Why you revert to old habits so quickly: gravity versus flying goats, wide rivers and Formula 1

Amy just started to go to the gym more frequently. She set herself an ambitious goal of losing 20 pounds. Two weeks in, she’s making some solid progress.  She’s completely changed her life: her eating habits, training regimen, alcohol intake, … As a result, she’s lost 5 pounds already. That’s some very solid progress for such a short amount of time. She should be proud.

After a month though, her progress seems to be slowing down just a bit. She’s still going strong, but the scale isn’t going down as fast as before. She’s starting to doubt herself. That chocolate bar looks tastier than ever. Her knees are starting to hurt. On the internet, she sees women who are much skinnier than she is. The gap seems bigger than ever and her goal to look like those women never seemed more impossible. Amy goes home and in frustration grabs 3 of those chocolate bars. She doesn’t show up to the gym for the next week. After gathering all her courage, she (back up 3 pounds) proceeds to give it a new shot, only to end up in the same situation 2 weeks later.

Does this sound familiar to you?

What went wrong?

In short, Amy’s (and that of millions of men and women like her) problem can be attributed to a few factors:

  • Lack of realistic short term goals
  • Changing everything at once
  • Lack of patience
  1. Changing everything at once

    This is probably the biggest pitfall of them all. A lot of people think that if you trade all your bad habits for good ones, success will come flying at you. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works out for most people.

    Your bad habits are hard-wired into your body. You’ve grown accustomed to them. Anytime you try to escape them, your body will react in a way that tries to pull you back to the previous state of “balance” or homeostasis. After a while though, this changed behavior eventually can turn into a good habit and can even turn into a lifestyle if you can keep it up.

    All it takes though is time and continuous effort. Once you can get away from your bad habits, they become a thing of the past and you might even start wondering why you ever acted that way in the first place. But the first weeks are the hardest. Think of it as force of gravity: the closer to earth, the harder the force of gravity will try to pull you down, but once you start creating some distance, you’ll feel free to take off to wherever you want.


    Amy tried to go from horrible to perfect nutrition, not working out to a heavy training regimen and a bottle of wine a week to no alcohol at all. She’s basically trying to escape 3 planets, all trying to pull here down. Wouldn’t it be easier and more realistic if she tried to escape 1 force of gravity at a time?

  2. Lack of short term goals

    Losing 20 lbs is a big deal. No matter how hard you try, it won’t happen overnight. The same goes for gaining 10 lbs of muscle or adding 50 lbs to your squat. However, losing 2 lbs, gaining 1 lbs of muscle or adding 5 lbs every month seem much more feasible.

    Setting short term goals is of huge importance when trying to achieve that long-term goal. It breaks it up into feasible steps which you can then tackle one by one. Imagine trying to cross a river. Would you try to jump it, or would you look for some stepping stones and go step by step?

    Another thing with short term goals is that you are always within reach of your goal. Istepping-stonesf you’re just starting to lose weight, that 20 lbs seems very far off. But those 2 lbs you want to lose by the end of the month, seems pretty doable. The feeling of achievement every time you reach a short term goal, can keep your momentum going and help you reach that next goal until you eventually end up with your long term goal. But don’t try to jump the river at all at once. You’ll fly fast for the first meters, but you’ll just fall into the water after that and end up where you started (and wet).

  3. Lack of patience

    In a lot of ways, this overlaps with the previous two bullet points. By trying to change all her bad habits at once and trying to go fast as she could, Amy thought she could Formula-1 her way to success. She thought she could reach the finish line
    faster than anyone else. Truth is, she is riding the same bike we all are, not a racecar. There is no shortcut to success though. It requires hard and consistent work.


So there you have it. Gravity, wide rivers and Formula 1-like thinking are keeping you from eliminating those bad habits and therefore achieving your goals. Unless you are a flying goat who can escape gravity. To be honest, it even looks pretty fit, no?