One big mistake people make when beginning a diet is trying to overhaul everything at once. However, this isn’t practical if you quickly get overwhelmed. Follow these steps to form realistic dietary habits.
Let’s take a popular trend as an example – the low carb diet. Many people cut out all carbohydrates on day one. A few days in, they may feel irritable, sluggish, and have persistent cravings. Eventually you may feel frustrated, then breakdown and binge eat your favorite high carb foods a few days later.
If your goal is sustainable weight loss, this is obviously not the best strategy as you can easily revert back to old eating habits. Habits are practices that are learned over time. The act of habit-building is very effective for changing the way you eat and will set you up for long-term success.
4 Steps to Create New Dietary Habits
Follow these 4 simple steps to create a new habit:
- Focus on one thing
- You will be more successful with habit-based nutrition than dieting because you only have to change one thing at a time. When you try multitasking, you will not be able to do everything well. Research shows that when you focus on more than one task at a time, your ability to complete each task is drastically reduced.
- People try to change too many things at once. This is why most dieters fail. Focus on one small goal at a time; when you accomplish that goal, you can move on to the next.
- A small goal could be to eat one more serving of veggies daily or to add in one more glass of water daily.
- Perform the habit for a minimum of two weeks
- You cannot expect to wake up one day and have the perfect eating habits. It takes practice, consistency, and dedication to improve your habits.
- One week is not enough time to make your new habit stick, but if you can successfully complete the habit for two weeks you may be ready to begin a new one.
- Track your progress
- This is an easy step to overlook, however it may be the most important. If you track something, you are generally more likely to complete it.
- There are 3 great tracking options:
- Old-fashioned paper and pen
- Excel spreadsheet
- App on your phone or tablet.
- When you complete several days in a row and build a streak, you will want to keep the momentum going. This creates a fun and easy way to stay focused and accountable to yourself.
- When your 2 weeks are up, check your progress. If you were able to meet your goal about 90% of the time, you are ready to move on to the next habit. Remember to maintain the previous habit while also completing the new one.
- If it was below 90%, you can either repeat the process for another two weeks or make the task easier.
- Most people want quick results. Unfortunately, quick results often fail to be sustainable. Remember that habits take time to put in place. Habit-based nutrition will give you great results but also the ability to maintain those results.
It’s never a bad time to re-evaluate your eating habits and make changes. If you need additional resources, education, or accountability, a registered dietitian or nutrition coach can help!
Start with a FREE nutrition consultation at Elite Sports Clubs!Schedule a Nutrition Consultation
Written by Sarah Brunner, RDN, CD; Elite Sports Clubs Registered Dietitian
Sarah is certified in food allergies/intolerances and nutritional counseling, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; has a certificate in Dietetics from Mount Mary University; and a BA in Education and Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse.