Which diet is the best? The is simple – whichever eating pattern you will stick with. The most important thing is to choose an eating style that complements your lifestyle, doesn’t require too much mental strain, and is sustainable long-term. Just as no one is perfect, we will inevitably face setbacks and get derailed from our eating plan. Having healthy habits in place will help set you up for the best chance at long-term success. The book, Atomic Habits, written by James Clear, is an excellent resource to help you get started on creating lasting habits. Follow these tips, based on ideas from the book, to help get you back on track!
Create an Environment Conducive to Good Habits
Your physical environment is one of the most overlooked aspects of behavior change. For example, it is not easy to eat more fruits and veggies if they are hidden away in the drawers at the bottom of the fridge. When the cues to healthy habits are too subtle, or hidden as is the case in the previous example, they are easy to ignore. Try storing fresh fruits and veggies in clear glass or plastic containers in the forefront of the fridge or in bowls out on the counter. Keep healthier snacks at eye level in the cabinets as well.
The first thing we see upon opening the fridge or cupboard is likely what we will choose to eat. While you may be able to resist temptation once or twice, it is unlikely that you will be able to use willpower to override your desires every time. Making good choices is easier when you set yourself up for success instead of failure. Self-control is only a short-term strategy!
Try Habit Stacking
Habit stacking involves taking a habit you already do each day and stacking your new, desired behavior on top of it. If your goal is to eat healthy, then your habit stacking may look like this: after you get home from the grocery store and start putting your food away, wash and prep fruits and veggies and place them in glass containers in the front of the fridge and on the counter. This way, the next time you are hungry, you are more likely to reach for a healthy snack since it is washed and ready to go!
How to Stay Disciplined
Commitment devices are a good way to lock in future behaviors and restrict you from bad behaviors. Sometimes success is less about making good habits easy and more about making bad habits hard. For example, if you are working on portion control, you can reduce overeating by purchasing food in individual packages rather than in bulk size. This way, you can take advantage of your good intentions before you fall victim to temptation. One way to utilize commitment devices is to make it more challenging to get out of the good habit than to get started on it.
How to Stay Motivated
It is very common to start working on a new habit and, despite your best efforts, not see immediate progress. In a world where we desire instant gratification, this can be disheartening and frustrating. The feeling of progress is one of the most motivating feelings. In this case, stick with the Goldilocks Rule. This rule states that humans achieve peak motivation when working on tasks of ‘just manageable difficulty’. When starting a new habit, it is important to keep the behavior as easy as possible so you can stick with it even when conditions aren’t perfect.
For example, if your goal is to eat the recommended 5-9 servings of fruits and veggies per day, start by adding 1 extra serving daily. Continue adding one serving per week until you hit the recommended amount. Starting small makes the habit more manageable and success more realistic. You will then be able to continue to advance in small ways once a habit has been established.
Never Miss Twice
If you remember nothing else, remember to never miss twice! The “never miss twice” philosophy will help you if you fall off course for a day or need to reclaim a lost habit. The first ‘miss’ won’t ruin your success – it is the spiral of repeated ‘misses’ that follows that will derail you. If your goal is to cut down on your intake of sweets and you indulge in a few leftover holiday cookies, make your next meal or snack a healthy option instead of slipping into the mindset that ‘you’ve blown it today.’ Missing twice is the start of a new, worse habit!
If you need help getting your diet back on track, or changing your eating behavior in the first place, come see me for a FREE nutrition consultation. We’ll discuss your current habits and determine a proper course of action so you can get to where you want to be.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.