How to Change Your Eating Habits One Step at a Time
Step 1 – Make Up Your Mind
You’ve heard it said that it takes 21 days to change a habit. If you’re on day 256 and no change, take heart. The absolute first step can be the most challenging one. Make up your mind… period. Sometimes, we like the idea of change in an area of our lives, but that’s where it stops. We need a personal decision here. If you do not definitively decide, then it will not stick. The story goes; over and over… how you, a family member or a friend started on a course of action only to quit all together. A truly made up mind is hard to change. If you are overweight or simply want to manage your weight, do not call this dieting. Dieting has destroyed many folks. I prefer to think of it – changing the way you eat. After all, you want this to be a permanent change not a fad diet.
Step 2– Nothing less than Brutal Honesty Will Do
Have a close friend or family member who speaks to you frankly and will not except excuses as a accountability partner. If you can afford one, hire a personal trainer. Many gyms also have regular nutrition classes which are free or by fee basis. Get a consultation with a dietitian.
Warning: Our healthcare system is ass backwards, so your insurance company may not pay for a dietitian outside of the hospital.
Being brutally honest with yourself is the only path to real change. Know and realize fully where you are, and be honest with yourself about how to get to where you want to go. Half steps and half measures would not cut it if your life depended on it. Depending on how poorly you have been eating, this may be your case.
Step 3– When it Matters, You Learn About It
Become educated! If you really want change in your eating habits, you’ll learn all you can. Caution here; everybody has “the” way to eat. Do not stress yourself here. There are some basics that make sense to most people. For example, most people know by now that fried foods are not good for you. Sodas are bad for your teeth and have little nutritional value or benefit. Learn some basics and follow common sense. Having the support of a group is helpful here. Being able to bounce ideas off a group can provide much needed feedback. Ultimately, you can decide what will work for you.
Note: Go to Meetup.com and type in eating. You may have to try different search phases to find a group for you. Warning: There are many purist groups that insist there way is the only way to eat.
Step 4– The Heat is On
Learn to make the tough choices. Educating yourself will disclose this… one piece at a time. After discovering what is best for you to eat, choose them even though your old habits are pulling you toward the same poor choices. If you make a poor choice, don’t give up here. Simply choose better next time. Over time, you will build up a history of wise choices that will eventually become habit. Game over right… Not unless you die. You will have to continue to make these choices the rest of your life. They’ll just become easier. I’ve even become excited about the choosing the best foods for my health. In the past I was excited about what was the tastiest with no thought of the consequences.
Note: According to research highlighted in Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power Of Habit, Why We Do What We Do in Life And Business, habits don’t just go away, they are merely replaced by new habits.
Step 5– Fat Can be Good
Add more fat to your diet. This may fool some because of the word “fat”. Choose polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats as you know now from educating yourself. Nuts are your friend here as they can be a healthy alternative to less healthy snacks. I add walnuts and raisins to my oatmeal for breakfast. This helps with the mid-morning munchies.
TIP: If you have an office that daily has decadent pastries or breakfast tacos like we have in Texas, including fat in your breakfast helps say no when the heat is on.
More days than not, by noon I’m not even hungry.
Step 6– Salt Can Make You Fat
Decease the amount of salt in your food choices. According to Lyssie & Tammy Lakatos Shames,RD, current research shows that salt makes your fat cells, fatter. Changing the intake of salt can prove to be the most challenging. The first issue is realizing that just by stopping putting additional salt on your food is only a start. Many of the foods that we are eating have salt hidden in large quantities. Check your labels and opt for low-sodium versions of your favorite foods.
Step 7– “A Journey of a Thousand Miles begins with a Single Step”, Lao-tzu.
Micro actions is a new term for me but the principle is the same as “baby steps”. These are small but definitive steps forward that can snowball into life changing actions in the future. Let’s say that you want to add more fruit to your diet, but you just aren’t getting in one piece. The next time you go to the grocery store, in place of stocking up on many varieties of fruit that go bad in your refrigerator, buy only one piece of your favorite fruit. Then eat it on your way home or once you get home.
Do this every time you go to the grocer. It’s amazing what happens once you’ve been doing this for awhile. Your brain is tricked into thinking that eating fruit is just part of your everyday eating habits and soon you’ll find yourself buying two pieces so that you’ll have one for another day and so on.
Tiny steps can lead to big changes.
Begin Today, Then Don’t Stop
Changing habits can be a challenge, however, once you start on a course of action it’s also just as easy to get excited about the new way and the changes get easier. Your mind rewards you by telling yourself that you eat well and healthy. Soon others will tell you how healthy you eat, fueling your little health ego. If you give in one day by eating a doughnut at work, next time refuse it. Then one day after a physical at your doctors, your blood work comes back with amazing results. Your borderline type-2 diabetes signs are gone. The medication your doctor was considering putting you on for high blood pressure, she no longer sees need for.
However, this does not mean that you have arrived. You will need to continue making these same beginning choices for the rest of your life. It just becomes easier and part of who you are after awhile. You begin to see those close to you suffering the consequences of poor eating habits. Those same friends will begin to ask you about the healthy aspects of what they’ve chosen for lunch.