How To Make Healthy Habits Stick
Do you want to start eating healthier but aren’t sure where to start? Or maybe you’ve fallen out of healthy habits and want to find out how to make good habits stick?
There are certainly all kinds of dietary advice out there from drinking celery juice to limiting your carbs, but how long can you keep that up? The foods we eat are so closely tied to our habits, our culture and identity, and our emotions. So, no wonder it’s tough to make new dietary habits stick.
Here are 6 universal truths when it comes to eating healthier long term, regardless of what diet plan you choose to follow, this information applies to all of them! Once you know and follow these simple practices, you will be on your way to a healthier body, and will be more likely to stick with the changes. And keep in mind that incremental positive changes always trump restrictive, extreme dietary changes when it comes to achieving lifelong healthy habits.
Choose ONE thing to change.
Then, problem-solve how you will make it a Sustainable habit. You want to choose something that takes minimal effort and that doesn’t interrupt your lifestyle too much. So, for example, if you want a healthy, quick breakfast and smoothies are an option for you, and you know they make you feel so much better when you drink them, ask yourself WHY that would be a good idea for you. Maybe you know that if you start your morning off with toast or skip breakfast altogether, you don’t feel as good throughout the day, so having smoothies could become part of your nonnegotiable morning habits. Like brushing your teeth or drinking your coffee. Then ask yourself, what will it take to make sure I drink a smoothie every morning? Maybe you need to prepare your ingredients in the blender the night before and store it in your refrigerator so you can quickly blend and pour before you head out the door. Maybe it’s closing the bread drawer or putting away the toaster so you don’t even have that as an option.
Adopting the 80/20 rule is helpful anytime you want to make a change. The reality is, reality gets in the way. You won’t always be able to eat the way you know you should. You won’t always want to eat the way you want to. Those of you who reach for potato chips or ice cream after a rough day know what I am talking about. So, instead of beating yourself up for not following through on your intentions to eat perfectly, give yourself some compassion. If you Aim to make healthier choices 80% of the time, you will give your body enough of what it desires for optimal performance. Simply defined, 80% of the time throughout the week, one half of your plate should be filled with plants, one quarter with whole grains, and one quarter with health fats like nuts, seeds, or avocado. Then, don’t stress about the rest. Guilt should not be a player when it comes to eating.
Have an Ally.
Change is easier when you have a buddy. And ask anyone who has tried to fashion healthier meals at home, only to get pushback from their family. It can be tough for a spouse or friend to recognize that they are making poor choices but aren’t willing to change. So they don’t understand or support you. This is why you need to remain steadfast in your resolve. Eating healthier is YOUR choice, for YOU. Don’t focus on trying to get others on board, focus on keeping YOURSELF on board. Having an accountability partner will make it easier to stay on track. Find friends who are willing to engage in conversations about healthier recipes, and who can offer suggestions and encouragement. And, if you need professional assistance to help you make changes, hire a registered dietitian or health coach to help during challenging transition times.
CAPTURE accountability—or tracking.
Studies have proven that people who track their food intake are the most successful with losing weight, controlling their blood sugar, and maintaining their habit for longer. In one weight loss study of nearly 1,700 participants, those who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records. (Am J Prev Med, 2008) Why is this? Tracking is a tool to keep your goal top of mind until the automated behavior kicks in. I used to recommend writing everything down, but honestly that can really be cumbersome. One of the easiest ways to track what you are eating is to take a photo of your food with your smart phone. It’s easy to look back at the end of the week and celebrate the choices you have made. Oh, and one more thing: I believe counting calories is not only not fun, it can backfire and keep you focused on the wrong thing: so hear this, even if you want to lose weight, tracking what you did RIGHT will always serve you better than obsessing about choosing foods that are lowest in calories. There are plenty of processed, frozen meals for example that are under 300 calories but that certainly doesn’t mean they are your healthiest choice! Your blood work, waist comfort in your favorite pair of pants, and energy levels are good to track. Make note in your calendar when you feel great energy and correspond that with looking at what you ate that day.
Increase Water Intake.
It’s low-cost, and easy to do within the course of your day.
Staying hydrated is good for your immune system, decreases food cravings, and reduces your chance of getting a headache. Even mild dehydration can impair focus and your mood. Studies have shown that having water before a meal fills up you more so you’ll potentially eat less. There are lots of ways to get more water into your diet. Add fruit to your water, that subtle flavor can make all the difference. Also, tie drinking more water to an established routine. If you commute 20 minutes, grab your water bottle fill it up and commit to drinking it all during that commute time.
FILL IN your Plant Gap.
Only 1 in 10 Americans eat the minimally recommended 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day – and we actually need much more for vitality and optimal health. Obviously, getting a rainbow of fruits and veggies and berries every day is the desired habit, but with the struggle you ultimately have 2 choices: Just do the best you can and try to eat another serving of vegetables each day – that is certainly a good start. But here is what I would consider a more ideal choice: use quality plant powders that don’t replace fruits and veggies but are the next best thing. Ask yourself: if you know you need something and you don’t get it, do you ignore your need or do you find an easy solution. This is that easy solution and they really work! The dietitians at MY Nutrition IQ have selected the most science-based plant powders that make this essential habit an easy one to do! Go to our SHOP to find out more!