In Part 1 of this post, I wrote about how daunting the prospect of change can be and how it’s essential to find inspiration and motivation to embark on the journey. For many of us, changing what we eat, how we eat, and the often overlooked why we eat can be particularly challenging.
Getting support from family, friends, and loved ones may make the process easier. But getting help from a Registered Dietitian (and often a therapist as well) can be the key that enables you to make lasting change. Here are some tips that many of my clients have found helpful on their paths to healthier eating:
Top 10 Tips to Successfully Change Your Eating Habits & Improve Your Relationship with Food
1. Let go of the diet mentality. Embrace the mindset that diets don’t work. Remember, if you can’t sustain it (the plan), you won’t maintain it (the change). Imagine all of the time, energy, frustration, and money you will save if you never attempt to follow another diet!
2. Set realistic goals. Think about what you are realistically capable of changing and break it down into less-scary, manageable steps. For example, if you want to eat more home-cooked meals, but haven’t turned the stove on in months, don’t set a goal to cook a 5 course meal every night of the week. Instead, start small by cooking one simple dish a week (Bonus tip: you can make it easier on yourself by using pre-cut veggies and pre-cooked proteins. “Semi-homemade” still counts!).
3. Make it about more than the scale. Keep yourself motivated by focusing on non-weight related benefits of your hard work. For example, ride your bike in the park because you love how it helps you release the stress of the day (not because it burns x number of calories).
4. Have a plan. Take a few minutes and sketch out a plan for tomorrow. Think about what you have scheduled for the day, the approximate times that you will eat your meals and snacks, and what you plan to eat. Now you know what you need to carry with you, what you need to buy, and where potential challenges may arise.
5. Make that plan flexible. Your plan is meant to be a guideline, not a set of unbreakable rules. Let’s face it, at some point, life will get in the way of even the best plans, but don’t let that derail you.
6. Ask yourself, “What do I really want?” Oftentimes our food choices and eating habits have little to do with hunger. We feel frustrated at work and turn to the vending machine for comfort. Or we mindlessly snack in front of the TV when what we really need is to go to sleep. Keeping a food and feelings journal can help you figure out the non-hunger reasons that may be affecting your eating.
7. Embrace the gray. Having black and white thinking (aka “all or nothing” thinking) with food, eating, work, and life sets you up for frustration and disappointment. Eating one chocolate doesn’t have to lead to eating the whole box just because you feel like you already “blew it.” Remember that there is no such thing as perfect eating.
8. Expect setbacks. Worried that you will have setbacks? You probably will because success rarely occurs in a straight line. Instead of viewing those bumps in the road as failures, take them as opportunities to learn and readjust.
9. Celebrate successes along the way. Don’t just focus on your end goal. Celebrate each sign of progress on your journey – each time your healthy thoughts win against your eating disordered thoughts, each time you are able to prevent a binge, each time that you meet your weekly exercise goals. You’ll find that acknowledging each triumph (no matter how small it may seem) keeps you motivated to keep going.
10. Add Accountability. Don’t underestimate the power of checking in with someone regularly to set goals, report progress, and troubleshoot your struggles and challenges. This type of accountability can make all the difference in helping you reach your goals.
Give these tips a try and let me know how they work for you.