Guest Post by Habit Project alum Meredith Gafill
“The more of the details of our daily life we can hand over to the effortless custody of automatism, the more our higher powers of mind will be set free for their own proper work.” From the book Habit, by William James
This sums up my experience with the Habit Project better than I ever could. Simple to the point of boring but so spot on.
I came to be a part of the Habit Project by accident. I had signed up with Amber Rogers and Sean Flanagan to participate in their Body Recomp Program late last year. I had been working out pretty religiously but wasn’t seeing the results that I wanted. Not quite enough muscle definition, a bit too much flab.
I was convinced that if I could just push myself a little harder that these goals would be mine. Push, push, push. If I could just do more and eat less, I would be better. Push, push, push. Work harder. Eat some magical combination of foods invented by someone smarter than myself. Push, push, push.
As it turns out, a week or so after I started the Recomp program, I found out that all that push, push, pushing had left me with a torn labrum in my left shoulder. Surgery would be in a few weeks and there would be no way to continue my kettlebell training. Benched! Even worse I wouldn’t be able to do all the house and gardening chores that helped me burn so many, many calories. I felt totally bereft. Everything was going to fall apart.
Suddenly, the Recomp program seemed silly. If I couldn’t lift then what was the point? Lucky for me, as I was checking in on the Recomp Group Facebook page, one of the other members of the group posted about the Habit Project. She asked Sean if she could switch out of the Recomp Program and try the Project instead. I was intrigued and asked for the same favor and was quickly welcomed into Group Panther, a division of the Habit Project. I had no idea about what I was doing there but things started rolling and I was learning as I went.
I had my surgery right after the switch and was pretty out of it for a few days but continued to check in with my team and read what others were experiencing with their habit work. As the days went on and I was finally able to live without handfuls of painkillers, I started to engage and participate in the first activity habit. Movement, exercise, some kind of workout. Could I do something every day? What would I like to do? Was I sure that I could do it daily? Once a week? Twice? Thrice? I settled on a morning walk, five days a week. You create your own goals in the Habit Project and walking was all I could really do. Nothing epic, but it was a start. Seemed a bit too easy but what the heck? I’d just try it. That morning walk has been with me ever since and I continue to absolutely love it. I can count the days that I have missed and they have only been because I was sick as a dog or had an unusually early appointment, which is rare.
Success! Right out the gate! I was reporting to my group daily and even participating as a group leader at times. We worked on one habit every two weeks and that we had to check in was what kept me REMEMBERING to do my new habit. Kept me on track, working towards bettering myself and creating a healthier lifestyle. The successes kept me engaged with the program.
I was patting myself on the back instead of always judging that I was doing too little. That little thing? Walking daily? It kept me from gaining weight during my long recovery (in fact, I lost weight) and I found that starting my day with a nice easy walk put me in a better frame of mind than my previous habit of grueling 5 to 8 mile runs. And I did it while eating very well as the next few habits were all based on taking in the proper amount of protein and vegetables.
I won’t take you through every habit in the Project but I will tell you a few things you can expect. No one will ever tell you what you may or may not eat. You will not be given a strict plan to follow. You will not have any activity taken away, nor will you be required to use equipment or follow a particular exercise regimen or plan. You will be given a habit and then Sean, Amber and the rest of your group will be there to help you scale it to your lifestyle and needs at the time. I know, that sounds like work. You were hoping for a magical recipe to perfection…. Really, this is so much better because you invent your new life the way you want it, which is easier to maintain for life. These little changes? They lead to the freedom William James was referring to in the quote at the beginning of this post.
Freedom. I now have a handful of habits that streamline my days and make things so much easier. I eat 3 solid meals and have at least 5 servings of veggies on most days (I used to be a vicious meal skipper- I thought it was a good thing to fast) and my energy level is much higher than when I was skipping meals right and left. I take a good protein powder and probiotic daily. I walk 5 days a week and lift 3 days with pull up training in between. I go to bed and rise around the same time daily and I shut off the computer about an hour before bed and don’t look again until I rise- this helps my mind calm so that I can rest better. I am nicer to myself (Self-compassion habit!) and have found that I am generally more relaxed and have a more positive outlook these days. I am done push, push pushing all the time.
In the end, I lost 8 lbs without ever giving up a food group or a meal. My weight hasn’t fluctuated more than 3 pounds in the last 8 months and I now enjoy knowing that my clothes fit all the time. I feel better and I am rarely ‘hangry’. I am a lot more accepting of myself as I feel really good about the changes that I’ve made. I am 100% positive that my changes are sustainable and quite honestly now that I have practiced these habits for such a long time I find it hard NOT to do them. Plenty of days I have rationalized why I don’t have time to do my workout only to find myself on the mats getting in sets between loads of laundry and stripping sheets off beds.
I just started my own new habit upon returning from vacation and I have a recipe for success. I created the habit and have a way of checking in with that habit daily. In two or three weeks, that habit will be mine and I will hardly have to think about it again. I’ll just do it. Freedom is what the Habit Project is all about. You learn the recipe, the procedure and then you practice it until you own it.
Note from Amber: for a limited time, Sean and I are enrolling for our 12 Week Habit Project On-Ramp exclusively on iPhone/iPad via an app designed for programs like ours. To learn more and claim your spot, go here: Habit Project On-Ramp