Goodbye to Resolutions
New Year’s diet resolutions are ubiquitous this time of year, how many have you already planned? I like to use the term “behavior change” since resolving to lose weight, exercise more, or eat more vegetables, etc, really involves changing your current behaviors. Let’s use weight loss as an example.
Be as specific as possible as to what you want to change. For example, specify the initial amount of weight you might like to lose. Committing to initially losing 10% of your current weight sounds a lot more realistic than saying you want to lose 50 pounds. Checking in with your hunger and fullness at each meal and snack, honoring that feeling instead of eating everything on your plate just because it’s there, is honing in on a specific behavior. Next, specify a time frame for your behavior change and be as sensible as possible. Losing 50 pounds in 2 months is NOT realistic even though reality TV would like you to believe otherwise. Using the hunger and fullness scale for 2 months at each meal and snack to reduce the amount of times you under and overeat is likely to result in a more healthy relationship with food and possibly weight loss if needed.
Example: I will check in with my hunger and fullness at each meal and snack for 2 months.
Behavior change is achievable when it is broken down into small steps. Most people want to start eating healthy and see the results within the next few days or they are immediately discouraged. Try not to fall into this trap, as it will just leave you feeling down. Instead, list the small steps you need to take in order to achieve your behavior change.
Examples: I will make a menu and grocery list for the week. I will eat my meals sitting down at a table. I will start eating on small plates instead of large dinner plates. I will check in with my hunger and fullness at each meal.
What personal benefits do you expect to see from this behavior change? Take a step back and list these benefits. I encourage you to write them down, as you can refer back to them when you hit barriers to change. Try to list as many benefits as you can think of and don’t discount anything you think is important. Remember this is your goal, and it has to be important to you personally in order for you to be successful.
Examples: Losing weight may help reduce my blood sugar. Losing weight may help me sleep better. Losing weight may allow me to be more active with my family.
There are always barriers, and you will inevitably hit them. Think of barriers as a learning experience and instead of feeling as you failed when you encounter them, gather as much information from them as possible to determine what is and is not working. If you have tried to change the same behavior in the past or even a similar behavior, look at what got in the way of making a permanent change. Make a list of things you know are going to trip you up, being as honest as possible. It is equally important to make a list of what you can do to overcome the barriers you expect. By doing so, you are giving yourself a better chance of getting back on your feet when you are tripped up and will possibly be more successful.
Barrier: I always go to the refrigerator the minute I walk in the door and start eating mindlessly.
Solution: When I walk in the door I will get myself a cold/hot drink and wait 5 minutes before I check in with my hunger to determine if I need a snack.
Who is supporting your behavior change and who believes in you? I think it is important to have a support partner when you are making behavior change. It may be a loved one, family member, friend, therapist, or dietitian. Let this person know what you are trying to achieve and if you are comfortable, tell them your barriers and how you are planning to overcome them.
Behavior change takes time, practice and patience, so keep at it, adjusting as necessary and finding what works best for you.