Three of the most popular intentions to improve health are to eat a healthier diet, exercise regularly and lose excess weight. To make these intentions come to fruition, it takes more than just a wish. How will you make this habit part of your routine?
A habit is a behavior most often done without thoughtful effort, awareness or specific intent. Here's an example of how to make eating healthier a habit:
- Target. Write down the specific action you want to perform. Example: Eat a fruit and a vegetable at every evening meal.
- Act. Have a calendar or notebook (paper or electronic) to mark your start date. Prepare by stocking your kitchen with fruits and vegetables do you like. Start.
- Repeat. Every evening, include a fruit and a vegetable with each meal. Make a tally on your calendar or notebook.
- Repeat. Continue this behavior and marking tallies. At dinner, take a moment to notice positive feelings you have having for completing the action.
- Repeat. Make this routine. Create a cue to trigger the behavior. Keep fruit and veggies front and center — in the refrigerator or on the counter. Put a sticky note near your plates to cue you to add these foods.
In this process, be as specific as possible. Think of the steps needed to carry out the behavior. For example, write your grocery list to include fresh, canned, dried or frozen fruits and vegetables so you are always prepared.
Consider barriers such as what if you don't eat at home? Hint: You'll need to pack something to eat before dinner. How will you keep yourself engaged once the novelty starts to wear off? Hint: Reflect on the positives such as how you feel — comfortably full, eating fewer high-calories foods, your skin looks better, etc. In other words, take note of the rewards this new habit has given you.
What habit do you want to add or change? Or how have you had success improving your health through better habits?
By Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.