When you decide you want to change a habit, what do we always say? “I’m going cold turkey starting tomorrow.” DON’T DO IT. When it comes to changing habits, you never want to full stop something you’ve been giving your body for years… to make lasting changes you want to ease out of old habits and into new ones. The cold turkey method relies on using your willpower alone to ditch a habit… it can lead you to cravings and withdrawls, which can royally fuck you up.
- That’s the thing about changing habits. Gradually over time is … you guessed it… sustainable. You’re trying to do the bate and switch here, not full stopping. Full stopping leads to binging more often than not. And when you bring sugar into the mix, you can have serious withdrawals.
So let’s talk about how you can avoid the hell that is going cold turkey.
DEPRIVATION IS BAD. BAD. BAD. BAD.
You’ve spent the last however many years building this habit you’ve realized you need to change… shit. Now what? Reversing that habit is going to mean you have to unlearn the patterns that led you to where you are currently. When it comes to food, this is actually not as daunting as you think it would be.
- Chances are, the things you’re doing with your diet that you’re unhappy with built up over time. So, in turn, reversing and changing those habits will have to happen over time.
When you go cold turkey, you are opening yourself up to withdrawal symptoms, and let me tell you how much those fucking suck. Have you ever hung out with someone who is quitting cigarettes or caffeine? The most unfuckinghappy people on earth. Withdrawal will make you restless and irritable… and it can lead to things like low mood, depression, and weight gain. Boom. There it is. That’s the exact opposite of why you’re starting your fitness journey, right?
- The fucked thing about habits is they seem easy to acquire, but you had to work on it over and over again to make that habit stick. It’s the same thing with choosing healthier habits. You have to repeatedly do it over and over again to make it your NEW habit.
- You wouldn’t full stop letting your dog out to go to the bathroom because you discovered it was bad, you’d have to retrain your dog that going inside the house is good.
Going cold turkey will sabotage you before you even set sail. So don’t do it. You have habits, some of them are better than others, so let’s talk about how to clean up those less desirable (notice we don’t say “bad”) food habits you may have.
FIND A PROPER SUBSTITUTE
So you wanna quit soda. Congratulations! Get in line. Everybody says they want to quit soda when they first start getting into a healthier routine… which, yes, is a great way to save in your caloric budget, but when you want that sweet fizzy drink… what the hell are you gonna do? This is where you need to figure out how to fill the void without fucking yourself over.
- The key to point out here is going cold turkey will likely lead you to binging on the thing you’re trying to avoid or deprive yourself of. For example, if you’re a chocolate junky, focus on keeping healthier, smaller portions around. Switch to darker chocolate as it has more antioxidants inside than milk chocolate does. Buy the snack size and then stash the rest somewhere out of sight so you don’t open the cupboard and see it all the time and think you have to finish the entire bag so that it “isn’t around anymore”.
Some of our favorite things to crush the soda craving are diet sodas, fizzy waters, and crystal light packets mixed with soda water… that shit’s a lifesaver. If you find some of the packets with caffeine in them… jelou. Winning.
- Finding healthier substitutes isn’t super difficult, but it does require some homework. Read your labels, because all substitutes and lower calorie and fat alternatives aren’t always better. Check the sugar content on those bad boys because a lot of times, in order to not sacrifice flavor, you find added sugar and that doesn’t always help you attain your goals.
Want to quit ice cream? Same thing. Find something that scratches the itch during the week so you don’t have to work so hard to hit your numbers… there are a million different varieties of frozen dairy or dairy-like treats out there that won’t screw you, try a couple and see what you like.
- The other thing to bring up, is sometimes your homework can be fun. When you find that perfect substitute that satiates that craving AND is healthier, it’s a win for you, and all wins are celebrated here, big and small. My favorite sub hack is plain greek yogurt. I love tacos, and I love sour cream on them. I switched over to greek yogurt for that substitution and I can’t tell the difference. I also get the added benefit of less fat and more protein.
Cheese. Everybody loves cheese. Start using lower fat options when you want things like cream cheese, sour cream, shredded cheese, and milk… yeah they may not taste exactly like their full fat counterparts but they’ll hit the notes you’ll want without tasting like crap. Give it a try with Sadie’s recipe for Funeral Potatoes.
Remember – we don’t want to cut out entire factions of food, because that isn’t realistic nor healthy… there’s no bad choices, but some are definitely better than others.
- Sausha: You won’t be able to find a sub that works for you, every time. In those moments, you have to make a decision on what you’re willing to give up, and what you aren’t. I’m really big into lists, so in the beginning, I made a list of all the things I enjoy that aren’t necessarily macro friendly. I then went through that list and picked out the things I wasn’t willing to give up at all, and from there tried to find healthier alternatives. Sometimes you’ll surprise yourself.
You know we’re gonna talk about it, because about 70% of adult humans in America consume alcoholic beverages. Alcohol will influence your workouts in some capacity, so use it wisely. There’s nothing worse than a heavy leg day with a fucking hangover.
- Alcohol also affects your sleep quality. When you get shitty sleep, you’re more likely to make poorer food decisions the next day because your body is deprived of something it needs to have.
When it comes to cutting down on your drinking you have some options to lessen the caloric blow if you still want to have a beer during the week… look at things like Budweiser Select 55 or Mich Ultra if you like lagers or light beers. If you’re into mixed drinks; look at stuff that doesn’t have juices, energy drink, tonic, or sugary sodas… these things will dehydrate you and make your hangover even worse. Try flavored seltzers instead.
- Keep in mind, the main thing we want anyone to do is moderation. You have alternatives regardless of your choice of spirits. If you’re a mixed drink person, find sugar free or diet mixers. If you’re a beer person, they have super light beers coming at 55-95 calories a can, hell, even Busch light is 95 calories per 12oz can. If super light beer isn’t your thing, just try to limit the amount you’re having in one sitting. Another note is that IPAs and darker beers have a much higher calorie content dependent on variety. In keeping with moderation, Instead of that 6 pack, try spreading out three over the same period of time.
- If you’re going to have those beers, try to be aware of keeping yourself hydrated. Typically, you should drink a glass of water for every drink you have.
This is the category where you MOST DEFINITELY DO NOT want to go cold turkey, and who gives a shit if your friends razz you cuz you’re drinking Mich Ultra or a hard seltzer… again… YOU ARE AN ADULT, make this lifestyle work for you, not the other way around.
- If you don’t want to give up your beers or your wine, just be aware that all things with calories count toward your macros. Make sure that you’re accounting for them when you consume them. The easiest way to track is by carbs or fats. So, if you have a 95 calorie beer, divide those 95 calories by 4 for carbs, or 9 for fat.
Sadie found that one of the biggest annoyances when she was quitting drinking was people’s insistence that she NEEDED that shot or beer cuz everyone else had one. This is where you just need to stick to your guns… eventually people will stop trying to give you alcohol, you just have to be firm and patient.
MAILBAG: DO I NEED TO QUIT SMOKING?
Hi ladies, I have a question for you. You talked about not depriving yourself of things you enjoy in daily life… what does that mean when it comes to smoking? Should I stop all together or ease myself off with the help of patches or gum?
Sadie: I’ve never been a big cigarette smoker… but I mean, you don’t HAVE to quit smoking. Cutting down how many cigarettes you smoke a day is a good place to start. You’ll notice a huge difference in your cardio capacity once you limit your cigarette smoking… if your adjustment is going well, evaluate how you feel, and maybe you’ll decide that you don’t need cigarettes at all… and you can work towards cutting them out completely over time..
Sausha: This one is a difficult one to answer. Method varies by person. And, usually, it’s very hard to quit. Like any other healthy habit change, pick the option you think you’ll be able to stick with longer term. If that means gradually weaning yourself off by smoking less and less over a period of time, go with that. If you think patches or gum will help, go with that, but stick with it even when shit gets hard. Because it WILL be hard. It may be even more difficult than changing over to healthier habits in your diet and fitness. I come from experience here: it’s the hardest thing Ive ever tried to do, and I’m still trying.
- One thing I will say, is if you don’t actually want to quit, you won’t.
If we are talking about marijuana… well, Michael Phelps consumed marijuana while becoming the most decorated Olympian, so there’s that. But for real… there has been a lot of evidence coming out in support of marijuana and how it helps your body repair and recover. There is a really big movement surrounding maryjane right now in fitness and it’s been neat to watch: anyone who is anyone in high level fitness has some sort of CBD supplement deal these days. And CBD is a wonderful way to recover from workouts.
Sacrifice is necessary to a point, but it shouldn’t ruin your life. If you are working with a trainer that says you have to straight up quit something with no discussion of tapering off, dump them.
- Choosing healthier habits requires some form of sacrifice, but it also requires research, a want to and willingness. If you want to stop eating all the chocolate, you’ll find a way. As always, be patient and kind to yourself, you’ll get there over time.