9 Foolproof Tips for Creating Healthy Eating Habits that Stick!
If so, you’re not alone. I've noticed that many people I work with try to change their eating habits, but success seems to evade them. The scenario usually goes something like this...
-You begin with effortless dedication
-You experience a loss of momentum as maintaining the change becomes challenging
-Your goal loses its original luster
-You quit before reaching your goal
-You vow to try again later
Sound familiar? Far too many of us are trapped in this viscous cycle because new habits are simply hard to start. Today I want to share some nuggets of wisdom I gleaned from an interview with Gretchen Rubin, author of Better Than Before. These tips just might make all the difference!
According to Rubin, strategies which produce lasting behavioral changes vary from person to person. They depend upon innate tendencies that determine your response to internal and external expectations. Although there are many different tendencies, the four most relevant for health goals include:
- The Upholder: Those who respond readily to both internal and external goals and form habits easily.
- The Questioner: Those who only do things that make sense.
- The Obliger: Those who readily meet external expectations but struggle to meet internal ones.
- The Rebel: Those who resist expectations and do the opposite of what you tell them.
Most of the people I work with are upholders and obligers. I am definitely an upholder myself. As soon as I saw this list it suddenly became obvious why some of my clients fail to follow through with the goals I had set for them. I wasn't catering to their unique tendencies. I was setting goals for them that would work for me, rather than those that motivated them. In order to make your goals into habits, you need to personalize your approach. Here are 9 tips I learned from Gretchen Rubin to help you get on the right track..
1. Identify your tendency.
For most it's easy to identify which category you belong to. If you need more info, please go to [url=http://www.gretchenrubin.com]http://www.gretchenrubin.com[/url] to take a quiz.
2. Identify the limitations of your tendency.
Identifying your tendency is the first step. In order to create lasting habits, you must also learn to counterbalance the limitations of your tendencies.
Upholders may have to learn to question things more rather than simply doing everything that someone suggests. Thus you preserve your energy for those goals that matter most.
For questioners, it may be helpful to find experts who can give you a reason to follow through with your goal.
Obligers need to build accountability into their protocol by asking their partner or best friend to check in with their progress at the end of each day.
Finally, rebels need to find goals that truly matter to them. Don’t set other people’s goals. Set your own!
3. Be sure your foundational needs are met.
Set a solid foundation before trying to create new dietary habits. Sleep well, move everyday and declutter your home.
4. Self monitor.
We tend to do things better when we monitor our progress. Keep a food journal during your 30 day challenge. This simple act of writing things down has been shown to change eating behavior in positive ways.
5. Have a “what if” plan.
Plan to fail. Momentarily, that is. Life will inevitably interfere with your good intentions. Have a plan for when it does and your mishap will be more like a blip than a total derailment.
For example, take time to consider:
What healthier item will you order at your favorite restaurant instead of the macaroni and cheese? What healthy snack will you have handy when you don’t get a lunch break? What will you say when your friends pressure you into eating chocolate cake?
Though it sounds counterintuitive, planning to fail makes it likely you won’t!
6. Decide if you’re a moderator or an abstainer.
Is it easy for you to entirely eliminate things like food groups? Or are you someone who gets panicky when told they can’t have something ever again? If it is easy for you to go cold turkey then you are most likely an abstainer. If you prefer things in moderation, then you are most likely a moderator.
Neither of these is better than the other, but they do warrant very different strategies. For instance, trying to lead a life of moderation is far harder for abstainers than simply eliminating things entirely. For moderators, however, a small “treat” every now can keep them from having a panic attack and throwing in the towel. Identify which one you are and adjust accordingly. Its also interesting to note that many people incorrectly assume they are moderators when they're not. Be sure to think long and hard about it before you decide.
7. Be careful with rewards.
According to Rubin, constant rewards interrupt the automaticity of habits and can therefore impede your ability to make them stick. In order to maintain your momentum reward yourself for positive dietary decisions with something that drives you deeper into the habit as opposed to a "forbidden food." You might make the way you feel after you eat well the reward, for instance. You could also buy yourself a new set of ceramic knives to make cooking easier. Reinforce rather than oppose the behavior you're trying to make a habit. You'll be far more likely to make it stick.
8. Align your goals with your values.
Only set goals that matter to you. You won’t follow through with things you don’t care about. What’s worse is that when you set goals that you don’t value and then fail to follow through, you will most likely walk away with a sense of shame. This is true even when it's not something you wanted in the first place.
Be true to yourself. If you want to eat well, then set that goal. If you want to exercise more, make it a priority. However, if your family wants you to eat better or exercise more than you do, do yourself a favor and save your time, energy and sanity for a goal that you value.
As Rubin says,
“The clearer I am about what I value and what action I expect from myself (not what other people value or expect from me) the more likely I am to stick to my habits….”
9. Ditch “all or nothing” thinking.
Creating habits is not about perfection. Perfection doesn't exist. Set your sights instead on being better than before and just keep moving in the right direction.