If you’ve ever wanted to change your relationship with diet and exercise habits but have never been able to make lasting changes, you have probably encountered at several common barriers to success. Personally, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t fallen victim to at least 3 of these below. Be honest with yourself; how many of these has gotten you?
1. Lack of motivation: Sustaining motivation over time can be challenging. It’s common to start with enthusiasm but lose steam as time goes on. Without a strong sense of purpose or clear goals, it can be difficult to stay committed to dietary and exercise changes.
2. Unrealistic expectations: Setting unrealistic expectations, such as aiming for rapid and drastic results, can lead to frustration and disappointment. Healthy lifestyle changes take time, and expecting overnight transformations can undermine your efforts.
3. Lack of planning and preparation: Failing to plan and prepare can hinder progress. If you don’t have healthy food options readily available or haven’t scheduled time for exercise, it becomes easier to fall back into old habits. Planning ahead and creating a supportive environment are crucial for success.
4. Social and environmental influences: Social situations and environmental cues can exert significant influence over our dietary and exercise choices. Peer pressure, social gatherings, and the availability of unhealthy foods can all pose challenges. It’s important to anticipate and prepare for these situations to avoid giving in to temptations.
5. Emotional eating and stress: Emotional factors play a significant role in our eating habits. Stress, boredom, sadness, and other emotions can trigger unhealthy eating behaviors. Managing emotional eating patterns and finding alternative coping strategies are essential for long-term success.
6. Lack of support: Changing diet and exercise habits can be easier with a support system. Without encouragement, accountability, or guidance from others, it’s more challenging to navigate the process. Seek out support from friends, family, or professionals who can provide guidance and help you stay on track.
7. All-or-nothing mindset: Adopting an all-or-nothing mindset, where any deviation from your plan is viewed as a failure, can be detrimental. Perfectionism can lead to guilt, self-criticism, and giving up altogether. Embrace a flexible approach that allows for occasional indulgences or adjustments to your routine without derailing your overall progress.
Overcoming these barriers often requires a combination of self-awareness, planning, patience, and support. Recognizing potential obstacles and developing strategies to address them can significantly increase your chances of success in changing your diet and exercise habits.
Incorporating small habits is beneficial for behavior change in terms of exercise and diet for a few reasons. This strategy might seem inconsequential but as the saying goes “big doors swing on little hinges”.
Making small incremental changes behaviorally can offer several benefits:
1. Ease of implementation: Small changes are often easier to adopt and integrate into your daily routine compared to large, drastic changes. They require less effort, willpower, and disruption to your existing habits, making them more sustainable in the long run.
2. Increased success rate: Small changes are more achievable, leading to a higher success rate. When you set realistic goals and consistently accomplish them, it builds a positive momentum that fuels further progress.
3. Habit formation: Small changes allow you to focus on establishing new habits gradually. By consistently repeating these small behaviors, they become ingrained in your routine over time. This makes it easier to sustain the changes and achieve long-term behavioral transformation.
4. Reduced resistance and overwhelm: When you make small behavioral changes, you are less likely to encounter resistance from your own mind or from others. Incremental changes are less disruptive and threatening, minimizing the feeling of overwhelm and increasing the chances of successful adoption.
5. Improved self-awareness: Making small changes requires attentiveness and self-reflection. As you engage in incremental adjustments, you become more aware of your behaviors, triggers, and patterns. This self-awareness empowers you to make more informed decisions and further refine your habits.
6. Flexibility and adaptability: Small changes are adaptable to different circumstances and environments. Life is full of unexpected challenges and variations, and by focusing on small adjustments, you can easily adapt your behavior to accommodate these changes without feeling derailed.
Overall, small behavioral changes offer a practical and sustainable approach to personal growth and self-improvement. They allow you to make steady progress, build positive habits, and cultivate a mindset of continuous improvement.
Let’s consider an example of incorporating a small habit change in your diet and exercise that can lead to big changes over time.
Diet: Start by replacing sugary drinks with water. Instead of reaching for a soda or sugary juice, make a habit of drinking a glass of water whenever you feel thirsty or want a beverage. This small change may seem simple, but it can have a significant impact on your overall calorie intake and hydration levels. Over time, you’ll consume fewer empty calories from sugary drinks, stay better hydrated, and potentially support weight management.
Exercise: Begin with a daily 10-minute walk. Set a specific time each day, such as after dinner or during your lunch break, to take a brisk walk for just 10 minutes. Walking is a low-impact activity that can be easily incorporated into your routine. As you consistently engage in this small habit, you may start to feel more energized, improve your cardiovascular health, and build the habit of regular physical activity. Over time, you can gradually increase the duration or intensity of your walks, or even explore other forms of exercise.
By starting with these small habit changes, you’re more likely to stick with them over the long term. As these habits become ingrained in your daily life, you may find yourself naturally making additional positive changes in your diet and exercise routine. The cumulative effect of these small habit changes can lead to significant improvements in your overall health, fitness, and well-being.
If you would like more information on the topic from a scholastic point of view a few of our favorite more digestable books on the topic are ATOMIC HABITS by James Clear, YOU CAN’T SCREW THIS UP by Adam Bornstein, and CHANGE MAKER by John Berardi PhD
Remember, it’s essential to set realistic goals and be patient with yourself. Gradual changes often lead to lasting transformations. FORGE AHEAD!