So you’ve decided that it’s time to get on track and make healthy eating a priority, but it just seems like a major undertaking and you just don’t know where to start. Our best advice – don’t start with the food. Start with the “why?”
Why are you making this change? What do you want to achieve? What does the outcome look like? What does the healthiest version of you look like? Or more importantly, what does the healthiest version of you FEEL like? What will you be doing/experiencing that you aren’t now? Now write it down – everything you will be doing, feeling, thinking, experiencing – what will your life be like when you become the healthiest version of yourself? This is your personal vision statement, and this will keep you going when times get tough and you need to remind yourself why you are getting up at 5am to go to the gym or you are spending your Sunday afternoons preparing meals for the week ahead.
Now break that down in to smaller steps – come up with a small selection of simple things you can change this week that will get you closer to that vision. It may be taking your lunch from home at least once a week. It may be making sure you have breakfast before you leave for work at least 2 days a week. Reducing chocolate, making a conscious effort to prepare tasty and healthy meal options, google recipes for handy snacks….. just some ideas to get you started. But the important thing is to make sure you are SMART.
Specific – don’t set yourself vague tasks like “I will try to be healthy”. Set specific tasks like “I will eat a salad for lunch at least one day this week”.
Measurable – make sure you can assess whether you’ve done it or not – eating salad at least once a week has a yes/no outcome. You either did it or you didn’t!.
Achievable – make sure you pick something that you know you have a pretty good chance of doing. Don’t say “I will eat a salad for lunch at least one day this week” when you are unable to shop for salad ingredients on the weekend or if you are attending a 5 day conference where lunch is provided and you know lunch is sandwiches!
Rewarding – make the goal and the behaviour rewarding to you personally. Don’t pick something like “I’m going to drink a kale smoothie for breakfast” when you know that kale makes you want to gag. But how awesome will it be to know that you are eating healthy and enjoying it?!
Time-bound – put a time-limit on it. Don’t leave it open-ended for you to get around to it eventually. Make it something you can do this week. And stick to it.
The key here also is choosing goals that are related to behaviours, not outcomes. Long lasting lifestyle changes come from changing behaviours and then ingraining these new healthy behaviours into your life moving forward. Many people focus on the end result – I want to lose 5 kg, so they make short-term radical changes to fast track to the end result. But then they return to their old behaviours and patterns, and they end up right back where they started. If you focus on what you will be doing – I will be eating salad for lunch at least one day per week – and you achieve it in week one, then you do it again in week 2, then in week 3 maybe you up it to 2 days per week etc – before you know it, you’ve created a new healthy habit that will stand you in good stead for the long haul.