Why do Old Habits Die Hard?

(4 min read)

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Old habits die hard.”

At times, that may seem particularly true for your clients.

Despite your best efforts, they continue to engage in counterproductive habits even when they know these behaviors aren’t serving them or their goals.

But it’s important to note, that it’s not because clients are weak-willed or lack discipline; rather, there is usually an underlying root cause that perpetuates these habits.

Let’s take a closer look at how to uncover and address the root causes of counterproductive habits.

Exploring The Possible Reasons For The Habit

Before we can effectively address counterproductive habits, we need to explore why this behavior persists in the first place. Although there could be a number of reasons—including physiological, psychological, and environmental influences—that shape and drive a particular habit, one of the most powerful tools we have at our hands as fitness professionals is understanding a behavior’s root cause. Fortunately, psychology has identified 4 root causes for behavior, summed up in the acronym E.A.T.S.-

  • Escape
  • Attention
  • Tangible
  • Sensory

By understanding and utilizing these root causes, you can begin to create a sustainable plan for change for your client.

Let’s look at an example.

If a client is repeatedly indulging in high-calorie foods that are counterproductive to their goals, it’s important to understand why this behavior is so pervasive.

Are they turning to these foods in times of stress to offer some comfort? That may be the root cause of escape.  

Are they eating those foods because that is the standard selection of the people in their lives? That sounds like attention is the root cause. 

Does your client feel like that food is a reward for a hard day’s work? Then suspect tangible as the root cause.

Is that particular food just something your client sincerely enjoys the taste, texture, and smell of? Then sensory is your root cause.

Telling your client to simply stop doing a behavior without addressing the root cause leaves that need unfulfilled. The willpower and discipline to resist that need are limited, so your clients will predictably revert back to the previous behavior that fulfilled that root cause.

Hence, those old habits die hard.

But there is another way.

Identify Solutions To Address The Root Cause

Once the root causes of a counterproductive habit have been explored and identified, it is then time to start implementing solutions that can help address them.

This will involve working with your clients on developing healthier new strategies that fulfill the same root cause(s) as the previous unhealthy behaviors so they can be consistent without resorting back to old patterns. 

To sum it up…The Summary                  

It can be difficult for clients who are stuck in unproductive cycles of behavior to break out of those patterns – but it isn’t impossible!

By exploring the underlying root causes behind counterproductive habits and identifying replacement strategies that address those same root causes, things can start changing for the better.

By understanding the root causes of behavior and matching replacement strategies, you can help your clients discover a leaner, healthier, and happier lifestyle.