked into the trap of thinking that establishing a good habit is all about time. If enough time passes then it’s bound to stick, right?

Not quite.

How frequently you do the activity dictates how long a new habit will take to form. For example, going to the gym consistently 4 times a week will help a habit form faster than if you only went once. You’re getting the repetitions in and allowing your brain, body, and lifestyle to adapt to this new addition.

Obviously, there are certain tasks that are impractical to repeat on a daily basis. You’re not exactly going to meal prep on a daily basis (that defeats the object). But weighing yourself each morning, taking your supplements, and going for a 30 minute walk after work, would all be daily habits you could form faster with more repetitions.

So focus on reps, instead of time.


Track Your Habits

Accountability is important. It’s one of the aspects of online coaching that often surprises a lot of my clients.

Prior to working with me, they underestimated the power of accountability and the sense of motivation it provides. And forming habits is no different. Implementing your own accountability measures can make all the difference as to whether or not you make a habit stick.

There’s may different ways to do this, but here’s 2 I’ve used to great effect in the past;

  1. Habit Calendar – Take a standard calendar and hang it up in a prominent place in your house (ie, the kitchen). Each morning, place a tick or cross to indicate if you were successful in completing your habits for the previous day. Over the course of a month, you’ll be able to visually see how consistent you were.
  2. Habit Journal – Journalling is often a more detailed approach and involves more than basic habit tracking. So use this one if you’re ready to goes balls deep.

James has his own habit journal you can check out. And here’s a couple I’ve used, ‘Inspire Now Journal’, ‘Best Self Journal’.

In the past, I’ve started with the calendar for 12 months and then progressed to the journal. Although, there’s nothing wrong with jumping straight to a journal if that floats your boat.


Two Rules To Live By When Forming Habits

The road to forming habits isn’t always straightforward. As with most things in life, you’ll stutter, falter and fail along the way. But remember, you’re seeking small, incremental improvements over time, not grand changes each and every day.

So yes, you won’t be perfect with your habits each day, week, and month. And to keep this in perspective, focus on these 2 rules;

  1. Don’t miss two days in a row – Wherever possible don’t miss your habits two days in a row. If you veer off in the wrong direction, course correct and get back on track.
  2. Don’t let one bad choice/decision ruin everything – You’ll make bad choices every now and then, but the trick is to not let that permeate through to everything you do for the rest of the day. Descending into a “fuck it” mindset can unnecessarily screw up what would otherwise have been a positive day.


The Key Takeaways From Atomic Habits By James Clear

Habits underpin almost everything we do on a daily basis. But forming new habits and breaking bad ones can be tough. Simply relying on willpower alone is not enough. You need a process, a proven method. You NEED Atomic Habits.

Atomic Habits has had a profound effect on me, my life, and the way I coach. And I hope this article has gone some way towards inspiring you to evaluate your behaviour in a new way.

The fact you’re reading this article tells me you want to change. It tells me you have an inner desire, motivation, and drive. But perhaps you lack the tools and techniques to make it happen.

Making your new habits obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying will make them feel effortless. And over time, with enough reps, they will become automatic too. So apply what you’ve learned from this article to your own goals. Identify the current habits you can stack new ones on top of, and see how easy it can be.

Ultimately, never forget that this process will take reps. Consistent application will lead to the formation of good habits. And if you have a life filled with atomic habits, I guarantee you’ll transform your life.

If you want to read the full book ‘Atomic Habits by James Clear’ here’s the link to Amazon.


Need Help Getting The Basics Right? Here’s A Free Online Calculator To Help You Discover How Many Calories You Need To Achieve Your Fitness Goals

Online Coaching Iron Paradise Fitness

If you want to get on the fast track to a leaner, healthier, stronger body, I’ve got something for you. Simply click the link below and you’ll get access to my free online calorie and macro calculator. Designed to take the headache out of knowing how many calories you need to achieve your goals. Plus, you can grab my Lean Life Kickstarter Pack. In it you’ll find a free 4 week beginner’s training programme (complete with exercise videos and a workout tracker), free recipe packs, plus so much more.

So if you want all that, go here.

But for now, all I’ll say is… Keep living the Lean Life and I’ll see you soon.


atomic habits, habits, weight loss

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