If you are like every other person on this planet, improving upon your nutrition choices is a daunting feat that has probably frustrated you more than once.
Why is that?
How can you bring about success for this seemingly elusive goal?
Perhaps a simple adjustment or tweak to your established patterns is the key. The American Psychological Association (APA) says to start small, in order to make lifestyle changes that last.
First-hand experience as a personal trainer has allowed me to have a front row seat to see this play out over and over again in “real time”, and it has merit. The best part of a tweak is that it is a minor change and therefore very doable and truthfully, less “painful”.
Take a look at this short list, pick one or two, and focus on small adjustments to your existing routines. This is NOT a complete overhaul but can perhaps, in the long run, have the same effects.
Striving for sustainable change, thru simple tweaks, starts now.
1. Drink One Glass of Water Before Drinking or Eating Anything Else
For years now I have not allowed one sip of coffee to touch my lips until I have chugged one full glass of water.
If you think about it, your body has fasted from food and drink for the last 6-8 hours while you slept. We all have heard of how water is needed to make our bodies work well and yet the first thing most of us do when we wake up is drink a cup of coffee, cream, and sugar.
Although recent studies have shown that coffee doesn’t dehydrate us as once thought, most experts agree that water is still the best re-hydrating fluid. In addition to this, water has a way of filling us, so that we won’t be as inclined to overeat or mistake thirst for hunger.
Try it. For one week drink a glass of water before allowing any snack or meal or drink hit the lips. See how you feel. And yes, it may mean a few more trips to the restroom at first but your body will adjust.
2. Pre-determine A Healthy Choice For That Moment of Weakness
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do.”
(spoken by Paul in Romans 7:15)
It truly amazes me that after 40 plus years of living on this planet I still fall prey to doing the things I don’t want to do. Weakness seems to hunt me down and catch up with me around 9:00 at night, and it usually looks like a bag of chips and a bottle of wine.
Knowing that this moment of weakness will come and sabotage all the good choices I have made that day, I need to have a plan in place; one that has an alternative for the temptation.
Try it. What is that one temptation that always wins? Come up with a realistic, doable substitute. Having an apple instead of chocolate cake may not be realistic because let’s be honest, who wants an apple when cake is available. But maybe a tweak would be to have three bites of the cake and then go for a walk. Have a plan that sets you up for success and stick to it.
3. Substitute One Unhealthy Carb Each Day
A recent article in the Huffington Post points to the fact that the healthiest people group in the world (Japanese) eat a lot of carbs. This would seem to fly in the face of the popular low carb diets that we all hear about. So which is it, carbs or no carbs?
Differentiating between a good carb (whole grain or vegetable) and a bad carb (high in sugar, no fiber) is a good place to start. Fruits and vegetables are carbohydrates, but they also usually have fiber and antioxidants which are beneficial to health.
Choose a carb that you typically have that you know is not the best choice and replace it with either a good carb that has some added fiber or a lean protein.
Try it. Get creative. You probably already know what you could cut out. Check out this article for a few ideas.
4. Be Aware of Why You Are Eating and Address It
I have a daughter who is currently in a tough college program and as a result is in a constant state of stress. When the stress is not being handled well she turns to a jar of peanut butter. Inevitably, she eats way more than she intended or needed and ends up feeling bloated and frustrated. The issue was not really satisfying her hunger but was more a response to the stress.
When we think about “why” we are eating at any given moment, we will often realize that it has nothing to do with hunger pangs. Boredom, stress, depression, and anxiety can all trigger the response to eating. When this is the case it almost always gets ugly.
Try it. Identify the “why” and when it is not actual hunger pains deal with it in a non-food way. Only eat when you are truly hungry.
5. Limit Alcohol – Improve Your Patterns
Working at a high-end gym as a personal trainer I quickly realized that the number one challenge that most of my clients dealt with was a continuous consumption of alcohol. I am not talking about alcoholics here but rather regular people that drink on a very regular basis.
Our society is accepting of this habit. Who hasn’t overheard someone say, “I need a drink, it’s been a hard day” or “Let’s relax with a bottle of wine.” You really cannot turn on a TV program without seeing alcohol being consumed at some point in the show.
I am not suggesting abstinence. But if we are all honest with ourselves we see that alcohol consumption does not help our overall nutrition or health. In fact, it can often trigger overeating since we tend to get more relaxed and focus on the moment rather than our long-term goals.
Try it. In the spirit of tweaking, think about your pattern in regards to drinking. Set yourself up for success. If you like to have a glass or two of wine with dinner every night then perhaps your tweak might be to cut down to every other night. If you tend to drink four beers every time you watch a game, maybe limit yourself to 2 beers. Make it doable but be specific so that it is measurable.
Turn Your Tweak Into a Habit
We all have room for improvement and the ability for lasting change. Pick one of these tweaks, put into practice for 30 days, and turn the tweak into a new habit.