“Our brains compartmentalise each event of ‘unhealthy’ eating and we struggle to see the big patterns of eating which are undermining our progress,” writes dietitian CLARE WOLSKI
WHEN it comes to healthy eating, it’s never too late to change bad habits or build new ones.
Here’s how: prioritise what’s important by really asking yourself if the habit you want to build reflects what’s important to you and your life now. You might feel like you “should” eat healthier or you “should” get up early and exercise. But “should” is a big red flag. When you say you “should” do something, you’re comparing what you’re doing now, to an ideal version of yourself, which doesn’t really exist. Then you feel guilty for not being that ideal.
Ask yourself, honestly: “What do I want? What will I feel good about doing?” Pick habits that will help you get there.
One of my favourite expressions is: “Simple things become complicated when we expect too much”. It’s easy to make big plans and have high expectations of yourself. You’re going to get up every day and do yoga for 30 minutes and be able to bend yourself backwards in no time, right? We can’t often change our life, our struggles or the demands on our time. At least not in a big way. But we can change our expectations amongst those things. We can look objectively at our time and decide what we can achieve. What can you realistically do? There’s no right or wrong.
Once you know what habit you want to change, make a Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound (SMART) plan to change that habit. For example: I’m going to have ½ a plate of vegetables (measurable) four weeknights this week (time-bound). This means I need to pick the meals and pick the vegetables at the same time, make a shopping list and do the groceries on Saturday (specific and achievable steps). I feel really confident that I can do that (realistic).
Use habit building strategies:
- Schedule it – book in the time to make your plan happen.
- Pair it – if it’s a small task, try grouping it with something else you normally do. For example, if you make a cup of tea in the evening, while the kettle is boiling pick your snacks for the next day or get your breakfast things out.
- Accountability – Tracking works as both a reminder and a reward for habit building. Keep a tracking app in your phone or jot it down in your diary.
- Do the bare minimum – Sometimes the habit of the habit is more important than the habit itself. Just keep the momentum going even if the action is not perfect. For example, if you’re really not keen for excerise, getting to the gym is 90 per cent of the battle. Just get there and doing ANYTHING will help keep the habit going.
- Be kind to your future self – doing little things now, can really impact how easy a habit is later. Pull out your gym gear for the next day’s exercise. Plan your snacks for the week. Make it as easy for your future self as possible.
Clare Wolski is a practising dietitian at The Healthy Eating Hub, call 6174 4663.