HOW to Choose Small Changes for HUGE Results! #NutritionMonth
March is Nutrition Month a time to celebrate better health through the power of the foods we eat! This year’s theme is Take a 100 Meal Journey: Make Small Changes, One Meal at a Time! The “100 Meal Journey” is based on the idea that Canadians eat about 100 meals in a month, so this month is all about making small changes in each meal and trying out new strategies to make these changes stick.
To kick off Nutrition Month, I am thrilled to welcome back guest blogger, Vincci Tsui, a Calgary-based dietitian to discuss how small changes usually mean bigger results! You can catch Vincci on Breakfast Television in Calgary or working one-on-one with her clients helping to simplify the science behind nutrition. This is Vincci’s second guest post on Dietetic Directions, she was previously featured in The Bone Broth Myth.
Often, it takes a major event to inspire a person to get healthy – perhaps they, or someone close to them, has been diagnosed with a health issue, or they realize that they are beginning to struggle to do things that they used to do with ease.
With this huge spark often comes the push to make huge changes – cupboards are cleared, junk food is banned, the gym becomes a second home… For some people, the major event shocks their system enough that these changes are permanent, but for most, making all these changes at once is simply too much.
It’s not because of weakness or lack of willpower, it’s just life! The more changes that we try to make, the likelier it is to run into barriers, become overwhelmed and ultimately just give up altogether. So even though you might start out full force with guns a-blazing, eventually you find yourself back at where you started, or worse yet, even further behind than you were before.
At first glance, small changes may seem like they won’t make a difference, and it’s true – it might take some time before you see an impact. However, if you consistently make small changes that you can easily manage, you’re less likely to feel overwhelmed, and more likely to incorporate it into your lifestyle and turn it into a habit. In the long run, it’s really our habits that determine our health and make us who we are, not the crash diets and quick fixes!
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How to Pick Just One Change
Sometimes tips are like chips – betcha can’t eat just one! While logically it makes sense that changing a lot at once can get overwhelming (and we probably all know this first-hand), there’s always that nagging voice in our brain saying things like,
“But I have so much weight to lose!”
“I want to get to my goal faster!”
“There’s so much I want/need to change… where do I start?”
Vincci’s step-by-step guide to de-stress and start making real change:
1. De-clutter Your Brain
Grab a blank sheet of paper and a pen. Set the timer for 15 minutes and write down all the things that you need to do (whether you’re already doing it or not) in order to achieve your health and wellness goal. If you get stuck, ask yourself, “What else can I do?” Think outside the box! Force yourself to keep writing through the 15 minutes… then set your timer for 5 minutes more, and keep going until your brain feels completely empty.
2. Get In the Zone(s)
Turn the page over and write the categories “Comfort Zone”, “Change Zone” and “Hold Zone” across the top of the page.
Let’s start with the Comfort Zone – go through your list and write in all the healthy habits you’re already doing, or changes that you’ve already started to make. When you’re done, celebrate the progress you’ve already made. AWESOME!
Now let’s move to the Hold Zone – look at your list and write in all the things that make you go, “Nuh-uh.” If there’s no way you could ever want< to eat tofu, or you really don’t have time to get to the gym right now, that’s OK! You put that thought out there, but it’s just not something that works for you at the moment. Good for you for recognizing that!
Hopefully your list has gotten short enough that you can start choosing what’s going to go into your Change Zone. Limit the items here to THREE CHANGES MAXIMUM. Start with the “low hanging fruit”, or the changes that you feel are easiest to get started with right away! Don’t worry about “setting the bar too low” – if it was really easy, then you’d be doing it already, right? You’ll have lots of time to revisit your goals and the changes that you are making.
Once you’ve chosen your changes, put the leftover ones into your Hold Zone. Think of the Hold Zone not just the place for changes that you don’t see yourself making ever, it’s also for the changes that you just don’t see yourself making right now.
3. Set Goals
Go through each item in your Change Zone and ask yourself, “What small, specific change can I make to my 100 meals based on this?” For example, if you wrote “eat more vegetables”, maybe you’ll decide to fill half your plate with vegetables or fruit at every meal. If you wrote “eat less sugar”, maybe you’ll decide to swap out a sweet treat for a lower sugar alternative, like plain yogurt instead of flavoured yogurt, at every meal.
Need more help? I could write an entire blog post on goal setting, and I have! Here’s an oldie (but goodie!) on SMART goal setting.
4. Keep the Change!
As you work through the changes in your Change Zone, you’ll eventually feel ready to move them into your Comfort Zone. This opens up space for you to move something in from your Hold Zone! Rinse and repeat.
Feel free to share your goals and how you are taking the 100 meal journey for #NutritionMonth!