Make Gut Healing Habits That Stick: 6 Proven Ways to Overcome Procrastination and Flaking Out

If 40% of deaths in the U.S. are due to behaviors that we have the power to change, what changes can you make today that will help you live longer? And is it possible that behavior changes like these can also have a positive impact on our IBD?

From eating with your gut in mind, to making lifestyle changes that impact how you feel physically, to using the power of our mindset to calm our Crohn’s or colitis, behavior changes and forming healthy habits like these are the key to living longer, healthier, and happier.

There’s a huge gap between knowing we need to make these changes and actually making those changes stick. We are all creatures of habit and behavior change is hard.

Today, I’m going to share with you 6 proven ways to overcome the procrastination and flaking out that often prevent us from making lasting behavior changes we know will have a big influence on our gut healing.

These researched backed techniques may just be the key to busting down the barriers between IBD hell and IBD healing.  

We’re talking about:

  • Why consistent, inflexible habits may actually keep you from reaching your gut health goals
  • The most fun way to achieve your goals may actually work better than the most effective way
  • The positive influence of watchful eyes (but not in a creepy way) on building gut healing habits

And so much more!

After this episode, you’ll be saying goodbye to healthy habit procrastination and hello to new, gut healing habits that stick.

Episode at a Glance:

  • [06:34] A new book that will change the way you tackle your IBD healing journey
  • [15:45] Why consistent, inflexible habits may actually keep you from reaching your gut health goals
  • [18:51] The most fun way to achieve your goals may actually work better than the most effective way
  • [22:49] How to pair a fun habit with a productive one to avoid flaking out on that new positive change in your life
  • [24:05] The power of linking your new habits with a day that’s meaningful for you
  • [25:22] The positive influence of watchful eyes (but not in a creepy way) on building gut healing habits
  • [29:18] When the gap between you and your role model is too big, it can lead to you failing at achieving your goals
  • [35:10] The best way to take your IBD healing journey to the next level.

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Mentioned in This Episode:

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Unhealthy Behaviors Cause Approximately One-Half of U.S. Deaths

Dr. Milkman’s Book

An Interview with Dr. Milkman

Another Interview with Dr. Milkman

Choiceology Podcast





Episode Transcript:

Researchers have found that over 40% of deaths are actually due to behaviors that we have the power change.


What you choose to eat, the lifestyle habits you create, your state of mind… these are all behaviors and part of that 40%. And we don’t even have to be as dramatic as life or death here. Think about the impact these types of behaviors have on your Crohn’s or colitis. When we form healthy habits and behaviors around these 3 key areas: eating, lifestyle, and mindset, we create the power to live, not just symptom free, but in healthier and longer lasting ways.

So, how do you do it? How do you make those three unbelievably hard, but necessary behavior changes to help you live your best life? That’s what I’m going to share with you today.


INTRO: You are listening to The Cheeky Podcast for Moms with IBD, a safe space for moms with Crohn’s and colitis, connect, explore powerful tools for healing and transform our lives to thrive in motherhood and in life. I’m your host, Karyn Haley, IBD health coach, integrative wellness enthusiast, and mom to three outstanding kids. After having Crohn’s disease for 30 years and working as a health advocate exclusively with IBD clients for the last 10 years, I know it’s time to bring the types of candid conversations I have with my clients out into the open. It’s our time to go on an IBD healing journey and do it like only a mom can. Let’s do this.


[01:50] Hey dear one, welcome to the episode. I’m so honored that you’re sharing this time with me today. No matter what you’re up to—making breakfast, doing the dishes, working out, driving the mompool—we’re in this podcast bubble together and it’s my absolute favorite way to connect with you.

We’ve just been through one of the darkest times in history. A time when moving around your community was seldom. A time when we wanted nothing more than to settle in, all cozy at home in the clothes we probably wore yesterday, binge watching Tiger King, Bridgerton, or The Queens Gambit. We didn’t make lots of changes during Covid. We were just treading water, trying to keep things moving so we didn’t sink.

But now, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Now, we are starting to come out of the abyss and see the glimmers that even though life may forever be different, it may be time once again for change. The kind of change that gets us out of our comfort zone. The kind of change that even though difficult, comes with great reward.

When it comes to Crohn’s and colitis, the biggest change we can make in our lives is any change that leads to us feeling better. Any change that results in better gut health so we can get on with our lives and enjoy life on our terms. And thankfully there’s a wide range of ways we can improve our gut health.

And right now, at this moment it time, it feels like, in the U.S. at least, we are like butterflies, emerging from our cocoon after a long time sheltering in place. Now is a great time to make some of those changes that you might not have been emotionally strong enough to make a few months ago. Now is the time to adopt a new eating plan, get out in nature more, engage in a mindful practice like mediation or deep breathing, find ways to make your stress or anxiety more manageable.

How have things like that been going for you?

Are you diving in with both feet and making change happen? Or are you still holding back, still struggling to find the motivation, time, interest in making the changes you know will move the needle towards IBD remission.

If you’re still struggling to make change happen, this is the episode for you. I’ve just done a deep dive into the latest research on why behavior changes are so hard to make and what it actually takes to motivate us to make change. And oh my, you are going to be so surprised by the findings. This is groundbreaking and it’s not what you think it’s going to be at all.

Buckle up your procrastination belt mama, because I’ve got the antidote.

Change seems like a simple word on the surface, but if you’ve ever tried to make change in your life, whether you’ve succeeded or failed, you know just how daunting the whole process can be. We’re creatures of habit after all. I actually love that about humans. I love that we are so ritual and habit oriented. But what if you have habits and rituals that aren’t serving you? What if there are things about your food choices, your lifestyle habits, the state of your mind that could use a shift, a shift that will improve your gut health and lead you down the path to remission. I know you want that, right.

So, what exactly does it take to change behavior and why is it so hard to the make new behaviors stick? And how does all of this relate to the behavior changes we can make to help our IBD?

All good questions and it’s questions like these—behavior change questions– that were the catalyst for a new book by Dr. Katy Milkman: How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be. Dr. Milkman’s book is full of fascinating research studies on how behavior change actually happens, not how we’ve been taught it happens and as soon as I read it, I knew I had to share some of her insights with you.

One of the things I know my clients and the mamas in our free and fabulous Gut Love Community struggle with is making change, even when it comes to positive changes that positively impact our IBD. So the whole time I’m reading, even though this book isn’t about IBD specifically, I’m thinking how can this help IBDer’s?

I think I figured it out and I want to tell you about some of the things I learned from the research Dr. Milkman talks about because I really think it’s going to help you find ways to make gut healing behavior change stick for you.


But before we dive in, let me just tell you quickly who Dr. Milkman is so you can see where she’s coming from with the work she does. Dr. Milkman is a professor at the Wharton school, she is the co-director of the Behavior Change for Good Initiative at U of Penn, and she has a podcast called Choiceology. I’ve listened to several episodes and it’s really good. You might be thinking, oh stuffy academic type, but Dr. Milkman is really relatable and puts more heady concepts in terms we all can understand.

I’ll leave links to all her stuff in the show notes in case you want to check out all the work she’s doing habits and behavior change.


Now, right from the get go, I’ve got to be honest with you and tell you that looking into behavior change and the best ways to change our behavior, is a really personal pet project of mine. As chief procrastination queen, I’ve had roadblocks with behavior change my whole life. Take my whole journey in starting the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. You may have heard this story before because I know I’ve shared it a time or two, but after I read the Breaking the Vicious Cycle book—the SCD how to guide—it sat in a box in storage for 5 years—actually it started in a box in South Carolina, then it stayed in that same box when we moved to Mississippi, and still stayed in a box in England, and then finally made its way to Maryland (where my hubby got out of the military) where I opened the box again in desperation after a doctor told me there’s nothing else I can do for you.

Now that’s procrastination, right?

I could also tell you about my late night procrastinations before every assignment, paper, and test in college, need I say more?

So, if you feel what I’m saying, if you’re a procrastinator too, just know that we’re in this together. I know procrastination well. She and I are on a first name basis. Just because I’m telling you about the wonderful work of Dr. Milkman doesn’t mean I have this anymore figured out than you. Behavior change is hard for me to, but I can say that reading about some of the interesting ideas in this book, it definitely gives me hope. And I hope it gives you some hope too.


There’s six things that stuck with me most when it comes to how we can find the best ways to make the kind of behavior changes that will positively impact our Crohn’s or colitis. #1 We are told that this best way to change our behavior is through consistency (doing something in same time, same place). It’s not. #2 How something called “present bias” works to undermine behavior change and keep our procrastination alive and well.  #3 How what Dr. Milkman calls temptation bundling can lead us to behavior change that lasts. #4 The fresh start that can start any time of year (not just New Year’s), #5 The power of being watched (mmm, intrigue). And #6 The harm we do to our behavior goals when we look up to the wrong kind of role model.

Each of these little nuggets of wisdom deserves some time to explain how they can work to help you heal your IBD—because that’s what it’s all about. It’s about fitting Dr. Milkman’s work into our IBD mold. So, let’s do that. Let’s sus each of these out from an IBD lens, so you can see how these concepts can lead to good things for your gut health—and of course they work for other changes you want to make as well.


[12:35] #1: The idea that behavior change is linked to something we do consistently—same time, same place, same environment. We’re told that if we are serious about starting a new behavior and making it stick, we need to create an inflexible plan and never deviate from the plan. After a period of time of adhering to this, we’ll have a new habit, right?

So, whether we want to start yoga or develop a daily meditation routine, or a habit of getting out in the sun to get a dose of vitamin D (huge for our immune function and overall health), we have to be rigid about it.

Well, according to Dr. Milkman’s research, and I love this really revolutionary find, the “inflexible, do it at the same time” approach, isn’t necessary for behavior change that sticks.

In a research study conducted with 25,000 google employees, they looked at the habit of developing an exercise habit. That’s an easy one to measure. But for you, think of it in terms of any physical activity that has the power to help you’re Crohn’s or colitis. I have clients who are cross fit goddess’s and clients who feel like they’ve accomplished their fitness goals for the day when they take the dog for a walk, so when you think about this study, think about whatever your movement goal looks like.

So, they put these Google employees into 2 different groups. Group 1 was told to go to the gym at the same time and same place. They were told to follow a set schedule. Group 2 was told to pick the time that worked for them. They were encouraged to set the same number of times they exercised per week, but how they got it done could vary.

Guess which group stuck with their new habit? It was group 2. The flexible group. The researchers found that building in elastic habit, one that has room for changing it, it’s a much more durable way to build a new habit.

So, how might this play out for you? Well let’s take the habit of developing a yoga practice. Maybe it’s your goal to practice yoga four times a week and you want to practice first thing in the morning for 30 minutes. What if one morning you wake up late because you weren’t feeling well the night before and now, you’re rushed to get the kids out the door. Yoga is not happening today. If you were in group one, that’d be it. You’re definitely not going to get to your yoga goal that day and it may be all you need to stop creating this new habit. It’s a completely inflexible approach. But if you are in group 2, you might start thinking about another time of the day when you could get your yoga practice in. You might have time for a 15-minute yoga session, you might do it later in the day, or you might skip it today all together and do your yoga practice tomorrow.

See how that flexibility can fit in your favor? When you develop a new habit, whatever it is, let yourself be a little bit flexible. Feeling like you have to do that new habit in the same way and at the same time every day can actually make you likely to quit soon after you start.


The second thing I mentioned was “present bias” and how it works to undermine behavior change and keep our procrastination alive and well. According to Dr. Milkman, “present bias” happens when we focus on our here and now rewards. Social media scrolling, binge watching TV… the things we do when we know we should be doing something else more productive.

When it comes to this type of procrastination, there’s a couple cool tools that are now out there to help us. One of them is an app called StickK. Basically, StickK is an app where you impose a fine on yourself if you don’t achieve your future goals. So, you tell the app your goal, you agree to a binding commitment contract, you choose a charity of your choice where the money will go if you don’t stick with it, and you also choose a referee (someone who you trust to be impartial) who can report you if you don’t achieve your goal. Some people recommend choosing a charity that you would definitely not want to support. Just a little bit more incentive for you to stick with your goal. There’s another app called Beeminder that works much in the same way. I’ll link to StickK and Beeminder in the show notes in case you want to check them out.

Besides SticKkK for procrastination and difficultly sticking with new habits, I really like the other method mentioned in the book called The Carrot.  I like this method because it involves fun and whenever I’m forming a new habit, I’m definitely more apt to stick with it if it’s fun. So most of the time when we think about achieving a new goal or starting a new habit, we think about the way that’s most effective in reaching a goal. But with The Carrot, we think about what would be the way that’s most fun for us to achieve our goal.

When people choose the fun way to achieve a goal, they are more likely to stick with their goal. Dr. Milkman equates this to Mary Poppins and her spoon full of sugar. The sugar (that is, the fun) helps the medicine (or the habit) go down. Of course, this way of doing things may not work for the perfectionist to wants to do everything in the most effective and best way, but do you want to achieve your goal, or do you want to give up because you’re so perfectionistic about the way it has to be done?

Have you been thinking about trying a gut healing diet like the specific carbohydrate diet or maybe Paleo? What if you did it with a friend? Wouldn’t it be more fun that way? The two of you can go through the ups and downs together, you can support each other along the way.

Or maybe you’re trying to go gluten-free, but the idea of figuring out the recipes and meal prep is making you feel overwhelmed. How can you make this more fun? Is there a gluten-free blog with the recipes galore? Is there a friend who might want to meal prep with you to share the load? They don’t have to have IBD, they just have to want to eat gluten free. Both of these ideas will make going gluten-free more fun. It might not be perfect, but these changes are not about perfection, they’re about making these new habits durable and sticky.


[21:15] Let’s talk about the #3 gem of a find from this research: it’s called temptation bundling. This habit building technique also has the fun built in. With temptation bundling, you only let yourself do your new habit, while you’re doing something productive. So, with an exercise example, you would pair the elliptical with a binge worthy show. One of my clients, Aimee uses temptation bundling with making her SCD legal food on Sunday. If you know anything about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, you know that it can involve a fair amount of making food at home. This is Aimee’s least favorite part of the SCD, so she does all her meal prep for the week on Sunday afternoon, while she catches up on her favorite podcasts. In two hours, she’s listened to 2-3 episodes (she flatters me by saying I’m in Sunday bundle), and batta bing, she’s ready for a week’s worth of eating for her gut.

What fun activity can you pair with a gut healing habit? Going for walks with a neighbor? Nighttime stretches with a good audiobook?

Don’t you just love the idea of temptation bundling? I think it’s my favorite habit building technique that I’m ready to try.


Technique #4 has to do with fresh starts. And fresh starts don’t always have to be on New Year’s Day. A fresh start can be any day of the year. Mondays are the perfect fresh start day, as is the 1st day of the month, or any day that has some sort of significance for you. It’s about linking your new habit to a day that has meaning to you. When you do that, you’re more inclined to act.

I definitely know something about a fresh start. Remember those 5 years I mentioned in between finding out about the SCD and starting it? Well, after those 5 years went by and I was ready to start the diet, the month was May, but I knew that if I linked this diet to a fresh start, I’d be much more apt to stick with it. So, after careful planning and thinking about the perfect day for me, I chose July 4th—America’s Independence Day because it was my personal independence day too. It was the day I said, “no more” to doing everything my doctor told me to do. “No more” to being the good little solider, and never getting better. I think one of the reasons SCD was so successful for me was because of that very reason—I linked it to a fresh start day. Now, every year on July 4th, I have my own celebration of independence with all my favorite SCD legal foods.


[25:30] Powerful habit builder #5 is the power of being watched, in a non-creepy way. We’re talking accountability my friend.  There’s this really cool study that Dr. Milkman talks about where a company is trying to get a community to sign up for an environmentally friendly energy saver—turning off power during peak times. Not typically a great sell, right? Well, the researchers created two different test groups. In one group, people were asked to sign on a sign-up sheet in their community using a pin number. The other group had the same sign-up sheet, but they were asked to sign up for energy saving using their actual names.

Guess which group had more sign ups?

Yep, you guessed it. The group that put their names down. They wanted to look good in their community’s eyes. Accountability. Our behavior changes when someone is watching.

How can you do this in your IBD healing life? Let’s say you’re feeling like the stress and anxiety in your life is wreaking havoc on your Crohn’s or colitis and you’ve decided to commit to a stress managing app like Calm or Shine. These are two great apps for stress and anxiety help. There’s a couple ways accountability can be used here. One way is to work with an accountability buddy. Someone who holds you to the goal you’ve set for yourself. If you’ve promised to use the app 5 times a week, your accountability buddy will be checking in with you to make sure you stay on track. If you don’t, a little tough love is employed to get you back on track.

Another way to use accountability is to shout your Calm or Shine app intentions out loud to the world and in this day and age, that’s easy to do. Post it on social media and declare your new habit to the world. Nothing holds you to your word like putting it out there for the world to see.


One last tip to help you form super healthy gut healing habits, is habit change factor #6, looking up to the right people. We just talked about the positive power of social media. But there’s definitely a downside too. Everyone on social media seems so perfect. They seem to have it all together. They seem to be 10 steps ahead of where you are.

Comparing yourself to those people is never a good idea. The gap between you and them is just too great. Instead of inspiring you, they make you feel like a failure. Instead of wasting your time on people who seem to have it all figured out, pick someone who’s just a few steps ahead of you. This is someone you can relate to. This is someone who’s goals are similar to your own. Seeing yourself in this light will boost your self-confidence and help you feel like if they can do it, so can you. When you feel that way, you’re much more apt to keep those behavior changes going.

Alright mama, there you have it. 6 of the best, most research backed methods to help you get started with make lasting changes and forming healthy habits that have the power to bring your IBD into remission.

Now you’ve got the tools, what are you going to do with them?


I’m going to recap the habit changing tools we talked about today. While I do, your job is to pick the two that resonate with you most. Don’t pick them all. You’ll never commit. Pick two that you can get started on right away. You can always add on more later.

Ready? Here’s the recap.

#1- Forget rigid goals, flexible, but persistent strategies work better

#2- Don’t get sucked into present bias (the rewards of the now), use apps like StickK and Beeminder to make sure you achieve your goals

#3 Use temptation bundling where you link a behavior you don’t want to do with one you love to keep you motivated to keep going

#4 Make that fresh start any day of the year, remember my fresh start day was July 4th, if you’re listening to this is real time and you live in the states, July 4 is coming up, maybe it could be your date too

#5 Get watched, in a non-creepy way of course, get an accountability partner or share your intentions with the world wide web

#6 Look up to people who are just a few steps ahead of you, looking up too high, only makes you feel like you can never achieve your goals.

Did you pick 2? Awesome, that’s all you need to do for today.


Tomorrow, dear mama, take some action. DM me on Facebook and let me know which ones you pick. I’ll let you know mine too and we can be accountability buddies to achieve our goals. @TheIBDHealthCoach

You’ve got this. I know you can do it!

We talked about a lot today. But this is just a sampling of the work Dr. Katy Milkman is doing on how we make changes and form healthy habits that last. If you’re a procrastinator like me, if you’re struggling to make the changes you know will help you feel better, help you to be the mom you know you deserve to be, help you live your best life, this book is worth the purchase. A link for Dr. Milkman’s book, How to Change is in the show notes.

[33:50] Say no to the status quo, say no to it’s always going to be this way, say no to I can’t… You can. It won’t happen all at once, but it will happen. Start small, with baby steps, form small habits you can work at every day and you will get there.

Until we meet again, I’m wishing you a cheeky and healthy IBD healing journey.

Chat soon!

Thank you so much for joining me today and for listening to today’s episode. When it comes to IBD, I know there’s a lot of resources out there, and I’m truly honored that you chose the Cheeky Podcast to get your IBD information today. If you found this information helpful, please give us a rating and review. It helps other moms find the podcast and see what we’re doing over here to help IBD moms everywhere. And if you feel called feel a call to do it, share this podcast with an IBD mom who you know could really use an uplifting message today, ’cause that’s what we’re all about over here at the Cheeky Podcast.

One last thing, if you’re still with me, and if you are, you’re definitely my kind of gal. We have to get to know each other better. If you’re tired of living on the hamster wheel of IBD with all the ups and downs between flares and remission, if you’re struggling to get control of your abdominal pain, gas, bloating, diarrhea and other troubling IBD symptoms, go to my website. It’s, and my mom had to be just a little bit different, she spelled my name with the Y. So it’s K-A-R-Y-N and schedule your very own free 30-minute IBD root cause trouble-shooting session with me where we discuss the challenges you’ve been having, we set goals to help you move forward, and we talk about how we can work together to help you get your life back. It’s a power packed 30 minutes. You don’t have to live in IBD status quo. There’s so much that can be done to transform your life so you can thrive in motherhood and thrive with IBD. I’ve seen my clients walk this path and it gives me so much joy to take that journey with them.

My entire coaching practice is run online, so you never have to leave your house and you never have to get out of your jammy or yoga pants for us to work together. You know I’m wearing them to. If you’re ready to take your first amazing step towards healing, I’m ready to chat with you. Schedule your free 30-minute IBD root cause trouble shooting sesh today at Click on the work with me tab and I’ll see you soon. It’s important to note that the information in this podcast and in this episode is for general information purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The statements made in the Cheeky Podcast for moms with IBD, either by me or my guests, is not intended to diagnose, treat, to cure, or prevent any disease. Before implementing any new treatment protocols, do yourself a favor and consult your physician first.

Thank you so much for listening, for being here, for saving this space for us to spend some time together. Until we chat again, I’m wishing you a cheeky and healthy IBD journey.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This podcast, video, and blog post is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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