Do you see a ton of memes, cartoons and motivational quotes while scrolling through your IG or FB feed? Some make us laugh, while others make us stop and think for a moment about our health habits and routines. They’re useful in another way. I like to figure out the essential truth they reveal and turn motivational health quotes into action plans to build healthy habits.
Every motivational health quote or saying has a small tidbit of “truth” that we can use to inspire our own healthy habits. I believe in the power of healthy habits—in taking these fundamental truths and turning them into daily routines. On my journey to losing more than 60 pounds, I discovered that taking small, repeatable action could create powerful long-term habits that supported my health goals (weight loss, fitness and stress management). What’s the first step to forming new healthy habits? Setting realistic goals and figuring out an action plan.
To support new habits, we must move from words to action. I’m breaking down some of my favorite quotes on habits to help uncover the essential truths (and actionable ideas) that we can use for better health and fitness. Turn motivational health quotes into action plans to build healthy habits
I’ll show you how to turn these five motivational health quotes about habits into action steps. I’ll explain the quote’s essential truths and offer tips on applying it to your life by taking action to build healthy habits.
#1 The secret to permanently breaking any bad habit is to love something greater than the habit. (Bryant McGill)
Essential Truth: Why are you looking to add a new habit to your daily routine? If it’s because you think you should, you’ve been challenged to, or you think you can hold out for a month or two through sheer willpower, you may find it challenging to stick with. On the other hand, if you create and work toward a new habit because you believe that it will give you something that you truly can’t live without (something vital to your wellbeing and lifestyle), then you may have found “something greater” that can help you stick to your new routine. For example, I cut out processed sugar foods from my diet because I wanted to get rid of my menopausal heart palpitations, and I’d found a connection between eating sugar and having nightly heart palpitations. I replaced sugar with fruit and “fell in love” with the absence of my heart palpitations!
Take Action: Connect a new habit to something you want. Is there an important health goal that would genuinely make your life better? Do you want to achieve some milestone that has significant meaning to you? Are you trying to be a good role model for a loved one? If the new habit supports something you really want, you will be more successful in maintaining that habit. Sit down and ask yourself these questions, then identify one small action step that you can repeat each day to get you on the road to creating a new healthy habit.
#2 Habit is a cable, we weave a thread each day, and at last, we cannot break it. (Horace Mann)
Essential Truth: After you’ve committed to a habit and made it your own through days, months and perhaps years of adherence, you arrive at a place where your behaviors are automatic. You cannot break them without feeling like something is off. For example, I can’t break the habit of exercise. While I may not do the same type of workout, go at it with the same intensity or enjoy it each day, I feel a void on days when I don’t exercise. I can’t break my exercise habit because, on some level, the movement has come to define how my body moves from point A to point B. Getting near-daily exercise has become way more than something I do to improve the way my body looks—it has greatly influenced how it feels throughout the day. Each time I exercise, I weave another thread that makes my cable stronger. Because of the strength of my exercise habit, breaking it, no longer feels “right.”
Take Action: Choose an exercise or healthy eating habit that you can see yourself following every day. Start with something so vital to your health that it acts as a thread, holding the rest of your health and wellbeing in place. Examples are exercise, plant-based meals, drinking water, getting enough sleep. If you pick one of these foundational habits and follow it daily, you will feel like something is broken when it’s not part of your life.
#3 Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going. (Jim Rohn)
Essential Truth: Motivation usually comes on like a lion and fades out like a lamb. It’s fickle and best when used to push yourself toward getting started with new behaviors. Losing weight, and other health behaviors, can be sparked by motivational factors. However, you need goals and habit-forming routines (based on action) to take that motivation to the next level. I’ve written quite a bit about weight-loss motivation—how it works and how to use it to spark healthy behaviors. When motivation wanes, hopefully, health habits take over. Habits are the automatic “engines that could,” and they ultimately get you results.
Take Action: There are stages of reaching a new health goal. Motivational factors, well-conceived goals, schedules and routines all play a role. Just remember that once your mind gets turned off and doesn’t want to engage in a healthy behavior (and you can’t seem to muster up the motivation to exercise or eat well), you’ll have to rely on the healthy routines you’ve established to get you through. You’ll have to fall back on habits. Cultivate daily habits by making sure that you take on the healthy behavior regardless of whether your mind says, “Yes, I want to do this” Or “Hell no, I’m not into this today!” Despite my love for indoor rowing, there are days when I don’t want to do it. Too bad! I do it anyway because of the benefits I know I will get from it (and because I have developed a habit that nudges me to get it done).
#4 Food is an important part of a balanced diet. (Fran Lebowitz)
Essential Truth: This is a rich quote because it speaks to the complicated role food plays in our lives. On the surface, we understand that our food quality has a huge impact on our wellbeing (emotional and physical). Healthy food (and for me, that means whole foods—grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, fish) is essential to every other aspect of our lives. We cannot build healthy habits without the foundation of good food. But food shouldn’t be something we live for—food is part of a cluster of needs we have, but it can hurt us if we allow it to take on the role of soother, protector or friend. I had to give up my relationship with “food as friend.” Figuring out what types of food to eat and how to balance eating with other parts of your life (social life, family life or work life) can get tricky and takes practice. Figuring out a balanced approach, where you typically eat healthy foods but may indulge in some not-so-healthy foods from time to time, takes time and experimentation.
A certain amount of work is implied in this quote as we figure out what a balanced diet means to us, and what role food will play. But it is work we need to do, especially if we think about the quote’s literal interpretation as it relates to the foods we eat. Using someone else’s diet never worked well for me, but when I figured out which foods (and eating style) provided me with a “balanced diet,” the weight came off. In terms of the food part of the “balanced life equation,” I’m a whole-food, volume eater who eats fruit instead of sugary desserts and prefers cooked greens to a salad. What’s a balanced diet look like for you?
Take Action: The actions you take to figure out your optimal diet (the foods that are best for your mind and body) will be different than mine. The important thing is to pick several small actions to focus on so that you move in the direction of eating a balanced diet that supports your health goals. For me, I typically eat one salad or greens-based bowl as a meal per day. Doing so ensures that I get a good helping of greens and lean protein while keeping my calories in a healthy range. If I had a health goal to lower my cholesterol, I might choose to eat more vegan protein options and cut down my consumption of red meat. If I wanted to increase fiber in my diet, I’d add flaxseed, greens and other high-fiber foods to my meals.
#5 Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. (Aristotle)
Essential Truth: Excellence—whether defined by achieving a health goal like weight loss or becoming more fit through mastery of a sport—is dependent on training and habit. You become that which you repeatedly do. I like to cross-train to keep things interesting, and the first time I added a spin class to my workout routine, I sucked. I was thrilled that the spin studio was dark and loud because I knew no one would focus on how awful I was at spinning. I couldn’t stay out of the saddle for very long, my pedaling was awkward, and my butt was way too big for that tiny seat! While one could argue that I didn’t exactly achieve excellence at spinning, over time, all those factors (speed, precision, endurance and fit) improved and moved me closer to excellence. I “won” a feeling of excellence through training and habit.
Take Action: Try something new and accept that you will suck at it at first. Can you suck at something for a few weeks or months before you move toward excellence if it means that your health will improve? Can you put aside self-judgment long enough to reap the rewards of training and habit? If so, your health is looking brighter each day. Stop thinking about how hard, how awkward, how uncomfortable you are, and work through it anyway. Coming out on the other side will empower you to feel the full weight of excellence (and it’s an awesome feeling)! Aristotle was right: it can be yours through training and habituation.
I’ll leave you with one more quote: Success is the sum of small efforts—repeated day-in and day-out. (Robert Collier) If you take action on any small behavior that you hope to build into a habit, you will be moving in the right direction.
I hope the next time you see a motivational quote about healthy habits, you’ll think about the truth it’s trying to reveal and how you can put it into action to improve your life. Interested in learning more about building health & fitness habits? Download my free Health & Fitness Habits Toolkit for action plans that I’ve used to lose weight and become more fit.
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