With Shutterbite our goal is to create simple, sustainable, and achievable change in everyone’s life. The key to change to disrupt the habits that you have and create new habits to replace the old ones. The mindful eating programs inside of Shutterbite are designed with that purpose in mind. We want to change the old habits that you have around eating so that you can eat more mindfully at every meal. In the next few sections, we will explain why changing habits is so hard, what science says is the best way to change habits, and how Shutterbite uses science to design its programs to be effective and sustainable.
Starting a new habit is hard and it’s even harder to change your old habits with new ones. Most of the habits that we practice daily were not formed intentionally.
Habits come to us automatically. The brain learns to repeat certain behaviors that happen over and over again without much thinking. When an activity becomes ingrained in the brain it eventually becomes a habit.
Habits are a good thing for the brain. When you are doing something that is a habit the brain can focus a lot more on other things since the brain already knows what to expect.
While habits in general are a good thing you can form habits of behaviors that are considered bad or negative. Habits form easily around behaviors such as drugs, overeating, gambling, and more.
These habits are also hard to change because they are linked closely with the brain's dopamine reward system where you receive a hit of dopamine as a reward for doing these types of behaviors.
A new habit requires self-control and willpower. The problem with that is that we only have a limited amount of willpower before we eventually go back to our default behavior.
This is why, for example, 80-90% of people who go on diets end up gaining all of the weight they lose after 3 years. People can only practice a certain behavior for so long before their willpower runs out and they go back to doing the default behavior.
Although creating new habits are hard, they are not impossible, and if you know the right way of forming new habits it becomes a lot easier to change your behavior.
The truth is that people fail at changing their habits multiple times before they can overcome their struggles and actually change. "One study found that smokers trying to quit cycled an average of three or four times [...] before they succeeded"
The key is to not let failure in the past dictate results in the future.
The first step to changing habits is to be aware of the habit that you need to change.
This is where mindfulness and in particular mindful eating is a great benefit. Mindfulness is all about becoming aware of thoughts and feelings that you have in a particular moment.
Mindfulness helps you become aware of the unconscious habits that you may be doing without even noticing.
Once you know what habit you want to change you need to know what new habit that you want to replace that habit with. Here is a list of best practices based on science that you should follow when you are deciding what your new habit should be:
Habits should be extremely small so that it is easy to do every day.
One of the biggest reasons that people fail when they start new habits is that they pick a habit that is too big and too hard.
We explained the role willpower plays as well. Picking a habit that is too big will take more willpower to complete and that willpower will eventually run out.
Start with a habit so small it does not take much willpower at all to complete.
As you practice the habit more and more you can make it more difficult later on.
Your habit should be extremely specific.
Being specific in your habit helps you to make sure that you are doing the same thing every day.
For example, if your goal is to get healthy a habit you might choose is to run every day. That is a specific habit.
But making this more specific will help it become a better so that it happens everyday.
We can change running every day to running every morning and change running every morning to running every morning before breakfast.
Each time we are getting more and more specific and that makes the habit easier to accomplish.
Research shows that “You are 2x to 3x more likely to follow through with a habit if you make a specific plan for when, where, and how you are going to implement it”.
Just because you make a mistake or miss a day doesn’t mean that you should quit.
Whenever you miss you miss a day you can pick up right where you left off the next day.
Research shows that “missing your habit once, no matter when it occurs, has no measurable impact on your long-term progress”.
Top athletes miss days because of injuries, sickness, or a variety of other reasons but they pick back up right where they left off because they know they can’t quit. So should you.
New habits are more effective if you only work on a single habit at a time.
Trying to focus on more than one habit at a time leads you to spend energy on tasks that are not.
Studies show the same result. Research shows that “people who tried to accomplish multiple goals were less committed and less likely to succeed than those who focused on a single goal”.
Focusing on just a single habit makes it more likely that you will succeed in turning that habit into something that can be done every day for the rest of your life.
Research shows that it can take anywhere from 18 days to 120 days consecutively for a person to learn a new habit.
Most habit-forming programs tend to stick to around 21 days because of previous research that showed it takes 21 days for a person to remove a mental image from their head and create a new one.
The length of how long it takes to create a habit actually depends on how difficult that habit is to perform.
Consistency is the most important factor that determines whether your habits become permanent or not.
By practicing a habit over and over again you reset the wiring in your brain so that you can perform that task without even focusing on it.
It takes a long time to override the default habits that you have so consistency is absolutely necessary.
The goal of Shutterbite is to make long term behavior change simple, achievable, and sustainable. In order to teach mindful eating in the most effective way, we base our mindful eating programs on the habit forming science mentioned in the previous paragraph.
Our goal with mindful eating programs is to teach you how to eat mindfully by practicing mindful eating as if you are learning a new habit.
We believe the key to a healthy lifestyle is in the habits that you practice every day.
Here are the ways that Shutterbite uses habit formation to base our mindful eating programs on.
Starting small means that every program will start off simple and easy. Programs will get more difficult as you progress as a means to test your commitment to the habit.
Even though the program will get more difficult as you progress the behavior that you are doing on the first day is the same as the behavior you should be getting done on the last day.
Each program has routines that are extremely specific in what the completion criteria should be. When you are working on a program you should know exactly what needs to be done for each day.
For example, we have a self-reflection program before, during, and after you eat. In that program, we will prompt a specific set of questions that makes reflection extremely specific in terms of what types of questions should be asked while reflecting.
Our programs are designed to get you to focus on only one habit at a time for 30 days consecutively.
Your daily routines might shift around every day but every single day on the program is focused specifically on making sure you do one single thing every day that you are on your program.
For example, we have a program called "Eat Only When Hungry" where every day focused on teaching you to analyze your hunger level before eating any meal.
The programs on Shutterbite allow you to fail as long as you complete the routines the next day.
After progressing one day you have 48 hours after the day is over to complete your program.
If for whatever reason you skip out on completing one of the days you still have another day to pick up and progress before.
Each program in Shutterbite is exactly 30 days. We choose 30 days because it is short enough that it will be reasonable for most people to complete and long enough that you can make the behavior turn into a habit.
Shutterbite programs are designed to be completed 30 days in a row. The progress will reset if you do not complete the programs in consecutive days.
There is some room where you can miss a day and still continue but if you are not consistent you will not be able to finish.