Habit. It’s a word we associate with all sorts of negative behaviour, from smoking or biting your nails, to snacking or overeating. We all know the damage that bad habits can do over time.
Now, imagine what could happen to your health, your nutrition and your body if you could formulate a set of positive dietary habits that you perform every single day with ease, and ultimately without even having to think about them.
Most people following a specific diet plan or programme suffer from one common problem, and that’s life. It gets in the way. It’s possible to focus on making a host of changes to your eating for a limited period of time (some people are better at this than others), but what these plans don’t account for are the day-to-day problems life throws at us – a friend’s birthday, a poorly child, or having to stay late at work.
The normal consequence of life getting in the way is to quit and go back to your old habits.
Instead, let’s focus on making changes within the framework of your own situation, to develop new, empowering habits that can lead to a better and healthier lifestyle. Here are my five top pieces of advice:
1. One habit at a time
When we want to improve ourselves, the only way to do it is to change one thing at a time. Studies show that people are successful with this approach, but when we try to change two or more things at once, our failure rate is nearly 100%. Ask yourself what’s the one thing you can do right now that will have the biggest impact on your health. Figure it out and focus solely on that to start with.
2. Make it too easy
Too often, we set ourselves up for failure by trying to do too much, then we beat ourselves up when it goes wrong. Sound familiar? Once you’ve picked your new habit, ask yourself, on a scale of one to ten, how confident you are that you can do it every day for two weeks? If you’re at a nine or ten, crack on. If not, make it easier. A simple habit you do regularly is better than a complicated one you fail to do.
3. Do it Daily
Practise your habit every single day; this is the only way we can make successful changes.
4. Do it for two weeks
There are all sorts of numbers that suggest how long you need to do something for to make it a habit – 10,000 hours to become a professional, and all that – but in the context of dietary change, we are looking for consistency over anything else. Aim to be consistent for two weeks, focusing on one thing alone.
5. Add another habit
When you successfully hit the two-week mark, it’s time to add your second new habit. Keep performing habit one, but now pick the next thing you want to change, and repeat the five steps above.
Don’t let your ego take over and be fooled by the simplicity of this method. If you apply it consistently for one year, you will have developed a staggering 26 new healthy habits – so now try doing all of them at once.
Not only will changing your dietary habits lead to success with your life goals, but it will also result in that one elusive feat that the diet industry doesn’t really mention – you will be in a position to maintain your optimum weight, nutrition and health without ever having to think about it again. Happy Habiting!
Illustration: Dale Edwin Murray