Mini Habits for Weight Loss: Book Review

Updated on July 19, 2018
Darleen Barnard profile image

Darleen Barnard is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer, Weight Loss Specialist, Behavior Change Specialist, and John Maxwell Certified Coach.

Book Review: "Mini Habits for Weight Loss," by Stephen Guise

I have never written a book review before, but I believe so strongly that this book is the key to weight loss, that I was compelled to write my first review. I have used a lot of the ideas in my own weight loss practice for years but I was excited to discover new ideas that further build upon the strategies I am already using.

As a Certified Personal Trainer and Coach, I have learned through personal experience that habit formation is the key to modifying lifestyle. Research supports my personal experience as well. Data from the National Weight Control Registry shows that individuals who have lost at least 30 pounds and maintained the loss for more than 1 year found that these individuals focused on lifestyle-modification strategies based on healthy habits. Habits not only help you take the weight off or get in shape, but will help you maintain your progress and prevent relapse.

I am going to start recommending this book to every single one of my clients and encourage anyone who has struggled with dieting and weight loss to read this book. It is an absolute must-read!

Diets Don’t Work, Plain and Simple.

“Diets” encourage us to make drastic changes to our diet where we go from eating pizza and burgers on Sunday to salads and grilled chicken on Monday. To understand what is so wrong with this approach and why diets will almost never work, we must first understand how our mind works.

Our minds are broken up into two parts: the conscious and the subconscious mind

The conscious mind is where our thinking takes place. Logic, reasoning, decision making, and willpower all reside in the conscious mind.

The subconscious mind makes up most of our mind. This is where our emotional and spiritual intelligence resides, as well as our behavior, habits, and memories.

Our logical, conscious mind may know we need to eat more salad and vegetables but our subconscious mind resists that idea because it has been programmed (habits) to eat pizza and burgers.

We have our very powerful subconscious mind - fighting against our conscious mind – that is much weaker. It is not a fair fight! Our mind is wired to resist change – it is a survival mechanism.

Our conscious and subconscious minds are motivated by two very different things. Our conscious mind is motivated to avoid pain and seek pleasure. Our subconscious mind is motivated by what is familiar. You have your subconscious mind running a program and it wants to maintain the status quo habits of eating unhealthy food. It is fighting against your logic, reasoning, and willpower that knows you need to eat healthy to avoid pain.

This is the exact reason our willpower tends to lose the battle against our habits and why diets don’t work! Diets are too drastic and they put the subconscious mind on high alert to resist the change. So how do we trick the subconscious mind or reprogram it when it doesn’t want to change? Mini Habits!

Mini Habits

Mini habits are changes so small that the subconscious mind isn’t alerted to the change. The changes are flying under the radar so to speak. When we make the changes small enough that the subconscious mind doesn’t notice, then we have a chance to make a change! We may still have cravings and days that are harder than others (sugar or caffeine withdrawal); however, we no longer have our subconscious mind fighting against us. Our conscious mind finally has a fighting chance!

As Guise discusses in his amazing book, examples of mini-habits include:

  • One push-up per day
  • One sit-up per day
  • Read two pages per day
  • Eat one carrot stick
  • Floss one tooth
  • Stretch one body part per day
  • Meditate for one minute

You get the idea. These mini-habits are so small, that there really isn’t any excuse not to do them. When we set the bar low, our subconscious mind isn’t alerted to the change AND these tasks are easy enough to do even when we are having a bad day and our motivation is low.

What sounds better right now - one pushup or a 60-minute high-intensity workout? Which one are you more likely to do?

It also serves another purpose. It gives us a bunch of mini-wins that make us feel better about our progress. Would you rather feel good about hitting all of your mini-wins for the day or feel bad because you couldn’t muster up the strengths to pound out a 60-minute intense workout?

The other problem with diets and workout programs is we set the bar so high that it is challenging to complete, even on a good day. And when we have a bad day? Forget it. It’s too much!

But with a mini habit, we can do one push up and eat one carrot stick even on the worst day. As Guise states, “The requirement is so low that “usually” becomes “always”. When you can “always” do something, you’re unstoppable.” You will build up so much momentum because you are always doing your mini habits, that it won’t take long to add new mini habits and to do more than one.

In addition to these mini habits, Guise also encourages us to do “bonus reps”. Bonus reps build upon your mini habits. So, if your goal is only to do one push up, you may think to yourself, “well, I’m on the floor anyway, I might as well do a few more!” , and THAT is where the magic happens! Before you know it, you just did 20 pushups!

As Guise states, “A low requirement and a high ceiling are perfect for consistency plus unlimited upward potential.”

This is applicable to anything in life. Success is the result of small efforts repeated daily. When we set the bar too high and we have too many rules about what we can and can’t do, consistency becomes a problem. But if the bar is set low, we are much more consistent and momentum builds. Consistency and momentum improve our self-confidence and once we have all of those ingredients, the sky is the limit!

Triggers

Guise offers a few different strategies to trigger our new mini habits.

  1. Time - We can link our mini habit to a certain time every day. For example, we can set the alarm on our phone for 6 pm to do our one pushup.
  2. Activity - We can link our mini habit to an activity that we always do during the day. For example, we can do our one pushup after we use the bathroom.
  3. Deadline - We can just commit to do our mini habit before the end of the day. For example, we can do our one pushup any time before we crawl into bed.

Guise recommends linking our nutrition habits to our meals (activity) and linking our exercise habits to whatever will work for our schedule. He encourages you to be flexible and play with these new mini habits to see what works best for you.

Quantity

Guise recommends no more than 4 mini habits at any one time. In fact, he tends to stick to 2-3 new mini habits. He has found that when he adds the 4th mini habit, it tends to be too much. After you have mastered the first set, then you can build upon those or add some more. But little by little, you will be heading in the direction of your goal and your subconscious mind won’t be fighting against you like it would be doing with an extreme diet!

Additional Strategies

Guise also offers several other strategies in his book that address many of the challenges my clients face. He offers strategies for the following:

  • How to deal with intense cravings and how to use those cravings to your ADVANTAGE
  • How to stop fighting yourself and stop feeling guilty
  • How to have your cake and eat it too – literally!
  • How to improve your grocery shopping experience
  • How to improve your habits when you snack
  • How to improve your habits when you eat out
  • How to improve your habits when you go on vacation
  • How to improve your habits when you are with friends or family who don’t eat healthy
  • How to improve your habits when you are at a party or during the holidays

8 Sacred Laws

Overall, this book is a gold mine with dozens of mindful eating tips and strategies to make slow, gradual changes to get you to your goal. If you want to continue trying diet after diet until you find one that works, this book is not for you.

Instead, he offers the 8 Sacred Laws of Mini Habits for Weight Loss:

  1. No dieting
  2. No limits on unhealthy food, no deprivation
  3. Feel no shame
  4. Be the Captain, Not the Deckhand –you are in control!
  5. Never stop self-negotiating and strategizing
  6. Rely on your healthy heroes – don’t force yourself to eat things you don’t like
  7. Try – don’t discount the power of mini habits until you try it
  8. Never mistake your goal for your strategy – Your goal is to live healthier and your strategy is mini habits. Weight loss is the result of achieving your goal.

As a personal trainer and weight loss specialist, I truly feel that this book is a game changer. Every single person who struggles with living a healthier lifestyle must read this book. Stop the dieting and the drastic changes and start incorporating mini habits. Slow and steady wins the race.

Thank you Stephen Guise!

Poll

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© 2018 Darleen Barnard

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