The Power of Changing One Habit At A Time

When it comes to changing your eating habits, most look for extreme measures or “diet” books to make the change.

From Paleo to intermittent fasting to juicing and raw food diets, we all like the idea of following a well-known diet trend or recommendation. It just feels better to say you are Paleo or you don’t eat any animal products or you fast and juice all day.

Saying you eat well to maintain adequate lean muscle tissue and minimal body fat or to have enough energy to perform in sport and life just doesn’t sound as appealing…even though that is the same goal of all of the diets I mentioned above.

I, myself, have fallen prey to this. I ate like a bodybuilder for many years. I tried the intermittent fasting and the warrior diet. I even tried to eat fewer animals after reading the China study. From these experiences, I have come to recommend intermittent fasting and I love the phrase “100% Paleo, 80% of the time”.

I am a fan of many different diets and eating lifestyles because they all work if they are followed correctly and they all have virtually the same goal.

The one problem is that they are too drastic of a change for most people. It is very rare for someone to totally embrace a diet or eating lifestyle with 100% adherence right when they start.

So, if all of these diets and eating lifestyles work when correctly followed, how do we go about following them?By changing only one habit at a time!

Currently, Head Trainer, Jessica Stemen and I have our Precision Nutrition Certification, PN1.  We have learned a ton from Dr. John Berardi and his team. The best advice they have ever given is to change one habit at a time.

The reasoning behind just one habit is simple. As Dr. Berardi noted during his “The future of Body Transformation” seminar, the greatest success of his (thousands) of clients was obtained by only focusing on one lifestyle change at a time. His method was to have his clients go hard at that one habit. Until they mastered this habit, they would not on to the next habit change.

Why Only One Habit?1

I followed a similar method with my clients by using my adherence grid method. I had my clients pick up to 4 goals at a time and work hard on them for a month. While I saw great results (roughly 50% adherence), to me, this was not good enough.

When I heard that they were getting 85% adherence when choosing only one goal to accomplish over a 1-2 week period, I was sold. How many of us accomplish all of our goals 85% of the time when it comes to working out and nutrition? I know I don’t, and I am a trainer who loves to workout and eat well. This is because, like everyone else, I always try to change a ton of habits at once.

If you pick 2 habits to change, your adherence goes down to 34%. Pick 3 habits to change at a time and your success rate goes down to 10%. It only makes sense to start with one habit change and go all out on just that one habit.
Let’s take a look at how you should go about picking that one habit to change. The one change, which may very well end up snowballing into many positive habit changes down the road.

Habit Changing Guidelines

There are a few things we must ask ourselves and our clients when choosing those habits we would like to change:

  • We need to pick only one at a time.
  • It needs to be small.
  • We need to be able to perform this habit daily.
  • It needs to be easy to understand and measurable.
  • On a scale of 1-10 (1 being no confidence and 10 being 100% confidence), you need to be at a 9 or 10.

Once you establish these guidelines, it is now time to pick your goals. There are obviously unlimited amounts of habits that someone could pick. It is all based on the individual. I am going to pick 4 different habits to get you started in the right direction and to illustrate my point. These 4 habits are ones that seem to make the biggest impacts and spark future changes.

We will work on these habits over the course of a month, changing one habit each week. If you accomplish your habit 80% of the time (about 6/7 days each week), we will move to the next habit change. If you do not have 80% success, we will stay with that habit for one more week. If you still don’t have an 80% success rate, we will move to a different one because clearly that habit change was too difficult.

Remember that during each week the ONLY habit you are trying to change is one that you choose. You will not focus on any other habits except the one that you choose. Go hard at that one habit and that’s it!

Notes Series


Week 1

Eat only 3 times per day and eat each meal slowly.
This means eat only 3 meals and no snacking. Three times is three times, not three times with a couple handfuls of trail mix to hold you off until the next meal.
By eating slowly, you begin to improve digestion and become satisfied quicker. Simply put down your eating utensil or your food between each bite.

Week 2

Make sure to have a palm size amount of protein at each meal. It can be eggs, meat, legumes, a scoop of whey in your super shake, or any other protein rich food, along with a fist full of ANY vegetable.

Week 3

Avoid all sugar, processed carbohydrates, such as white bread, candy, processed grains, and caloric beverages.
The only sugar you should be consuming is up to a cup of berries of any kind.

Week 4

Drink ONLY water as your main beverage. Drink 60-100 ounces, based on your size and activity level.
You can have a cup or 2 of coffee and tea but NO other beverage, even your nighttime glass of wine. Stay with me on this one. You will be able to have that glass of wine one day soon!

Week 5 and Beyond

Now that you have established these four habits, you want to work to maintain them. You do not need to include ANY other new habits for the next 4-weeks. Just simply go hard at the four new habits that you have developed.

As a bonus, pick one day each week where you eat whatever you want. Now you can have that glass of wine, or two!

I am not sure what you think about an 85% success rate, but I think it is pretty darn good. Take a shot at it and let me know how it works.

One Habit at a Time,



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