When it comes to making changes some people are ready to go all in right away, and others need much smaller habits that are built over time.
Neither one of these approaches is better than the other. I have noticed that a lot of people do much better developing small habits that add up over time to big lifestyle changes.
I speak with clients frequently who have made large changes going all in on diets and exercise routines. As a result they lost twenty pounds and got in good shape for little bit, but it didn’t last.
Eventually they returned to their old default habits which isn’t surprising. Habits built over time allow people to lay the groundwork for long term change.
I like to use the example of laying the foundation for a house to illustrate my point. You can build the foundation for a house out of poor quality materials and go too fast to meet a deadline.
That house will look good and stay up for a bit, over time though it will fall apart because it lacks the foundation to support the house.
This is the equivalent of the diet mentality. The foundation of this house is just like trying to take on too many big habits at once - poor quality materials are used, and the foundation is built too fast, as a result the house can be held up for a short while but eventually falls apart.
A different example is the foundation for a house made out of good quality materials carefully crafted over time.
As a result of the quality materials and the time spent to build a solid foundation the house is built to last. The foundation of this house took longer to build, and it will last longer as a result.This type of foundation is the equivalent of building habits over time. With a foundation like this you can make add ons to the house without worrying about the foundation falling apart.
In this blog I am going to be discussing the small habits that people can implement on a daily basis that can will over time lead to a new healthier lifestyle.
In my nutrition practice I have clients work on a new habit every two weeks, but you should go at whatever pace you need to keep things move forward in a sustainable fashion.
The beautiful thing about using habits is that they allows you to rely on a routine instead of willpower. The problem with willpower is that we have a limited amount each day, it is a limited resource.
We are bombarded with decisions from the moment we wake up until we fall asleep each night. The more decisions you can put on autopilot per day using habits and routines the more you can use that willpower to focus on other aspects of life and health.
Changes pertaining to lifestyle and health can be very challenging in the beginning, but over time the more you develop these habits the easier they will become. By mastering one small habit at a time you will achieve long term success and end up with a healthier long term lifestyle.
Drink More Water Daily
Our bodies are made up of 60% water, yet as society water is the most common macronutrient deficiency. Water is the most important macronutrient in the body, period.
No matter what your health goal is drinking more high quality water on a daily basis will help you reach that goal quicker. Drinking more water is one of the smallest habits that will elicit the big changes.
One of the biggest problems is that most folks assume all liquids contribute to their daily water consumption. The majority of liquids people drink on a daily basis are diuretics, and pull water from the body instead of adding to it.
The most common diuretics are: coffee, caffeinated/some herbal teas , soda, fruit juice, dried fruit and alcoholic beverages.
Habit: If you currently drink 32 ounces of water a day start by drinking 48 ounces of water 4 times a week for the next two to three weeks. Set a timer or keep a water bottle on your desk to to help remind you about the habit. Over time work your way up to half your bodyweight in ounces as a goal.
Keep Your Own Snacks On Hand
Preparation is key when it comes to changing food habits. Food temptations are everywhere and making sure you have good quality snacks on hand reduces temptations.
If you have already paid for a food and brought it to work, you have invested time and money into this habit change.
Everyday life will throw schedule changes and delays, if you find yourself unprepared and hungry, no worries.
It's easy these days to track down a place that has nuts and a piece of fruit or hard boiled eggs and veggie sticks. The goal is over time to not reduce the need for snacking in-between meals.
Habit: Keep a stash of healthy snacks on hand to make sure you are not left with poor options or tempted by the typical afternoon hunger. When you feel the afternoon low, instead of grabbing coffee and a pastry have small healthy snack. The goal is over time to reduce the need for snacking.
Include Vegetables At Every Meal
There are a lot of subjects up for debate in nutrition, but everyone can agree that eating more vegetables is a great to improve health.
Vegetables are some of the most nutrient rich foods on the planet and provide tons of vitamins, minerals, fiber and nutrients that contribute to health. Another added benefit is that vegetables are very low in calories and leave people feeling fuller for longer.
By increasing the vegetables in your diet you are leaving less room in your stomach for processed carbohydrates.
Habit: If you are currently eating one serving of vegetables a day, make a habit out of having one serving of vegetables at every meal 3-4 times this week. Aim for a fist sized portion of veggies on your plate 3 times a day. As this becomes a habit over time, make a greater percentage of your plate vegetables.
When adopting a healthier lifestyle you are going to end up doing more cooking, there is no way around it. It is not sustainable to try to cook every meal from scratch three times a day, but there are ways to save time while cooking healthier meals.
The biggest time saver is to cook large batches of food instead of single meals, and eating leftovers.
You may end up chopping extra veggies or waiting for the larger batch to cook. The trade off for this is that you have healthy leftovers that can be eaten for breakfast,lunch or dinner without having to make a decision about what to eat.
Habit: Pick one night a week and set aside extra time to make one of your favorite meals in a larger portion than normal. Over time as this becomes a part of your routine, increase the batch cooking to 2-3 dishes or 2-3 times per week. Another option is to pick a day like sunday and make that your meal prep day where cook a few different meals to fuel you throughout the week.
Embrace The Salad
Salads are a quick and easy on the go lunch that includes everything we are looking for in a meal. Salads have lots of vegetables and when you add a protein source and some healthy fats in the way of dressings you are good to go.
An added benefit of embracing the salad is even if you are out to lunch/dinner salads are served served everywhere. Making requests to add or subtract something from a salad or opt for olive oil and vinegar as a dressing are simple changes that allow you to keep on track.
Habit: You can batch make a huge salad packed with veggies and store in the fridge at home. Each day toss a few handfuls of pre made salad in your lunch container and add some protein. To avoid the soggy salad situation bring salad dressing to work leave there for daily use.
Use The Crock Pot
There are very few things on this earth as simple as using a crock pot, it literally does all the cooking for you. From cooking roasts to making soups and even batch cooking quiches, the crock put is a gift from the powers that be.
My typical crock pot recipe includes a large chunk of meat with spices rubbed all over, chopped root vegetables, and a 1 cup of water or broth. I leave these ingredients in a crock pot and turn it on medium. When I come home I have a few days worth of meals that have been cooked for me.
Habit: If you are low on cash and need a crock pot visit the nearest Goodwill. Goodwill always has a few crock pots in great shape at a great price. Pick one morning or night and make sure you have fifteen to twenty minutes extra to get everything ready. Put all the ingredients in the crock pot and turn it on and let the magic happen. The crock pot is an awesome tool for meal prepping and batch cooking. There are millions of healthy crock pot recipes on google.
Relax and Chew Your Food
We have our parasympathetic and sympathetic states that are better known as the rest and digest and fight or flight. To adequately digest foods we need to allow our bodies the relax and not be stressed.
The problem is that people do not take the time to relax before or while eating. Meals are eaten while staring a computer, TV or cell phone screen leading to digestive problems.
To add fuel to the fire most people are inhaling their food, and barely chewing before swallowing. Chewing is an important part of the digestive process. Saliva contains an enzyme named amylase which begins the breakdown of carbohydrates in the mouth.
The more we chew our foods and break them down, the less our stomach has to pick up the slack left by our lack of chewing.
By not taking the time to chew our foods we can also consume much larger quantities of food than we need. We have finished our entire meal before our body has the time to realize we have over eaten.
When eating the gut sends a signal that it is full and well nourished in effect turning hunger off in the brain. When you eat very fast and do not chew you can eat far more food than your body requires. You will end up exceeding what your body needs, and excess will be stored as body fat.
Habit: When you sit down at a meal take 5 deep breaths before your first bite and look at your food for a few seconds. Over time increase the amount of breaths you take before the first bite. When you are starting a chewing habit don’t worry about the number of times you chew, but instead put your fork or spoon down between bites to start with. By putting your utensil down you will naturally slow down and chew more. Focus on one meal a day that you are not going to be rushed at and put the fork down between bites. As the habit progresses aim to chew every bite 20-30 times and make it a liquid before you swallow.
Eat More Protein To Stay Satiated For Longer
Eating more protein boosts your metabolic rate increasing the amount of calories you burn while resting. Protein also helps to curb appetite making people eat fewer calories overall.
By consuming more protein rich foods you will feel fuller for longer. Not to mention whether you are trying to build muscle or burn fat, consuming more protein can help with either of these goals.
Eating more protein is one of the easiest and healthiest ways to give your metabolism a push in the right direction. By keeping appetite regulated and not focusing on hunger other changes will be much easier to make when food is not on your mind all the time.
Habit: When eating more protein avoid the bars and protein powders, they are packed full of nasty ingredients. Focus on high quality whole food sources from animals and plants. You can begin this habit by batch cooking three different different protein sources for the week.Then focus on eating a palm sized portion of protein at each meal. If you find yourself hungry in between meals include more protein at meal times to help.
Replace Bad Fats and Oils With Quality Ones
Something as simple as switching out the processed unhealthy fats for traditional ones can have long reaching health impacts.
Most people today consume large amounts of trans fats and hydrogenated oils from processed foods. Vegetable oils are another problem with our current diet.
These rancid vegetable oils create inflammation oxidative damage in the body. The vegetable oils I’m referring to include: soybean, corn, safflower, sunflower, canola or cottonseed oils.
Replace these highly processed fats with the nutritious traditional fats that have nutritive value such as grass fed butter or ghee, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil.
Raw nuts or nuts that have been soaked are another good source of fats. The caveat with nuts is that they are very easy to over do. Use nuts like condiments in the diet, sparingly!
Habit: Read labels on foods at the grocery store to avoid trans, hydrogenated and vegetable oils.Remove these fats and oils from the house, and throw them in the trash. Next time you go to the store purchase grass fed butter/ghee , coconut oil and avocado oil to cook with at medium to high temps. Use olive oil for low temp cooking or cold uses.
Eat a Protein, Fat and Veggie Breakfast
By eating a breakfast that is mostly protein and fats you are able to feel more satiated on less food, and stay full for much longer.
When you choose a fat and protein breakfast instead of something like a breakfast cereal you can avoid the need for constant snacking and that mid morning coffee crash.
The protein and fat breakfast combination allows you to keep more stable blood sugar for longer. You will be able to avoid the blood sugar highs and lows that most people experience when eating processed carbohydrates and sugar for breakfast.
An added benefit to the stable blood sugar is that your body burns body fat and dietary fat for fuel in the absence of carbohydrates. By keeping insulin low you allow the body to take advantage of the fat burning hormones.
Habit: If you are currently eating breakfast cereal with skim milk and toast don’t try to overhaul everything at once. Start adding more of the protein and fats every few weeks. If you are currently eating a bowl of cereal with low fat milk and two pieces of toast with jam start with one or two small changes at a time. Two immediate changes would be using whole milk in your cereal instead of low fat milk, and adding one hard boiled egg while subtracting one piece of toast. After those changes have become a habit reduce the cereal by ⅓ and add another hard boiled egg to breakfast. On your other piece of toast substitute grass fed butter or peanut/almond butter instead of the jam. Continue making small tweaks to breakfast until you eat a breakfast that looks like a few eggs and ½ avocado or leftover meats and some veggies drizzled with olive oil.
Read Nutrition Labels
When it comes to food advertising and packaging every food company would like you to believe that their product is a healthy option.
When you flip over most packages and read the ingredient list it tells a very different story. Most of these foods contain multiple sources of hidden sugars, vegetable oils, chemicals, preservatives,dyes and are very dense in processed carbohydrates.
By simply flipping a package over and taking a few seconds to read the ingredient list and knowing what you are putting in your body you have the necessary information to make better decisions about what you are going to eat to improve your health.
Habit: If you are currently going to the grocery store and not looking at labels I encourage you to read the full label of every 3rd item going in your basket. Ask yourself the honest question: Is this food going to make me healthier or damage my health ? Use this label reading habit to seek out healthier alternatives to foods you know will damage your health. Over time read more and more labels, and make the transition to buying whole natural foods that don’t have labels.
Know The Difference Between Thirst, Boredom and Hunger
With the amount of people walking around chronically dehydrated everyday our bodies are screaming out for water. The problem is that we as a society ignore this thirst signal to such a degree that we mistake it for being slightly hungry.
Another common theme amongst people is eating out of boredom. We are very lucky to live in a society of abundance, especially with regards to food. Many people eat because they are bored, not because of hunger.
Many common snack foods are so hyper palatable that they trigger the pleasure centers in the brain and release feel good hormones. This food gets associated with the feeling good which in turn keeps us going back for more. This mindless overeating leads to weight gain and many health problems.
Habit: The next time you feel hungry in between a meal drink a glass of water and wait 10 -15 minutes. After the 10- 15 minutes check in if you still feel the hunger grab a small snack. If you are not feeling hungry anymore chances are good you are thirsty not hungry and should have another glass of water. Next time you find yourself looking in the fridge or cupboard even though you are not hungry stop and think am I hungry or bored ? Instead of giving in to mindless eating go for a walk outside.
If you’re tired of working hard, and not getting the results you want, I can help you adopt the simple habits necessary to reach your health or fat loss goals.
These habits are based on getting you to your goal in a sustainable fashion that can be maintained. I’ll be there every step of the way to support and keep you accountable.
Get on a Strategy Call with me to Discover how to achieve your health or fat loss goals, and make them yours to keep this time around.
Whether you decide to work with me or not I can guarantee you will leave this call with more knowledge on how to achieve your goals.