Hinge Habits: Cheap Buys for Big Results
Sometimes, Stuff Helps
Why do I emphasize simplicity so much?
An important point I like to make is that “complicated” and “complex” are not synonymous. Yes, improving fitness can be a complex, multi-factorial experience driven by hormones, genetics, exercise frequency, exercise intensity, food amounts, food types, and food timing…. But simplicity can be found in all of these domains. Nuance doesn’t have to mean confusion.
The problem with making health, fitness, and weight loss a complicated endeavor is that costs rise as convolution increases. When things aren’t kept simple and universal, having the “right” step tracker becomes critical, as does buying the latest kitchen gadgets, superfoods du jour, and trendy athleisure. While I do love my fashion leggings and do make recommendations for home gym purchases, it’s important that fitness not become the domain of the “haves” with disposable income, available only across a chasm of economic stability that many people don’t have.
The reality is that improving your fitness can be simple and inexpensive, and that a few “hinge habits” can capture many of the complexities and variances under just a few broad umbrellas.
What are hinge habits? Just like a tiny hinge can turn a large door, hinge habits are small routines that create big results. This blog post is all about the inexpensive purchases that you can make to support these micro-routines, and make life more conducive to hitting your health and fitness goals. Because sometimes, having the right stuff helps.
In my next several posts, we’re going to take a deep dive into sleep, stress, hormones, and weight. But for now, let’s just say that sleep is essential for health and fitness success.
So why am I so specific about an alarm clock? Why not just use your phone?
Study after study is showing that the increase in smartphone usage (particularly in the evening or even after “lights out”) is bad for sleep. And let’s be honest – if you have your phone in the room with you, it’s harder not to use it.
Leaving your phone in another room and placing an analog alarm clock several steps away from your bed (so you have to get up to shut it off) will improve your sleep hygiene significantly. It won’t solve all your sleep problems, but a small purchase will automatically tackle one of the biggest problems – the phone in the bedroom.
Glass Food Storage
I recommend single-serving food containers because they automatically take pressure off of portion control. Oversized portions, even of “healthy foods,” can significantly hold you back from weight loss – or weight maintenance – goals. Single-serving containers make the strategy of portion control an absolute no-brainer, no willpower required.
Why glass? I don’t subscribe to fear-of-plastic hysteria, but glass is inherently more durable and does not absorb smells, colors, or flavors. Also, if you lose a container of leftover lunch under your car seat for a few days (is it just me?), glass can be rescued to “good as new” status, whereas a plastic container would probably go right in the trash.
The jury is still out on whether or not glass is environmentally friendlier than plastic, but I think it’s obvious that using the same glass containers for years is more practically “green” than constantly replacing stinky plastic ones.
My other “hack” for containers? I would lean toward buying tons of the same container, rather than a variety of shapes and sizes, because all of the lids will match. You’re welcome.
How do clothing organizers make it onto this list?
Especially if you are a not a morning person, it is critical that jumping into your exercise routine is fast and easy. You want to remove every obstacle in your path to getting started.
As silly as it sounds, one of these potential challenges is being able to find your exercise clothes. Drawer organizers like this one and this one will help you to keep gear divided into appropriate categories, so that all you have to do is grab one item from each box to get dressed.
Not only would Marie Kondo would be proud, but habit expert Gretchen Rubin would identify this strategy as “outer order, inner calm.” Plus, organizing your sportswear may draw attention to the fact that you have gaps in your gear wardrobe – you may need more socks, more bras, or more sports-friendly panties in order to make it to laundry day each week.
When you are struggling to stick to habits, something as small as not being able to find your sports bra or having no clean socks has the potential to de-rail you, and being organized can short-circuit this sabotage.
Described accurately as “the only piece of home cardio equipment you really need,” the inexpensive and modest jump rope boasts benefits for heart health, cognitive function, coordination, and weight loss. Some of my clients hate it and others love it, but working on your jump rope skills will help you reap huge fitness benefits.
I love the jump rope for most clients because, unlike some other high-intensity exercises like burpees or squat jumps, jumping rope tends to be rather knee-, back-, and hip-friendly for people who are prone to pain.
Mostly, much like being able to find your exercise clothes in a snap, having a jump rope around lowers the barrier to exercise. Don’t have time to go for a 40-minute run or to hit the gym? Just grab your jump rope and take a 10-minute exercise break, or tack on an intense set of jump rope intervals (5 sets of 100, for example) onto the end of an otherwise tame workout.
If you have something like an Apple Watch, FitBit, or Garmin, obviously this is a superfluous item. But if you’re not a runner and are reluctant to shell out the cash for a sophisticated fitness tracker, a modest version like this will help you track your steps.
A pedometer is supportive of the hinge habit of fidgeting. Being a restless busy body is one of the best things that you can do for your health, and it’s something that you can do even on days that you don’t formally exercise. Fidgeting includes small actions like:
- Getting up from your computer frequently
- Taking a walk
- Visiting the break room
- Taking the stairs
- Taking the “long way” around the office
- Parking far away from buildings
Setting a daily step goal and doing your best to exceed it can make a difference of literally hundreds of calories a day – contributing to (or creating) the crucial deficit that allows people to lose weight. This is because of a phenomenon known as NEAT – non-exercise activity thermogenesis. NEAT can be a significantly bigger player in weight loss, in fact, than formal exercise. So get stepping!
These inexpensive items will help support hinge habits, taking advantage of small, easy actions that add up over time.
Last month, we covered “Keeping Things Simple” – reducing dependence on hyperpalatable foods, eating more protein and fiber, and strategies for lightening the load that’s often placed on willpower. This month, we discussed “Living on Autopilot” – taking advantage of our natural tendency to form habits and automatic routines. Next month’s theme will be “Trigger States,” and we’re going to take an in-depth look at stress, sleep, and the hormones that can affect fitness and weight loss goals.
Follow-Up Questions from Last Week
If you want to jump into this free healthy living project, all you have to do is start today by shooting me an e-mail to let me know you’re “in!” Each week, I e-mail strategies to my mailing list on Monday. If you would like to be on this list, please scroll down and sign up!
Last week in “Avoiding Fitness Information Overload,” we talked about how chasing the “perfect workout” can end in self-sabotage. Check out the post, but also answer these questions for me via e-mail:
- How did you feel about the “inner ballerina” description? Do you relate to this? How?
- What exercise routines “play to your strengths” and allow you to stay consistent?
- What did you notice this week about your mindset – did you catch yourself in negative comparison? How did you question/counter these thoughts?
Want my free mindset-transforming download?
Get my “3-Day Body Image Re-Set” – for free, and get the “Making the Changes That Matter” weekly questions delivered straight to your inbox!