How do we develop a healthy habit?
While attempting to feel productive during the quarantine, I cleaned out my desk drawers and came upon some old planners.
Leafing through these planners, I kept noticing the same two goals atop each page – to exercise and meditate.
This was a lightbulb moment for me because somehow, without realizing, I had achieved these goals.
I now exercise and meditate regularly without even thinking about it.
Somehow, these self-care practices have become just a part of my day! This led me to reflect on how we can use habits to reach our intuitive eating and self-care goals.
Today, I want to share with you how you can use your habits to achieve your own goals.
Let’s Look at Intuitive Eating Principle 1: Reject the Diet Mentality.
How the heck do we just reject the diet mentality? It can be hard.
What do we do first? As an example, start by looking at your current eating habits and make some decisions.
Are you someone who doesn’t usually eat during the day then finds themselves eating uncontrollably at night?
An example would be to set a goal of eating a balanced breakfast each day. If you do this consistently, you will eventually notice that eating breakfast becomes a habit you look forward to! Doing this you will often find that it helps you achieve that goal of changing your nightly eating habits.
One of the keys to reaching a new goal is either having routines in place that support that goal or acquiring these routines first. If your current habits are counter-productive, you’ll need to change them or run the risk of coming up short.
How do habits help you reach your goals?
Suppose you have the goal of exercising three days per week.
If you don’t already have the habit of exercising, you’re unlikely to succeed until you can adopt that habit.
You will need to start small. For example, park your car at a distance from your destination (so you must walk more), is one example. Before you create new, positive habits, you’ll want to figure out which practices will help you attain your goals.
Reflect on your goals and what actions you can take to help bring them about.
Consider these attributes for the habits you want to implement:
- Look for daily habits. Habits you practice each day are much easier to put into place and keep than those that are less frequent.
- Keep it simple. The more complex the task, the less likely you are to stick with it. If you really need to implement a difficult habit, start with a simpler version, and add more complexity later.
- Be specific. It’s not enough to just specify what you’re going to do; include the how, when, and where. Time is always critical when creating a new habit. Be sure to specify a particular time in which you wish to implement the latest actions.
- So “I’m going to exercise every day” is inadequate. “I’m going to walk for 30 minutes on my lunch break, Monday through Friday” is a better way. This describes what you want to accomplish and includes how, when, and where.
Prepare for Interference
There are usually obstacles to creating new habits and behavioral patterns. Try to figure out these possibilities ahead of time so you can eliminate them as soon as possible.
Perhaps you’ve decided that you’re going to eat breakfast every day, but you don’t leave yourself enough time to eat before leaving for work. You will not be successful. Consider the small habits you will need to make this goal achievable. Perhaps you need to prepare a grab-and-go meal the night before. Maybe you need to set your alarm to wake 15 minutes earlier.
Now, maybe you are wondering…
How did I eventually make exercise and meditation into regular habits for my self-care?
I did two main things…
- I paired the activity with a habit that was established already. I experimented to find times during the day that worked for me. Eventually, I discovered that if I meditated right after brushing my teeth, I was more likely to do it regularly.
- I looked for rewards in achieving my goals. For example, reading more books for pleasure was one of my larger goals. I discovered that I was most successful with exercising when I did it in the afternoon. I gave myself the incentive of listening to books on tape while I walked. Thus, I was able to achieve two goals at once and had the reward of reading books!
For those of you looking to become an intuitive eater, you can develop new goals that help you become an intuitive eater without the goal being weight loss!
Each and every goal you set for yourself will give you a sense of mastery. So, consider the habits that will best support your goals, put them into action daily, and enjoy your new success!
Erica Leon is a Registered Dietitian and practices from a Health at Every Size (HAES®) lens. She is certified as an eating disorder specialist and is passionate about helping women at midlife, menopause and beyond to make peace with food and body image.
Erica is a highly sensitive nutrition therapist who takes the time to learn where you or your family are in the pursuit of health. Respectful of your individual needs and lifestyle, she will provide an honest assessment of whether or not you are a good fit to work together. Click here to schedule a 15-minute Discovery Call with Erica to let us know about your needs, and to see which of our Dietitians is the best fit for you!
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