With many people mentioning how eating habits have faltered with the pandemic, it’s probably a good time and check in with March Nutrition Month.
More people working from home. More reliance on comfort foods. Higher alcohol intake for many. It’s really all about habits. Our habits have changed. Some for the better. Some, not so much.
Habits. That’s the key lever here. A bunch of habits equals our outcome. Our nutrition and health habits equal how we feel, and how effectively we resist illness and disease. The interesting thing about habits — the bad ones are so easy to start, and so hard to stop; and the good ones are so hard to start, and so easy to stop. And we rarely ever just quit a bad habit. We only replace bad habits. With something better.
In a time where many good habits have been replaced with less helpful or less healthy ones, how can we get back on track with our nutrition? For one, the discomfort with a current habit has to be acknowledged. For instance, one must ask, “Am I tired enough of this habit, and the outcome it’s producing, that I’m ready to make a change?” This is the decision. No compromise. No waffling. Either decide that the habit is going to be replaced, or consciously acknowledge, “No, I’m OK with this habit and I accept that I am choosing the results that come with it.”
If you are choosing to make a change to replace a habit, set out a plan. Schedule it in. Perhaps attach the new habit to something else you already do daily. Or lay the applicable items out in plain view that remind you about the new habit.
For example, if it’s a better nutritional habit you are thinking of, consider that instead of a daily Tim’s run for breakfast, commit to making a protein smoothie before leaving the house. And if you still feel the need to hit the drive thru for food on the way to work, go for it. Chances are the 25-30 grams of protein in the smoothie will satisfy the hunger cravings. Then it’s just the coffee to go! Not only will the waistline appreciate the protein, the energy increase will too! And if the protein is left on the counter right next to the blender, chances are that will help boost the success rate of the new smoothie habit!
Another example could be if you are looking to stop snacking at night within a couple hours of bedtime. Consider replacing the snack some healthy protein like a hard-boiled egg, or humous with veggies. Or get in the habit of having an herbal tea. Leave the mug out on the counter after dinner and fill the kettle so it’s ready to go.
Or grocery shop after you’ve had a snack with some protein in it, so it’s easier to skip the middle aisles and all the dangerous snacks. That can become a habit too.
The key here is to recognize that these are all simply habits. And that bad habits don’t just get stopped. They get replaced. You can help new habits form by making the new ones as easy as possible, by setting out little reminders, by stacking them together with an existing habit (like gratitude with dinner), or by having a habit partner help keep accountability.
Whatever your habit is that needs to go, put a few minutes of thought and planning into it. Pick one. Not many. Focus on the thing you want to shift the most. Make a new, better, habit. Habits become who you are. Habits, captured by a quote from Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher and founder of Taoism:
“Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”