Behaviour change is rooted in thinking. At the beginning it's a lot less about doing and much more about thinking. Do we think we can do it, do we really want to, do we have the knowledge to do it? What do we need to be successful? Success around changing our behaviour comes from having sufficient confidence and trust that it's a) going to work and b) that it's all going to be worth the effort. If we've operated within the parameters of a certain behaviour for a long time we could be forgiven for thinking that there's no point trying to change.
When it comes to eating and health, however, there is every point, and this article will give you some reasons why. The other thing is that no matter how long you may have had a poor diet, your body will thank you for any improvements you can make, at any time. In other words, it's not too late to change your eating behaviour to invest in your nutritional health. In this article I give you a number of eating tips and I look at the reasons why and how you can improve the quality of your diet. Firstly let me give you some simple steps to help you change your eating behaviour.
As many of you will know, I changed my eating behaviour after a very long history of difficult eating, so I'll emphasise that no matter how deep rooted those behaviour are, you CAN change them. First you need to ask yourself if you're ready? What's your incentive and is it strong enough to help you through the change. For some people that's about benefit, for others it's about the consequences of not changing. That could be about long-term health and/or about the psychological impact of eating behaviours, such as yo-yo dieting or bingeing. It's very important to remember before you start that behaviour change is not a perfect thing. You will have days when you relapse or when external factors make it difficult, and that's fine. It has to be fine for it to work. Behaviour change is an ongoing process and it's important to accept both successes and setbacks. It's how we deal with both that's the key to a balanced long-term improvement.
To change eating behaviours it's useful to break them down:
Take a piece of paper and write down the behaviours you want to change - (e.g. late night eating)
Try to understand what drives each behaviour (e.g. boredom, habit, others are eating, you think you're hungry). Try my Am I hungry? video for help with this.
Work out some ways you can break that eating behaviour (e.g. change the routine, do something which occupies your mind - or your hands, use the emotion for something else)
With a more stable pattern of eating you will feel calmer about food and also improve your physical health - you'll find you're eating only what you need and making more conscious decisions about what and when you eat. Of course, I can help you with this if you need a little support to work through the steps. Just drop me a message.
In terms of improving your nutritional health, any change you implement now can have a significant impact. This is true even if you are past middle age and have had a poor diet until this point. The important thing to remember is that you don't have to go to extremes all at once. Just some small changes can have an influence on how you feel. They will also improve your longevity. But introduce them slowly. I have prepared a free download with 6 such tips and a habit tracker which might help - you can get that here.
According to a study published in New England Journal of Medicine, eating more whole grains, vegetables, fish, fruits, nuts and healthy fats (mono- or poly-unsaturated), plus giving up sugary drinks and processed meats can lower the risk of premature death by up to 17 percent (not to mention the other benefits to the efficiency of the complex processes of your body. For example, consistently eating at least 5 daily fruits and vegetables into your diet will begin improving your gut health immediately. This will have a dramatic impact on your immune system's response to disease and your mental health. So how long will it take to notice a difference?
Research suggests that within a week of adopting a healthier lifestyle you can expect increased energy levels and better quality sleep. Hormones will find a better balance so if you're prone to feeling down or depressed this should help. As you continue on a healthy eating routine after a month or so, you will see an improvement in your skin, your hair and your nails. The good thing to remember at this point, is that new habits are formed anywhere between 30 and 60 days so the new eating routine will be getting nicely ingrained in your day to day. As the months go by, your overall health, including blood pressure and blood glucose, will improve, AND if you have weight to lose, your body will settle down to find its natural weight set point. Yes, it can take this long but you haven't had to go on a restrictive diet or put your body under any stress and the weight you may have lost will stay off.
So, think about making the change to eat healthy as soon as you can, both the pattern of your eating and the quality of your food. Decide on one step to take today and add another one the next and so on. Here's some Eat Healthier tips plus my habit tracker to help you.