Okay, let’s take off the kid gloves and be honest for a minute. We all know what a healthy diet looks like. We know that eating more vegetables and less processed food is what we need to do.
The problem is, why aren’t we doing it?
I also need to come clean before we really get started. I am, hands down, my worst client. Years ago I needed to make a substantial change to my diet, but I spent years staring at what I knew I needed to do, paralyzed by the magnitude of the change. I’m a very, very slow dietary changer.
So, I needed to find another solution. If a big change feels impossible (I wasn’t getting anywhere), then smaller changes would have to do. I dug in and got started. It took me about 6 years to change my diet from terrible to terrific…but if I hadn’t changed so slowly I would still be staring at that humongous change. Hoping to feel better, but with no idea how to do it.
Through trial, error, and reading many books, I’ve incorporated a few techniques to help my clients (and myself) make the changes we really want to make.
I don’t have any. I’m very stubborn in many ways, but when it comes to diet changes I have no willpower whatsoever. None. Nada.
But here’s a little secret…change is easier when you don’t have any willpower.
It’s true, and we only have a limited supply of willpower. We can easily use it all up before a change has become permanent. Plus, the bigger the change, the faster your willpower be used up. Once your willpower is gone it’s very hard to resist whatever you’re trying to resist. This is the cause of many food binges.
Shrink the Change
If you can’t use willpower, then you need to make the change so easy and so doable that you have no choice but to make the change. Change 1 habit at a time, and make it small enough that you’re at least 95% confident that it’s a change you can accomplish.
Don’t start with trying to eat 10 servings of veggies everyday, instead just add one. Once that change is easy and you don’t have to think about it anymore, make a new change. This process may seem slow, but it works and you move faster than you’d expect.
ADD instead of subtract
Removing a food, like gluten, dairy, or sugar may be necessary for a period of time to help your body heal…but if your diet is primarily these foods then it leaves huge holes in your diet and makes each meal difficult and stressful. Instead, start by adding a few new foods to your diet. They will squish out the other foods, making it much easier for you to fully remove them.
Shape the Path
We spend most of our lives in autopilot. We don’t think through everything we do each day, it would be too exhausting. Instead we move through a series of habits, not fully aware of most of the things we’re doing. This is where change can get tiring, it jerks us out of this blissful, absentminded state and makes us pay attention.
If we’re tired, it becomes too easy to go back to our old habits. So, you need to make it easier to do the new thing than the old one. If breakfast is an ordeal, find a fast and easy breakfast that’s ready to grab on your way out of the door. Or better yet, leave your breakfast ingredients at work so you can make it there.
Most importantly, get the foods you don’t want to eat out of your house! If there are cookies in your house, it’s just a matter of time before you eat them. It’s just too easy when you have even a minor craving (or if you just open the cupboard door) to say, “oh look, cookies”. Out of sight really is out of mind.
Ask for help
If what you want to do seems too overwhelming, don’t forget to ask for some help. My job as a nutritionist isn’t to tell you what to eat; it is to help you find a way to make the change easier. Sometimes an outside perspective and a bit of advice is all you need to get started.
Lisa Kilgour, Nutritionist is happily enjoying some kale chips because potato chips aren’t in the house.