This week’s nutrition guide revolves around how individuals can better understand how behavioural change works and the best things we can do help us more easily change habits and behaviours.
Sounds intense, right? Nah!
Honestly, we’re just going to be discussing the best ways that you can better transition from where you are now to building better habits or behaviours when it comes to your nutrition. This is probably the deepest we’ll get as we’ll be talking about the mental switches we need to incorporate as well as setting the right expectations and goals some more. When it comes to changing your nutrition there’s so much more than just deciding you want to lose weight and slashing half your calories to do so.
If you want to lose or gain weight properly, and more permanently, rather than living in that cycle of yo-yo dieting, you’ll need to do it with structure, focus, patience and persistence and that’s where we’ll drill down. That’s where it becomes important to train new behaviours which will solidify the changes we make, as well as learn how to manage our mindset and switch from a short-sighted point or view, to a long term, habitual change that lasts.
Let’s dive in.
When it comes to Nutrition we all have the absolute best intentions to do what’s right and give ourselves the best we can give. It’s not always so easy however. In between a busy work and play lifestyle, personal stresses such as financial, relationship or health implications, or just the general pace of everyday life nowadays, good nutrition is just another thing to add to the list. We know we need to eat every day, but to many of us we don’t necessarily realise the impact our current diets have on our bodies, or the health benefits from improving it ever so slightly. And why not, you may not even be overly bothered in changing your dietary habits at all, or it is just way down on our list of priorities…
I completely understand! 🙂
It’s a lot to ask and something that requires sometimes more thought than all the others combined at times, it’s just my delight to highlight how we can improve and why!
However when it comes to making changes we’re all at different stages of readiness for change. If we’re mentally not in the appropriate stage to accept change in a behaviour then chances are external influences will only be detrimental unless we can move you from a lower to a higher stage of readiness for change. Let’s go there a bit…
There are Five stages of Change:
An individual in precontemplation is either unaware or in denial that a change is unwarranted or unnecessary. A client experiencing precontemplatiuon may state “I’m just here because my GP made me speak to you. Please don’t cut my food down. I’ve given up alcohol and smoking and this is my last crux. You’re going to cut my food down, aren’t you?!”. They currently see no reason to change or understand why the change needs to be made, sometime they might not even care..
An individual here is aware a change needs to be made but still very much has mixed feelings about making the change. A comment such as this is an example of contemplation: “I probably shouldn’t go out every night and eat or drink as much when I do, but all my friends go out and I always have a laugh.”
This person may have no plan to change at all and is maybe on the fence about whether a change is really worth it.
Here an individual is expressing a desire to make a behavioural change relatively soon and is seriously wondering how they may go about doing so. She may state: “I know when I eat more fresh, less processed foods I have more energy, I know I will need to go to the shops more often to get more fresher foods in the cupboards!”
Here the intent is obvious, there’s an obvious understanding of the benefit but there’s maybe a smaller hurdle to navigate which is probably worth the effort, generally the last hurdle is physical.
The action stage is explicitly the hardest stage as in most cases physical energy needs to be expended, instead of mental energy as in the previous stages. An individual may tell me: “My PT highlighted my bodyfat to me last week, I’ve eaten less sugary things in an attempt to cut a few calories and even switched from drinking coke to diet coke! The taste isn’t even bad!!” Here an obvious physical change has taken place, once physical energy has been expanded in the chosen behaviour it’s just about keeping that ball rolling.
According to a study by Prochaska and DiClemente, once an individual has made a change consistently for 6 months they’re considered to be in the maintenance stage of change. Even though they’re still at risk of reverting back to older habits, the likelihood of them maintaining the change is much higher now the change has become a regular part of their life. “I started eating lot’s of veg about 2 years ago and feel GREAT, but there’s still a few things I think I could change…”
I remember immediately how I felt when reading these the first time. It actually became really clear for me to understand why I didn’t want to change things in my past originally too. Either the change was way too much a shift in physical effort or, more commonly, it was a change I felt was unwarranted or unmotivated by, so it never got past the contemplation stage.
I’ll even go as far as to say, If you’ve solidified a new behaviour in the last 3-6 months, you’re probably ready to dabble in adding a new habit to your repertoire. This would be the best place to do so and will have the least chance of overwhelming you when in maintenance.
Setting yourself up the best
We understand why we don’t sometimes consider making certain changes, but what if there were methods where the processes we had allowed us to make changes seamlessly whilst becoming more permanent?
There’s a number of ways, the first is having a focus.
Often the reason we don’t make a change is because we believe it’s unnecessary or unwarranted. If you were to choose the topic yourself and limit it to one topic of change, how much more open to performing that change would you be if it came from A) yourself and out your own mouth, and B) Something that had a direct relevance to you. Only you know that answer and that’s why I let the clients I work with pick their topic of focus with guidance from me.
Doing it this way not only empowers the people I work with, but often also see dramatically better results purely because they’re driving something that they’re more open to do themselves. I’m more educated in Science and Nutrition than every other subject matter I’ve come across, I’m not saying I know everything at all or am an industry leading expert, just that I know more about nutrition than anything else I’ve come across.
However, it doesn’t mean I KNOW what my clients would prefer to do or KNOW what they enjoy doing. We can dig around and discover those things but YOU have to decide the route you want to take, I’m here to act as mediator and educator, giving the best science-backed advice towards your current circumstance.
That being said, having a focus and you choosing it is an important step, and a simple way to do so is choosing the topic you want to drive in nutrition. Check out this picture below:
Picture Credit: Guilford Press
This is a circle chart. A good tool for when you’re meeting someone in public and discussing topics to focus on. If you’re on your own you can very much do this yourself with a bit of brainstorming…
When deciding a focus have a little brainstorm about topics you’d like to focus on improving, and put them each in a circle. Not too many, not too little an amount! You can even take some of the topics above or use the circle chart itself. Keep one circle empty as it’ll stimulate your mind somewhat and may end up pulling out an absolute corker of a goal in a few minutes. Then, choose ONE circle you’d like to focus on. Picking the focus yourself not only empowers you that bit more but you’re getting specific about the route you want to go down.
If we were to tackle this together we’d have a chat about how that looks like and the subtle changes we can make to drive these goals over time. Once you’ve picked your focus it’s then time to establish a time frame and what smaller, more achievable goals to aim for would look like.
Part of the problem when it comes to behaviour changes is that right from the beginning huge, surmountable goals are set making it very difficult to move through the stages of change to even get to that favoured ‘Action Stage’. By setting appropriate timelines and choosing a goal to tackle in little chunks, it makes it easier for us to achieve ratehr than setting a huge, monstrous goal to aim for.
I wrote a cracking article earlier on in this guide on Setting the Right Goals and Timeframe, definitely worth a read if you haven’t. Not only will it help you set a more achievable task but this is the first hurdle to even making the change in the first place.
If I keep you past this section then I’ve done well and want to thank you! 🙂
You may not want to hear this however but it’s something in my opinion believe 90% of the population do wrong, including me.
You want things too quickly, I do, you do, everything in life has a preference for fast delivery. In today’s modern society we’re spoilt with Amazon Prime, Netflix, drive-thru coffee (who the hell invented that, my addiction has increased 10x).
The point is we’re being catered towards getting the most bang for our buck for the time we have to wait. Think of this, how many of you have bought an Uber and stood on the side of the road in a busy place and been driven past by numerous taxis. Uber has done amazingly at selling you the perception of time, that’s why it is so successful… Anyone who can play to this emotion of perceived gain of time will get the attention, the hard truth is when it comes to habit changing and nutrition and fitness, patience is an absolute must.
I wanted my six-pack yesterday, sadly I’m not even at a stage where it’s easy for me to do so, I lack the muscle mass! However when it comes to health and fitness we all want to ‘get ripped in 6 weeks’ or ‘get that bikini body in 12 weeks’. This is great but if it was able to be done in a sustainable manner and not have you relapse into binge eating food due to huge caloric restriction we’d be in a much better place.
The key is to do any diet you do sustainably – meaning, if necessary, do it for months on end without cause for a dietary relapse, or, drive your goal in small calorie deficits or surpluses in order to lose/gain weight slowly, efficiently and permanently.
Too many people slash the calories and see rapid success, visibly too, in the first couple of weeks. Sadly, repeated slashing of calories is not efficient on the body and all of a sudden metabolic processes become upset, slowing down metabolic rate and important bodily processes in an attempt to preserve energy. This is dieting in the short-term and millions of people engage this without realising.
If many people actual chose to actually double their desired timeframe for the diet of their choice we’d probably see many more successful diets happen.
You need to get more patient. The more patience you have the more chance you have of making a more permanent change. If you drive your weight loss journey way too fast by starving yourself, not only are we not solidifying the above behavioural changes into our mind, but we increase the chance of yo-yo dieting through mere relapsing to junk food way too often.
If you suffer from this, chances are you could probably benefit with cutting your calories more gradually, and I’d advise you speak to someone (give me a shout in the comments if you want help) on how you can monitor and decrease your calories appropriately.
If you were to simply become more patience and actually track your calories instead of blowing caution to the wind, I firmly believe a lot of us would have the body’s we wanted.
Make yourself ready for change by choosing an achievable goal to your likings, pick the right focus and get fucking patient.
The biggest hurdle is always creating the change, so if you’ve not created or even started the change yet, you need to think about what you can do differently to drive your dream goal. Hint: You need to be patient and pick the right goal and timeframe! 🙂
Keep patient guys, and smash those goals! 🙂
If you’d like help I’ve got spots in my weekly nutrition coaching program. We cover every topic we discuss in this guide in depth but you also get personalised goals and weekly coaching to make sure you’re on track! APPLY NOW HERE to have a free consultation, spots go fast when available but we can discuss what we potentially do together.
If you haven’t smashed your goals yet, then when are you?
Also check out the other articles in this 9-part guide, you’re bound to find some gold!