23/01/2020 by Dr. Lewis
5 Simple Ways to Build & Sustain Healthy Habits
Tis the season to make health goals! This article is designed to help make these goals attainable so that you can design the health and body you’ve imagined for yourself this year and for the rest of your life.
I hope you find a nugget of wisdom (or several) here that you can implement immediately. Wishing you an incredible 2020!
1. Keep water nearby and visible
Hydration is an incredibly important foundational step to getting your body functioning more optimally. Most of us are walking around dehydrated because of the diuretic substances we consume (coffee, black tea, alcohol) and the insufficient water we consume to offset this. You are more likely to drink more water when you can actually see it. I swear by my clear glass bottle, because it’s a visual reminder of how much I have or haven’t consumed through the day. Buy a clear glass bottle and plop it on your bedside table, your desk, and your coffee table.
Thank me later!
2. Fill your plate with veggies first
Most of us could stand to eat more vegetables. If this is a goal for you, serve your meal by starting with the veggies and aim to have it fill half your plate. After you’ve prioritized the veg, you can move on to your protein source (about ¼ of your plate) and carbohydrates (about ¼ of your plate). Add healthy fats while cooking or to dress your meal (nuts, seeds, healthy oils, avocado, etc). This general formula can be modified to suit your specific nutritional needs after you’ve mastered the habit.
3. Pair new habits with existing habits
This trick can be used to create any new habit, whether it’s nutrition related or not. Think of the existing habits you have that you’d like to keep: getting out of bed, brushing your teeth, eating your meals, drinking your coffee, driving your car to work, etc. Now think of the new habits you’d like to add in: meal planning more regularly, improving your relationship to food/your body, eating more vegetables, etc.
Begin pairing! I’m listing a couple of examples, but feel free to get creative! Plan your day of meals while drinking your morning coffee. Or, come up with 3 things you’re grateful for about your body while you’re brushing your teeth. Or, imagine the health benefits of a nutritious meal while driving your car to work (instead of focusing on these meals being boring/restricting while fast food brings comfort, for example). Before you know it, the new habits will be easier to implement and you’ll begin shifting your routine towards these habits ever so slightly.
4. Put your healthy foods on display
Stop banishing your beautiful fruits and vegetables to the bottom dungeon of your refrigerator! Display your most nutritious foods front and centre, with pride ;) This will force you to pay attention to these foods first when you inevitably open the fridge looking for a snack, and it works outside the constraints of your fridge too. Use the same strategy when organizing your pantry and your countertop. I rarely miss my daily intake of lemon water, because I’ve arranged my lemons in a beautiful vase on the kitchen counter.
Expert level: Cut up your vegetables (and fruit) before putting groceries away. This is a sure fire way to increase compliance with eating more vegetables - it also alludes to trick number 5...
5. Create the smallest possible habit you can and master that
Your brain is more likely to shut down, avoid, or say “nope, I can’t do that” if the habit you’re attempting to create is deemed too difficult. Find a way to make your new habit bite sized, so the level of easiness skyrockets and your inner critic doesn’t come up with a million reasons why you’ll fail.
Here are some bite-sized examples:
Want to run 5 times a week after work? → Start by changing out of your work clothes and immediately put on your workout gear and running shoes, then going on a 5 minute walk.
Want to eat 10 servings of vegetables a day? → Start by eating one more serving of vegetables a day
Want to meditate for an hour everyday? → Start by meditating for 1 minute a day
Want to be a kinder person? → Start by saying 1 kind thing a day (bonus points if you say 1 kind thing to yourself too)
The hardest part is going from zero to start. Once you’re in motion, the momentum will help you build on your existing habit. The point of going small is not to trick yourself into completing the entire goal you initially set out. It’s actually to create a bit of movement from which you can build. Stop when you get the small habit accomplished. Then celebrate having accomplished it. Let your brain create a memory that you’re capable of creating a new habit and staying true to your intention.
6. BONUS TIP: Remind yourself who you want to be...then be that person
Start each morning and end each night by visualizing what the best version of yourself is. Who do you strive to become? Continue reminding yourself of this image throughout the day if you find yourself making choices that do not align to this ideal self.
Once you’re crystal clear on this image, it will be so much simpler to enact the habits that get you closer to that version of yourself. Do not skip ahead to the end though. Remind yourself of habit forming tricks #1-5 listed in this article and ensure you maintain a slow and steady pace, while you keep your sights set on the end goal. Unfortunately, we really cannot fast forward through the challenges that may accompany setting new habits, so you will likely notice some obstacles on your journey. My suggestion is to treat these as obstacles, and not as permission to stop before you reach your destination.
If you need support to navigate through these growing pains, whether related to nutrition or not, please do reach out to me or the wonderful practitioners I work with - our passion is helping people reach their health (and life) goals. In the meantime, know I’m cheering you on and have all the confidence that you can get there (whatever the ‘there’ means to you)!
Wishing you wellness,