The ‘January Challenge’ season has come and gone and with February almost over and spring just around the corner, you may be reflecting on a few of the less-than-stellar successes and lifelong changes you have experienced post New Year detox or challenge. What long term habits and behaviour changes did this quick fix provide you?
The whole point of creating habits is, once firmly created and established, they do the work for you. Once you have many healthy habits in place, you stop worrying about making bad decisions, because you by and large will not need to actually make the decision at all. Habits become your one way ticket to long-term wellness. Be warned, however. Creating heathy habits is not an automatic process. It does not happen automatically through a short-lived challenge or without the investment of time and effort.
There are so many tips and strategies surrounding creating new habits. As someone who has tried and failed way more than I would like to admit, this is what I used to eventually get a grasp on success:
- There is no right or wrong place to begin.
Wasting time trying to figure out the best or worst place to start just means that you still believe that you need to change things quickly. Pick something and start forming habits. Initially it is more important to learn how to form habits than it is to form any one particular habit. You may want to start with adding some bone broth to your diet (you don’t even have to make it yourself, Chef Pete has done it for you), or possibly taking 5 minutes out of your day to meditate or become more mindful. These are easy habits to begin with, and both can have significant effects.
- Create ONE habit at a time.
Even people who understand how to create habits often fall short here. You feel the overpowering need to get healthier and look better in a matter of weeks, so you try to create as many new habits as possible, right now. This is why those January challenges often fail. Remind yourself that you have time, and think of what you can accomplish over the course of a year with just a few, well-formed new healthy habits.
- Start small.
Whatever habit you choose to implement first should be very small. If you want to exercise more, make a commitment to 5 minutes of strenuous movement a day. If your goals are loftier, you may run into resistance early on as sustaining too large a commitment daily is often unachievable.
- Focus on creating new habits rather than eliminating old ones.
While it may sound simple, replacing or eliminating habits is significantly tougher than creating new habits. If you want to eat less processed junk, start by creating habits of eating whole, clean food. This will naturally start to crowd out some of the less healthy options. Once you have mastered creating new habits, you can begin to work on eliminating the bad ones you feel you have left.
When thinking of the time and energy you need to invest to truly create long lasting behavioural change, you may be met with much internal resistance or find yourself in convenient situations where self-sabotage rears its ugly head and you seem to have set yourself up to fail. This is especially true when food is involved and you may be trying to shift towards, or improve on whole food, nutrient dense, Paleo-style foods. A few of these situations have relatively simple solutions. Some situations that often trip up even the most committed of habit changer might be:
- Trying to cook meal by meal.
Try cooking in batches. If you are stuck for recipes or are unsure what to choose, how to source your food seasonally or what to cook, pick up a copy of Chef Pete’s book ‘Paleo By Season’ for some inspiration and a whole lot of delicious, easy to follow recipes even the pickiest of eaters will love. Make double or triple the amount and refrigerate or freeze the leftovers for quick meals. You will find this makes a huge difference both in terms of a sense of satisfaction and a reduction in the ‘what’s for dinner’ stress.
- Deciding what may be for dinner as you begin to feel it may be time to eat.
Planning at least a week’s worth of meals at a time, ahead of time is an almost foolproof way to ensure you KNOW what you are going to eat for that week. Pick a day, before you go shopping. It need not take very long. Choose your recipes from Chef Pete’s book (or your favorite cookbook or recipe blogs), and keep them on index cards. If you feel you are short on time, lack cooking skills or imagination or just simply prefer the convenience of having something done for you, the drive-through is not your only option. Pete’s Paleo offer a weekly, seasonal, varied menu filled with Paleo friendly complete meals. This way you will not have to trouble your brain (or your conscience too much) and still get delicious and healthy food on your plate.
- Standing at the fridge door and selecting your next meal.
Here again is where planning comes in to play. No need to stand at the fridge door deciding when you have planned your meals for that week. Do your best to prepare your meals in the morning (beware of procrastination on this one). Meal prep is key! Defrost your proteins, cut up your veggies and make sure you are ready to go when you get home and need to start cooking.
- Standing at the fridge or sink and eating
Whether you or Chef Pete have made your meal for you, laying a place at the table (and not just sitting on the couch to eat) and eating off a plate, using cutlery and even a napkin and taking the time to make your meal a true experience adds to its nutrient availability and your enjoyment of this new style of eating. (This could be another small habit change in itself). It takes only a few moments but makes such a difference.
- Working in a messy kitchen.
If you are cooking your meals or prepping food for the week, clean up as you go, especially as you transition from one food prep activity to another. Your kitchen is your sacred space where you lovingly prepare nourishment for you and your family – treat it as such.
When it comes to creating and maintaining new food and dietary habits having the support and help of a trusted service you know can provide you with some extra tools and inspiration, along with helping you get over some of your personal challenges around food and eating, is a priceless investment in your long term dietary habit changing goals. Asking for and taking help, using the resources around you will go a long way to creating lasting behaviour change! Pete’s Paleo options are worth keeping at your fingertips for such times!
Learning to create new habits will change your life, as long as you are willing to consistently put small amounts of work regularly and not get overly ambitious. Start small, create one habit at a time, and you will be amazed at how much you can change your life every single year. That is a true success – looking back and realizing how dramatic the entire change has been when 2018 rolls around! And, on this path, imagine 5 years from now? This is the tip of the proverbial iceberg, and I promise that once you have successfully created your first few new habits, your life will never be the same.