We’re a couple of weeks into 2016 — are you still keeping your New Year’s resolution? As a nutritionist and coach, I’ve seen such a range of experiences with my clients. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to keep going with your pledge to exercise, eat right, drink more water or bring those reusable bags to the grocery store.
Why is This New Habit Important to You Now?
Knowing your motivation is a powerful thing and can help you build in structure to stay focused on what you value most. When I see clients, one of my first questions is what they’re hoping to accomplish. When the answer is, “Because Dr. So-and-So says so,” or, “I know I really should,” or, “It would make X happy,” it’s a big red flag. We have to dig deeper and develop personally meaningful goals.
What is Your Baseline?
Often, we don’t have a good sense of our current habits. Many people report eating veggies every day or only occasionally going on a Starbucks run. But, when they record their food intake for a few weeks, it becomes clear that the reality is quite a bit different. I definitely recommend keeping track of food, exercise or other habits — either the old-fashioned way with pen and paper or using an online or app diary. In fact, tracking your food is one of the top recommendations from the National Weight Control registry.
How Much are You Eating?
Take a look at those two pictures. Which has more food?
Actually, they contain the very same amount of food!
The one the left is on an 11-inch plate; the one on the right is a 9-inch plate. Research shows we eat about 30 percent more on bigger plates. Amazing how much of a difference small choices in our environment can make! We live in a super-sized culture, and almost all of us fall prey to the ginormous sizes we see all around us. Studies show that everything from portion sizes to plates to colors or even names of food can dramatically affect our intake. Small tweaks can significantly change our behaviors. If you haven’t read Brian Wansink’s Mindless Eating, it’s a fantastic book with a nice mix of research and easy tools to incorporate in your daily routine.
How Mindful are You?
Most of us live pretty distracted lives. If we’re not paying attention to our own lives, we’re missing out on the fun! It’s easy to eat while checking email, watching TV or even driving, and that cuts down on our awareness of portion and on our enjoyment of food. But when we’re eating mindfully, we’re much more aware of hunger and fullness. And, it’s much easier to stop eating because we’re full than because we’re only allowed a certain amount. Additionally, mindfulness has a huge range of health benefits, from improving depression, to lowered blood pressure, to improved immunity, to fighting diabetes and much more.
Do You Have Support?
Generally, healthy habits take a village. It’s easier to get up to exercise on those cold, dark mornings when you’re meeting a friend or you’ve got a four-legged friend who wants to go for a run. Likewise, it’s easier to eat well with support than constantly seeing tempting foods that are off-limits. It’s critical to build support in person or online for a sense of accountability.