Keto and Low Carb Success

Habits and Systems

May 18, 2023 Miriam Hatoum Season 2 Episode 50
Keto and Low Carb Success
Habits and Systems
Show Notes Transcript

Episode 50: Habits and Systems

A habit is a repeatable action and they make up the building blocks of your system. They are something you do without thinking about it. A system, is a series of actions you take. A system keeps the behaviors going. They are the processes you put in place to help you achieve your goals. James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, says “… a well-designed system will always win.”  If you have a system in place, you will keep putting one foot in front of the other to get you to where you want to go. No motivation  or willpower necessary!

Learn some actionable steps to  set up habits and get your systems into motion.

0:55.      Personal Story
9:10.      Using habits and Systems for your weight loss efforts
11:52.    Any change worth having takes time
12:30.    Now on to habits
13:40     The 1st Law for establishing habits is to make it obvious
15:06.    The 2nd Law for establishing habits is to make it attractive
16:49.    The 3rd Law for establishing habits is to make it easy
20:34.     The 4th Law for establishing habits is to make it satisfying
22:25.     This week's actionable coaching advice
24:20.      More topics like this in my new course
25:20.      Episode 51, coming up

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Episode # 50: Habits and Systems

You’re listening to the Keto and Low Carb Success podcast, Episode #50: Habits and Systems.


Welcome to Keto and Low Carb Success where I am here to help you on your weight loss and good-health journey. I’m your host Miriam Hatoum, course creator and author of Conquer Cravings with Keto, originally published as Breaking Free From Diet Prison.  I am privileged to be part of your journey with this podcast based on my trademarked Granny Keto Transitions Program. And, please, be sure to go to to get all the free guides to help you along the way. I am in your shoes, my friends, and I wrote these guides for both of us. The link is in the show notes and transcripts.

 Personal Story

0:55. I realized after preparing this episode that I already talked about systems in Episode 32, the first episode of Season 2. I combed through Season 1 to make sure I hadn’t presented it before, but of course, it didn’t occur to me to look at Season 2! 

 Anyway, what I talked about in that episode about getting my walking goals going has had to be totally revamped because of back problems I am having, but no way did they have to be thrown out the window.

 In this episode, I will talk about those revised goals, and the habits and systems that will keep them going.

  • My original goal in that episode was to I have a goal to be walking 5 miles 3-4 times a week by the Fall. 
  • I did start with a mile, then doubled it.
  • I did add difficulty by adding hills and my mid-summer goal was to add another mile, even if I don't hit 5 miles until the end of the summer.

SIGH… what’s the saying about the best laid plans???

I have all sorts of nasty back issues that had been kept at bay for years because of the work I did with my belly dancing. Anyone who has ever done that type of dance before knows that the core strength necessary will keep you upright. As a matter of fact, I had another problem – nothing to do with the back – where my doctor told me years ago that if it were not for the dancing I would have been in a wheel chair because my balance was so compromised I would not have been able to stay upright.

Anyway, the balance issues more or less healed (although I cannot stand with my feet together with my eyes closed or I will fall over, and I had to give up my beloved veil spins forever – and actually I did go crashing to the floor in one performance because I said the heck with it and did them anyway). But my back is another story.

My back was killing me on these walks that I was doing in the winter and spring in an attempt to get me to my 5 mile-per-day hilly hikes. After spending a bit of time feeling sorry for myself, I revised my goal to just walk where it was safe and produced little pain.

I went one step up the boredom ladder from a treadmill to the high-school track. Flat, soft surface and right now I am doing a 4-lap walk which is a mile. My back kicks in about the second lap, but tomorrow I am going to wear my back brace and hopefully that will help. I wanted to add one lap per week but after this morning’s walk, I think I will make that one additional lap per month unless the back brace works miracles.

Boring… but I turned to my own advice and realized that motivation is way overrated. How many of you don’t want to go to work or do housework or whatever, and do it anyway? How many of you don’t want to change a dirty diaper when the occasion comes along, but you do it anyway? No, I’m not comparing my walking to a dirty diaper, but really, I had to find a way to get up and do this every day without needing a ton of motivation. I just had to find a way, as Nike says, to just DO IT.

And that’s where systems and habits fit in.

 A habit is a repeatable action. It's something you do without thinking about it. A system, is a series of actions you take. For me that system is walking on the track so that I don’t hurt my back, checking in with my accountability partner after the walk, and working in rest days and picking how often I will level up with another lap.  Habits to make the system work would be always checking the weather the night before, setting out my sneakers and socks, plugging in my phone and ear buds, and pressing the button on the coffee maker so it is hot and ready when I get home. 

 A system keeps the behaviors going. They are the processes you put in place to help you achieve your goals. James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, says “… a well-designed system will always win.”

  • Again, my walking system is that:
  • Every night I use the habit of checking the weather report for the next day so that I can prepare to be dressed appropriately.
  • Then, I will check it again in the morning because things do change here quickly in New England.
  • I go to bed at relatively the same time each night so that I can get up early to walk.
  • I make sure I take my phone and earbuds with me.

And speaking to this last one: I was just talking with someone the other day about how I miss my 3-hour commute. Yeah, you heard that right. I listened to so many books – at least 5 or 6 per month. Then, when I got a car with Bluetooth I started listening to podcasts. Honestly, I would get to work sometimes and sit in the parking lot just an extra few minutes to finish what I was listening to. So now I am thoroughly enjoying this new flat, no-brainer walk, because I get to listen to all my favorite things again. 

  • Another part of the system is, if I have not done so in the car, when I get home, I check in with my walking buddy – who lives miles away.
  • She is my accountability partner with this goal of walking.
  • We even check in together on days we don’t walk. The check-in is part of our system.
  • The trick is to set up a repeatable set of actions that bring you to your goal.
  • The actions should be easy.
  • If I keep to my system of dressing well for a walk, sleeping enough to recover from the extra activity, keeping my walk pleasant by having my phone and earbuds, having accountability to a friend with similar goals, then I don’t feel I need motivation to get up and walk. I just do it, and might I say, I enjoy it.
  • The point is to establish a routine that is second nature and does not require a lot of thought or motivation. Think of your system as your routine.
  • Go through the actions and the results will follow. 
  • Systems replace motivation with routine.
  • When the blush of your goals and New Year’s resolutions fades away, the systems you have put into practice will keep you going.
  • Determination and commitment to myself, more than motivation, is what drives my system for walking.
  • For instance, speaking for myself, I will go walking because it is time to go walking.
  • I will listen to the weather forecast before bed because I don’t want to be caught unawares with the walking conditions.
  • I don’t need any mental energy to decide whether to do it.
  • I’m caught up in the system so to speak.
  • If you have a system in place, you will keep putting one foot in front of the other to get you to where you want to go. No motivation necessary!
  • Setting up systems is a process, so don't expect it to all fall into place the first time you start working on this.
  • Also, remember, you are your own expert.
  • Just as with choosing a food plan, you have your own wisdom and inner knowing about what will work for you.
  • Sometimes it takes a little experimentation, but don't give up on making a system to reach your goal.

9:10     Now let’s talk about our weight loss efforts.

  • Setting your goal is the easy part.
  • One of your goals can be to stick to your intentions every day.

But, HOW will you do this?

This is a bit of what I already covered in that earlier episode, but the information is so good, I want to give it to you again.

  • The WHAT is the goal and the HOW is the system.
  • This is where prep comes in.
  • Don't dive right into a new program. Approach it like I did with my walking.
  • Learn the bones of whatever program/eating style you are going to follow.
  • Figure out some meal plans.
  • Go grocery shopping.
  • Get rid of what you are not going to eat and stock up on what you will eat.
  • This is part of the system for reaching your goal.

In Episode 48, I talked about home-base eating and course correction. Take care of the systems at home so staying on your plan is a no-brainer situation.

  • You won’t have to rely on motivation.
  • Have the foods available that you are going to eat, have some meals planned, and reduce what you are not going to eat.
  • I know this can be hard with a partner or children in the house who do not eat the way you want to.
  • Have a system here.
  • Look over your kitchen and pantry.
  • Find where you can put off-plan non-perishables for everyone else, preferably out of your line of sight.

One thing I want to add here when working your new eating style with families who don't eat the way you do:

  • Others in your life are here to accompany you on this journey.
  • They are not here to carry you.
  • Have your WHYs, have your own back, and don't look to others to do the work for you.
  • Instead of resenting the lack of support, turn it around and tell yourself that this is a great opportunity to learn to support yourself. 

The strength and the magic to do this are in YOU.

  • Think of your goals, figure out what systems will work for you.
  • Your systems must be realistic and flexible.
  • Willpower has no place here.
  • Employ willingness and systems to make changes, not willpower.
  • A system keeps you focused on the journey.
  • Your destination is the goal, but the journey is the system!
  • Collect wins along the way. 

11:52    Any change worth having takes time.

  • Take the time to experiment with your systems.
  • Your transformation requires an internal shift.
  • Be curious then let something go if it needs to go.
  • Give things time but don't be afraid to eliminate or adapt something in your system that is not working to get you to your goal.

Systems are fluid and they are a process.

  • I talk a lot more about systems in Episode #32. Be sure to listen to it if you haven’t already.

12:30   Now I want to talk about habits.

·       Habits are building blocks of your systems. 

o   If my system includes taking my phone and earbuds so I can enjoy my podcasts on my walk, then my habit needs to be to plug them in at the same time each evening so I don't forget.

o   If my system includes being dressed appropriately for the walk then my habit has to be to check the weather for the next day before I go to bed.

o   If my system includes having enough sleep so I am refreshed in the morning, then my habit has to be shutting off the television by 11PM, earlier if I have been having a hard time getting up in the morning.

For this section on habits, I am taking information and  quotes directly fromAtomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results by James Clear

What I am giving you here is just the brief outline of his "laws" and method.  I highly recommend that you read this book to move forward with your journey. Once you set your goals and establish your systems, then habits will follow.

13:47   The 1st Law for establishing habits is to make it obvious.

  • The process of behavior change always starts with awareness. You need to be aware of your habits before you can change them.
  • The two most common cues are time and location.
  • Creating an implementation intention is a strategy you can use to pair a new habit with a specific time and location.
  • The implementation intention formula is: “I will WALK after I set up the coffee, for 4 laps at the track.
  • Habit stacking is a strategy you can use to pair a new habit with a current habit.
  • The habit stacking formula is: After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT]. For me it would be “After I get coffee ready, I will leave the house to walk.”
  • Every habit is initiated by a cue. We are more likely to notice cues that stand out.
  • Make the cues of good habits obvious in your environment.
  • Be the designer of your world and not merely the consumer of it.

15:06   The 2nd Law for establishing habits is to make it attractive.

  • The more attractive an opportunity is, the more likely it is to become habit-forming.
  • Habits are a dopamine-driven feedback loop. When dopamine rises, so does our motivation to act.
  • It is the anticipation of a reward - not the fulfillment of it - that gets us to take action. The greater the anticipation, the greater the dopamine strike.
  • Temptation bundling is one way to make your habit more attractive. The strategy is to pair an action you want to do with an action you need to develop.
  • Oppositely, to break a bad habit, make it unattractive.
  • Realize that your current habits are not necessarily the best way to solve the problem you face; they are just the methods you have learned to use.
  • Use reframing. This means that instead of telling yourself "I need to go run in the morning," say "It's time to build endurance and get fast."
  • Highlight the benefits of avoiding a bad habit to make it seem unattractive.
  • Create a motivation ritual by doing something you enjoy immediately after a difficult habit.

*How I made my walking habit attractive is that I get to listen to my podcasts that I have been missing since not commuting anymore.

16:49  The 3rd law for habit creation is to MAKE IT EASY

  • (The chapters of this law (11-14) resonated with me the most.)
  • We are so focused on figuring out the best approach that we never get around to taking action.
  • Sometime motion is useful, but it will never produce an outcome by itself.
  • EXAMPLE: It doesn't matter how many times you go talk to the personal trainer, that motion will never get you in shape. Only the action of working out will get the result you're looking to achieve...Sometimes we don’t do it right away because we actually need to plan or learn more. But more often than not, we do it because the motion allows us to feel like we're making progress without running the risk of failure.
  • The most effective form of learning is practice, not planning.
  • Focus on taking action, not being in motion.
  • Habit formation is the process by which a behavior becomes progressively more automatic through repetition.
  • Create an environment where doing the right thing is as easy as possible.
  • Habits can be completed in a few seconds but continue to impact your behavior for minutes or hours afterward.
  • Many habits occur at decisive moments - choices that are like a fork in the road - and either send you in the direction of a productive day or an unproductive one.
  • This happened for me when I decided I could find a way to walk that didn’t hurt my back. I could have sat on the pity pot that I had to walk on a boring track, and have things get worse. It really was a decisive moment when I got in the car and drove to the track. 
  • The more you ritualize the beginning of a process, the more likely it becomes that you can slip into the state of deep focus that is required to do great things. For me this is a two-minute process in the evening. I make sure my shoes and socks are ready for me to step into in the morning, and that my phone and earbuds are charged.
  • You can't improve a habit that doesn't exist.

With my walking, and why these particular chapters resonated with me, is that I am a planner. I look on Amazon and buy all the things, or go to a place like Dick’s Sporting Goods and buy all the things. I read about habits, for instance. I read about how to avoid back pain with my condition. I go to Home Goods and buy a new water bottle. I plan and plan and research and research. It’s not wasted effort in some cases because I do need to learn about my back issues. But more often than not, in some cases, it is wasted effort because I would waste 2 hours shopping when I already have water bottles, socks and a windbreaker. 

It is difficult for me to move from thinking and planning to productive motion. I had to tell myself more than once, JUST DO IT. 

20:34  The 4th Law: MAKE IT SATISFYING

  • The Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change: "What is rewarded is repeated. What is punished is avoided."
  • We look for immediate satisfaction.
  • We are more likely to repeat a behavior when the experience is satisfying.
  • To get a habit to stick you need to feel immediately successful - even if it is in a small way.
  • When I get back in the car, I look in the mirror and say, “GOOD JOB.” I acknowledge that I have done what I say I was going to do, I acknowledge that I didn’t stop no matter what. One morning it started to hail about lap 3. It could have been so easy to run back to the car and call it a day, but I finished my 4th lap and it was so satisfying to have completed my goal. I often even text my accountability partner before I start the car.

The first three laws of behavior change - make it obvious, make it attractive, and make it easy - increase the odds that a behavior will be performed. 

The fourth law of behavior change - make it satisfying - increases the odds that a behavior will be repeated next time.

22:25  This week’s Coaching Advice

This week I would like you pick a goal for yourself. It is best if it is something that needs continuing action like movement or something to do with your eating plan. 

·       Write down your goal and see, first of all, if it can benefit from being broken into smaller goals and start with work on those.

·       Give some thought to what systems would help you with that particular goal. 

·       Then take those systems and see what habits you need to establish in order to keep those systems going.

Going back to my walking example:

My goal is to walk four laps daily (adding a lap each week). The larger goal is to double or triple that. The ultimate goal would be to build my walking and posture to where I can go back to walking the hills near my house again. Because that might never be the case, I will stick with my immediate smaller goal which is to walk four+ laps daily on the high-school track.

My system is to check the weather the night before so I can have contingency plans for the morning (will it be raining? Cold? Hot?). Also part of the system is to I go to bed at relatively the same time each night so that I can get up early to walk.

My habits are to make sure my shoes and socks are ready for me and that I plug in my phone and earbuds before bed. 

It’s a little hard to break down the difference between habits and systems but the best way I can put it is that your habits make sure your systems work. 

24:20  There are more topics like this in my course Keto and Low Carb Success. Depending upon when you are listening, the course is either in waitlist-mode or it has gone live. Please check it out at I have very special gifts and pricing for the summer of 2023.

Now, let me remind you. If you’ve ever got a question you’d like to ask me or share a topic idea that you would like me to cover on a future episode, don’t be a stranger! I always look forward to hearing from listeners like you. You are welcome to email me directly… And don’t forget to leave a review wherever you listen to this podcast. I would SO appreciate it. Leaving a review makes it easier for other people who are looking to listen about Keto and Low Carb.

25:20  Coming up in the next episode

It’s been a while since I’ve done a podcast on the mechanics of Keto and Low Carb, so next week I am going to talk about carbohydrates, insulin, insulin resistance and stubborn belly fat. Calories are not the full answer to weight loss, and sit-ups are not the full answer to a flat belly. What we eat that drives insulin is the route to shaking things up and getting rid of fat. Learn about the belly fat and insulin connection.

Having this information will help you make your next best decisions as we move forward into the summer months with traveling, parties, vacations and off-plan plans!

 So go share the show with your friends, let them know that’s coming up in the next episode, and invite them to tune in with you and learn how to become free from diet prison with my Keto and Low Carb Success podcast.

 Until then, go live free from diet worry — I’ll see you back here next time. 

 Get all my free guides
Take a look at this great course
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And don't forget my book!