Every January we all seem to get a boost of fresh energy and willpower. Gyms fill up and we all look to make this a healthier year than the last. But in a matter of weeks the gyms are quiet again and our old habits are back with a vengeance. So, the real question is: how can we make real-life healthy changes and make them stick?
The short answer—make them small and easy. You might be thinking, “But Lisa! I have to make a huge change to be healthy! I need to do something dramatic!”
I may be a nutritionist now, but I haven’t always eaten a healthy diet—it used to be horrendous! I ate all processed food, high in sugar and refined flour, and I had only one meal per month with vegetables. I was full of inflammation, my head was foggy, and I felt terrible. I needed a huge change too.
I had a choice—I could stare at this huge change that felt almost impossible, or I could get started. I chose the latter. Slowly, I switched out processed food for healthier versions. I started to crave vegetables, so I learned how to cook them (I mostly just steamed them). It took me about six years to change my diet from a mostly processed diet to a mostly whole food diet…but I did it! And, it was gentle, easy, and totally doable.
The best news—I didn’t have to wait six years to feel better. Actually, my brain fog lifted after a few weeks and my inflammation calmed down after a month or two. I felt bouncy and full of life after just a few changes, which gave me energy to keep going.
Now, I’ve watched the power of making small changes hundreds of times. With a bit of help, my clients make similar changes in just a few months and with just as much ease.
So, I say this for certain—you can make the changes you want this year. And, you can do it inside your life, no matter how busy it is.
- Don’t waste your willpower.
I don’t have any. I’m stubborn in many ways, but when it comes to diet I have no willpower whatsoever. None. Nada.
But here’s a little secret…change is easier when you don’t use willpower.
We only have a limited supply of willpower. We can easily use it up before a change becomes permanent. Plus, the bigger the change, the faster you’ll use up your willpower. Once willpower is gone, it’s very hard to resist. This is the cause of many food binges.
- Shrink the change.
If you can’t use willpower then you need to make the change so easy that you have no choice. Change one habit at a time and make it small enough that you’re at least 95% confident that it’s a change you can accomplish. For example, don’t start with trying to eat 10 servings of veggies every day, just add one.
Once that change is easy and you don’t think about it anymore, make a new change. This process may seem slow, but it works, and you’ll move so much faster than you’d expect.
- Add instead of subtract.
Removing a food like gluten, dairy, or sugar may be necessary for a while to help your body heal…but if your diet is primarily these foods then it leaves huge holes in your diet and makes each meal difficult and stressful.
Instead, start by adding a few new foods to your diet. They’ll squish out the others, making it much easier to fully remove them.
- Shape the path.
We spend most of our lives on autopilot, not thinking through everything we do. Instead, we move through a series of habits, not fully aware of most things we’re doing. This is where change gets tiring. It jerks us out of this blissful, absentminded state and makes us pay attention. If we’re tired, it becomes too easy to go back to old habits. So, you need to make the new thing easier than the old.
If breakfast is an ordeal, find a fast, easy breakfast that’s ready to grab on your way out the door. Better yet, leave your ingredients at work and make breakfast there. Most importantly, get the foods you don’t want to eat out of your house! If you have cookies, it’s just a matter of time before you eat them. It’s just too easy when you have even a minor craving (or if you just open the cupboard) to say, “Oh look, cookies”. Out of sight really is out of mind.
- Ask for help.
If it seems overwhelming, don’t forget to ask for help. My job as a nutritionist isn’t to tell you what to eat; it’s to help you find a way to make the change easier.
Nature’s Fare Markets has a program just for you to support your new healthy habits. You can speak with me or one of their other amazing nutritionists for a free 30-minute consult! We’d love to help make your new changes as easy and doable as possible. It’s what we do.
One last thing…
No matter where you are in your health journey, you’re just one small change away from more energy, a clearer mind, and a healthier body. One small change, that you’re 95% confident you can knock out of the park, is all it takes. It’s a great way to start a whole new healthy life.
Your body is your best friend and ally in your health. Instead of trying to force your beautiful and wonderful self into a one-size-fits-all diet that ignores your likes, dislikes, cravings, and lifestyle, make small, easy changes. This is a form of undieting. Undieting taps into your body’s wisdom and allows it to guide you into the way of eating that will create abundant health. No more counting, denying, or restricting.
By tuning into your body’s needs and wants, you can glide into a healthy diet without using willpower or feeling deprived. Instead, each day, your diet gives your life a little more pleasure and joy. It can really be that easy.
Lisa Kilgour, RHN is one of Nature’s Fare Markets’ nutritionists a sought after speaker and educator who helps people heal from diverse and complex health issues. She has spoken at TEDxKelowna and is the author of Undieting: Freedom from the Bewildering World of Fad Diets. Check out the nutritionist schedule on page four and book your free appointment today at naturesfare.com.
Learn more: lisakilgour.com
This article was published in The Good Life.