Lesson 10, Topic 1
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Simple Start: For Educators

Michael Bewley September 19, 2020


Applying Charles Duhigg’s research, this plan will able you to harness the momentum of your habits and improve your performance in drastic ways while having a positive, widespread ripple effect on your life.

Keystone Habits

Charles Duhigg first introduced the idea of keystone habits in his book, The Power of Habit. He described these actions as being “small changes or habits that people introduce into their routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their lives.” 

Applying Charles Duhigg’s research and usage, Critical Reload has developed a performance nutrition plan called Simple Start. The field-tested and proven plan nurtures small wins in your performance nutrition routine. By achieving small wins, you create energies that favor another small win, and that in turn encourages the next small win, and so on, creating a virtuous cycle.

These keystone habits, and their domino effect of triumphs, result in a culture of massive change and create new structures that help new nutritional habits grow and thrive. Some of the essential steps you’ve begun developing in previous chapters. Let’s review.

STEP #: 1 Review of the Portion Control Guide

All too often, we misjudge a portion size of food and mistake the number of caloric values in a serving. Apply the Critical Reload Portion Control Guide to help determine the accurate serving size, so you record the nutrient values accurately. Doing such will ensure you consume the proper nutrient ratios to support the bioenergetics of your sport and season.

STEP #2: Review Your Weekly Menu Calendar

Review the Weekly Menu Calendar you completed in the Menu Planning and Nutrient Timing chapter. With this information, you can plan for: 

  • The day and times to eat.
  • The nearest places to eat.
  • The necessity to pack a healthy snack when food to eat is unavailable. 

According to Duhigg, adopting a keystone habit like a Weekly Menu Calendar creates a sense of structure that allows other good habits to flourish. For example, if you wake up and know precisely your nutrition schedule per your daily routine, you set yourself up to be conforming with your nutrition plan (ex, small wins). In turn, this arranges you with adequate energy to perform at a high level as you train. The outcome: you set yourself up for more earned playing time as your coach notices how hard you’re working.

STEP #3: Keep A Food Log Using Lose It

In the previous lesson, we established the Lose It food tracking app to direct your performance nutrition plan. Studies confirm that keeping a food log can help you gain twice as much lean muscle as you would gain without one. Furthermore, Duhigg’s work reveals people who record what they eat will gain the advantage of going back to discover routines and triggers in their eating habits. As a result, food journaling helps you identify operations where you can:

  • Apply your newfound nutritional knowledge.
  • Reduce frustration and lessen the occurrence of setbacks.
  • Unveil patterns of under-eating throughout the day and then over-eating at night.
  • Remove cues that trigger bad nutritional habits.
  • Set manageable and realistic body composition goals.
  • Build a new routine in your life and, thus, form a lifelong nutritional habit.

STEP #4: Begin With Breakfast

For the first ten days, you will build your willpower and help form or reinforce the value-added habit of breakfast. Record what foods and drinks you consume for breakfast using Lose It. Don’t worry about recording any of your other meals (ex, lunch, dinner, snacks) for the day — focus exclusively on mastering breakfast.

Charles Duhigg teaches that habits need to feel achievable, so saying to yourself that you’ll record breakfast — as opposed to committing to recording an entire day’s or week’s worth of meals — feels easy. The simpler and more achievable it feels, the more likely a habit gets formed.

Simple Start limits the number of recorded meals to heighten willpower and ease you into the habit of recording what you eat when you eat, and how much you eat while gauging nutrient ratios and calorie allotments.

Boost Your Willpower

Duhigg says that, ultimately, willpower is the most critical keystone habit if you want to achieve success. Willpower can be interpreted in several ways: self-discipline, determination, self-control. More technically, it gets defined as the ability to delay short-term gratification to reach long-term goals, the ability to override an unwanted impulse, and regulation of the self.

Ironically, willpower is less a skill and more like a resource, like muscle power, it weakens with use. Therefore, as part of the breakfast routine, be sure to record your breakfast immediately following your meal when willpower is at it’s fullest. Please don’t wait until the end of the day to record and review breakfast when willpower is at its weakest strength.

Additionally, you can boost willpower for recording breakfast by planning it ahead of time. For instance, use every Sunday to plan your entire week’s breakfast menus to get ready for your day. Either way, having consistency creates a huge amount of positive effects (ex, small wins).

STEP #5: Continue Recording Lunch, Dinner and Snacks

After you succeed with breakfast, it’s time to add lunch. Just as before, the next ten days should be focused solely on mastering what you eat, when you eat, how much you eat for lunch while gauging nutrient ratios and calorie allotments. Once this period is complete, shift your efforts to dinner for the next 10-days. Finish the allotted recording periods with 10-days of snacks.

Snacks are mini-meals, and their consumption can range throughout the day from mid-morning, mid-afternoon, late-evening while serving as pre & post-exercise needs depending on your schedule.

When you follow the listed suggestions above, you will have compiled an extensive profile of foods you commonly eat. Furthermore, you will have vested 40 consecutive days worth of health and nutrition toward your performance nutrition goals. That’s amazing when you think about it!

STEP #6: Final Stretch, 3x Per Week

Once you complete the Simple Start Phase, we recommend you continue logging 3x per week (twice during the week [ex, Monday, Wednesday] and once on the weekend [ex, Saturday]) for the next 3-months. Once concluded, you will become:

  • Accustomed to fit serving sizes.
  • Increase awareness of the type and amount of foods you’re consuming.
  • Inspire you to make healthier choices.
  • Nutritionally accountable, lessening the need to journal food every day.

Closing Remarks

Duhigg says that, ultimately, willpower is the essential keystone habit if you want to achieve success. Everything boils down to your self-discipline. Do you do what is right or best even though it might not be the most comfortable choice? Or do you give in to what is going to give you the most immediate satisfaction?

Managing your performance nutrition plan will be a lifestyle change that will take willpower and discipline. However, by following the Simple Start plan outlined, you will be able to harness the momentum of your habits and improve your health and performance in drastic ways, so they become an automatic behavior — something you do without even thinking about it.


  1. Burke L.E. Experiences of Self-Monitoring: Successes and Struggles during Treatment for Weight Loss. March 2008; vol 29 (2): pp 182-193. Retrieved from US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
  2. Duhigg, C. (2012). The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business. USA: Random House. Retrieved from charlesduhigg.com.
  3. Flynn, F. J. and Ames, D.R. What’s good for the goose may not be as good for the gander: The benefits of self-monitoring for men and women in task groups and dyadic conflicts.Journal of Applied Psychology, March 2006; vol 91 (2): pp 272-281. Retrieved from American Psychological Association.
  4. Hollis, J.F. Weight Loss During the Intensive Intervention Phase of the Weight-Loss Maintenance Trial. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, August 2008; vol 35 (2): pp 118-126. Retrieved from American Journal of Preventative Medicine.
  5. Magee, E. RD (2008, May) WebMD: Weight Loss & Obesity. Can a Food Diary Help You Lose Weight? Retrieved from WebMD.com.
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