Work your bad habit backwards.

I stood on the scale this morning, and the scale was being awfully kind and telling me all was good. But, my body, how I was feeling, was telling me the opposite. I was feeling stuffed. Bloated and rough.

The day before, I had taken advantage of Beijing’s Red Lobster delicious lunchtime offer. It was excellent, but it was also too much for lunch. 

I told myself this lie as I peered over the flabby dad body to check the readout from the scale again. Yeah. 92kg. It’s in line with expectations. No exceeding expectations and probably edging into the territory of the expected more ratings if I was to be frightfully honest. I was attempting to justify the potbelly by explaining it off due to the visit to the lobster place.

Truth be told. That was a fraction of the story. I looked in the mirror and said out loud to myself in my best Glaswegian accent. 

‘Be honest with yourself, big man, it’s not the Lobster, it’s the pastries’

That is the god awful truth. I know this to be a fact. For the last couple of months, I have been taking full advantage of the pastries that have been placed in my way. They have dragged me back into the unhealthy food routine. The pastries are a terrible eating habit that has become a starter for ten.

When I count it out, It is three pastries a day and on a special day… maybe, maybe, a wee bit more. Special days are four pastries. 


I counted my days. Special days are frequent. That is one nasty habit or a couple of severe negative patterns resulting in eating too many pastries right there.


I love a good pastry, but scoffing them down in volume is now deeply ingrained into my habits. If I have to do damage control here, then I know it’s the detail of the habit that I need to understand because clearly, munching down on a pastry is a reward. 

The process for habits to form has been scientifically proven. There is a TRIGGER, a ROUTINE and then the REWARD. My reward is the pastry, so I needed to find out the routine and the trigger.

Ok, got it. I need to work backwards from each intake. If I find the trigger, I can find a way to rewrite that and change the routine that resulted in the pastry reward.

So what’s my trigger for each pastry?

Pastry number one and often number two is my morning breakfast. The trigger is that the butter I use for my eggs on toast is next to the pastries. The routine is bread into the toaster, grab the butter and take the pastries in hand. Ok, I need to find a way to rewrite that routine habit. Move the butter, or better still, remove the butter from my eggs on toast. Ok, done. I now no longer take butter on my toast with my eggs. 

My new reward is eating healthier eggs on toast.

The third pastry is with my coffee when I get to work. Ok, what’s the trigger on this one. Work? Can I remove work from my daily routine? Nope. Not possible yet.

But is work the actual trigger? When I look at the journey into work, my route past the coffee shop and seeing the entrance is the trigger. Can I change the route into work? Yes. Done. The route has been changed, and I will now take the side entrance into work, and in doing so, I no longer pass the cafe. 

My new reward is that I can save money from avoiding that everyday coffee.

The fourth pastry is at lunchtime. I go to the quiet cafe with the space where I can get my emails done in peace. The trigger here is getting my emails done at lunchtime. Why do I wait for lunchtime to do email when I can change my morning routine so that I can clear email early and then go on to enjoy a different kind of lunch. Done, morning email routine changed, and lunch is done differently. 

I love sushi. I use the money saved from the morning coffee to eat sushi. Sushi is my new reward.

Success on all pastry fronts.

Changing a bad habit is never easy, but if you understand what makes up a habit, you can try and rewrite the brain so that the pattern can be challenged out of your mind.

A habit has three parts to it. A bad habit is the same… three parts.

A Trigger that starts the Routine and then delivers a Reward. If your bad habit is essentially the reward you give yourself, then work back from there.

Ask yourself where, when, and at what time does the habit begin. What am I feeling at that point, and what is the context around that moment in time. What is happening when you start the routine that ends in the thing that you want to change. In my case, the consumption of pastries.

Get clear on the answers to these questions and then set the change by removing or rewiring the trigger. Do not try and rewrite too many habits at once, but start with something and action the desired change repeatedly.

My starting point is four daily pastries. What will yours be?

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