If you are like most of us, the problem with healthy eating habits isn’t that we don’t know what to do or what to eat, the problem is doing it.
Everyone knows how to get in shape: EXERCISE!
Everyone also knows how to make healthy eating a habit: Pile those fruits and veggies on your plate, right?
The problem is that humans can’t seem to stick with anything for more than a few weeks or a few months at best.
Why is that?
Scientists say the problem is that our brains, once accustomed to instant gratification, crave it and don’t really want to do anything else.
Healthy habits are exactly what the name says; habits. Habits are not made in a few weeks or even in a few months. Habits can take as long as a year to truly become a habit that we no longer have to make an effort to think about.
Forget those Facebook memes that say 30 days makes a new habit permanent. That’s nonsense as any dieter or smoker will tell you.
Here’s Another Problem
We try to do too much too soon. When humans try to tackle too much all at once, you can almost guarantee that they will fail all of them.
Think about our daily lives. We have an alarm clock to wake us up, automatic coffee makers with timers, microwaves for every meal, snacks on every corner, drive-throughs, and anything you can order off of Amazon can be on your door in a day or sometimes, even in a few hours.
With all this instant gratification why should we expect healthy eating and exercise to be any different.
We want healthy eating habits to lose weight and we want it NOW!
Does This Sound Familiar?
- I will not eat any more junk food
- I will eat a salad twice a day
- I will not eat after 6 PM
- I will exercise for an hour every day
- I will stop drinking too much beer and wine
You might keep this up for 5 days but soon, something will slip and before you know it, you realize you’ve done none of the above.
How to Fix This
This is where we talk about the 5 hacks of developing healthy eating habits. You can do this, you just have to do things differently than you did before.
Want to know the 5 hacks to a healthy diet? To getting in exercise? For getting results?
Of course, you do. Keep reading!
The 5 Hacks to Developing Healthy Habits
Before you can change things, discover why you want to do it. This might mean rethinking the way you define your goals.
- I want to lose weight
- I should eat more vegetables
- I should exercise because it’s good for you
While these sound great at first thought, chances are that these reasons will not motivate you for very long.
- I will lose weight so my Ex will see me at my high school reunion and drool
- I eat vegetables, so I can avoid diabetes that crippled my friend
- I am exercising so I can keep up with my kids (or live longer)
You need to find some real reasons that will keep you motivated at the end of a long day when the last thing you want to do is hit the gym.
Everyone has different motivations. You need to find yours. If you don’t find a core reason, something that speaks to you, then we guarantee you won’t stick with anything for very long.
This is a difficult one for most people, but it truly works.
Don’t try to do everything at once. If you try to eat salads, hit the gym, stop eating junk, and the other items we mentioned above, you will end up doing none of them.
Set one goal for yourself. Make a small change each week to reach that goal and then add another small change the following week.
Your Goal is to Lose 10 Pounds in the Next 6 Weeks
This is a reasonable goal. Let’s say you hit up the fast food drive through every day for lunch on weekdays. The next week, your goal would be to either pack your own healthier lunch or to go to the drive through but only order a salad and diet drink.
The next week, let’s say that, in addition to not eating lunch at the drive-through, you will no longer buy potato chips as snacks. You could buy a large size jar of mixed nuts and boil a dozen hard-boiled eggs. Take an egg and an ounce or two of those nuts to work every day. Keep the same in your bag or backpack when you travel so you can eat healthy when you are out.
Week three you might want to add walking 30 minutes before or after work every day and 1 hour on the weekends.
See how this works? Keep a journal and track your progress. Don’t weigh yourself for at least 3 weeks and don’t be disappointed if you aren’t halfway there. This is not a race. Change your goal for 8 weeks and keep adding changes. You will get there!
Make it Simple
One of the biggest hurdles most of us face is time. Our schedules are already so jam-packed that we feel we don’t have time to either exercise or to make healthy choices.
We guarantee that if you don’t plan for this; you are setting yourself up to fail.
There will come a night when you have planned to work out at the gym, then come home and cook a healthy meal and a traffic jam prevents you from getting home (or to the gym) for 3 hours. You will want to ditch that meal and call for a pizza.
To prevent time issues, do the following:
- Cook Double. When you make a healthy meal, double your recipe and freeze half. This is a lifesaver on nights when that traffic jam made you super late
- Buy your veggies in bulk. Cut them and freeze half. You won’t want to nosh on that broccoli or carrot sticks at 10 Pm if you have to wash and cut them first. Frozen veggies can be dumped on a cookie sheet and roasted or added to a pot of water and be ready in minutes
- Put healthy snacks in the front of cupboards or right on the front shelf of the fridge where you are sure to see them. Most people will grab whatever is in front of their eyes and hands.
- Keep canned meats, such as salmon or chicken, on hand. Add rice and a salad and dinner can be ready in minutes
- Don’t forget canned soup. Keep vegetable soup on hand for emergency meals
Don’t be too hard on yourself, either. If you didn’t make it to the store and your leftovers or frozen meals are gone, go ahead and order the pizza. The world won’t end.
We’ve given you 5 ways you can have good eating habits even when you have no time. You probably can think of a few more.
Make It Routine
Do you know why you brush your teeth every night before bed? Your parent trained you, having you do it every night for years and asking you for a few more years if you brushed your teeth before you said good night.
Do the same with the changes you want to make. For example:
- If you want to drink 8 glasses of water each day, set the alarm on your phone to go off every 60 or 90 minutes.
- If you want to go to the gym every day after work, pack your gym bag and shoes the night before and put it in the car
- Put your treadmill in the room where you watch TV, so you can get in your commitment to walk 30 minutes every day no matter what
- Use a journal or app to track your daily food intake and exercise, and your weight loss. Set a timer on your phone just before bed so you remember to make entries every day
In the same way you wouldn’t consider going to bed without brushing your teeth (at least we hope so!) you can acquire habits by making them a part of your routine.
Don’t allow your new healthy habits to become optional. They are simply a part of your life and you accept it, the same way you would if you had to take medication daily for some on-going illness.
No, we aren’t kidding. It’s all too easy to put this off until next week when you have the time or next month after your sister’s wedding or next year when your baby is older.
You can always find an excuse for why you must wait. Don’t let yourself get started down that road.
Pick one habit you want to change. Don’t wait till Monday. Don’t wait till the weekend. Do it today.
Maybe you don’t have time to write out the whole plan yet. You might not even have time to download that carb master app or go the gym and renew that membership, but you certainly do have a few minutes to change things like:
- Not drink a soda at dinner (or lunch)
- Go for a walk after work
- Don’t eat after 6 PM
- Eat a salad for lunch, instead of a burger and fries
Start with one little change and go from there.
You are smart. You are capable. You can do this. We know you can.