Are We “Creatures Of Habit”?

We have all heard the expression “Creatures of Habit” as this refers to the tendency for people to engage in behavioral patterns that are repetitive in nature.  We like to see ourselves as free-willed, conscious beings, self-governing and set apart from other animals by our capacity for reasoning. Yet watch people closely and you find that we are more instinctual and a lot more like other creatures than we care to think.

At the Media Lab of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a research group looked more into this.  By fitting custom-made electronic “black boxes” to students, researchers and visiting executives at MIT, they monitored people going about their day – working, meeting, eating, going out and sleeping. The devices record where the wearers go and how fast, their tone of voice, and subtle details about their body language. What these studies have revealed is that a good 90 per cent of what most people do in any day follows routines so complete that their behavior can be predicted with just a few mathematical equations.

Think about this for a bit…90% of what we will do in any given day can be predicted pretty easily by others based on observation of our habitual behaviors?  That is pretty incredible and certainly seems to support the title we have all earned as “Creatures Of Habit”.

Let’s move this discussion to weight control:  Clearly, habitual behaviors when it comes to eating, drinking and exercise will determine whether we are at a healthy/happy weight or overweight/obese and frustrated.  This may be the major reason why controlling weight is so difficult:  The “habits” involved in making us overweight are sort of fun: eating and drinking the great tasting foods that provide immediate gratification and sleeping in for extra time as opposed to going to the gym.

It is essential for long-term weight control that old habits are replaced by new ones.  Take a step back and (with no electronic black box needed) bullet point YOUR habitual behaviors that may be leading to poor weight control and make a strong effort to replace those habitual behaviors with those needed to shed the weight.  Although we are all “Creatures Of Habit” this does not mean that those habits cannot be changed.

Any “Chicago” fans out there?  Here is Peter Cetera singing “Hard Habit To Break”.