Do you ever wonder why you just can’t seem to make a diet stick?
You may temporarily make positive dietary changes, but eventually it all slips back into old habits. Why does this happen?
I want to thank those of you who filled out my survey last month, because the two most requested topics were stress and nutrition. Both of these are challenging topics in today’s world! There are two things that matter more than nutritional knowledge when it comes to food health if you’re looking to make lasting changes. Before we address these, let’s play a quick game!
Take out a piece of paper and write “Healthy” on the left side and “Unhealthy” on the right. Simply write out all the foods that come to mind that nourish you on the left, and on the right list all the foods that don’t have nutritional value.
Chances are you have a clear understanding of what that looks like. So why don’t you just eat the “good” foods and stay away from the “bad”? You have the knowledge. You have the understanding. Yet many of us struggle to do it. Why?
There are two main reasons we really struggle with our nutrition:
- You aren’t looking at your behavior (habits) around food.
- You don’t care about it enough – you don’t have a strong enough “WHY” that keeps you going, no matter what.
Behavior is the truth. You could say you are doing “all the right things,” but your behavior and your outcome from those behaviors never lie. These issues are different for everyone, but try to identify and understand the areas that trip you up. Can you practice a healthier response instead?
This takes deliberate practice, every single day.
You have to dedicate yourself 80% of the time to stay on target so that the 10% of the time you don’t feel like sticking to your plan, you are well prepared because you have trained yourself to make the right decisions even when you don’t feel like it. (The other 10% of the time is for mindful indulgences. J) Most people do this the other way around: they habituate poor eating habits 80% of the time and eat decently the 10% of the time they feel like it. That’s not going to cut it!
And even with good habits, ultimately if your primary driver (your “why”) isn’t strong, you will quit. That goes for anything in life: if you don’t care about it, you won’t do it. As an extreme example, if a doctor told you, “If you don’t fix your diet, you will not live past the next year and your family will lose you,” you would probably do something about it without a second thought. Intense emotional drivers are what create positive change for people. Without them you’re just hoping you’ll suddenly find the motivation to make things different.
It is not that you can’t improve your nutrition – it’s that you won’t. Not until there is a big enough reason to do it. You can either accept that, or you can find a reason strong enough to change your behavior. If you really don’t care about it (which is fine by the way…just don’t complain about your lack of results ;) ), then you won’t do it.
Is there something in your life that you love doing so much that even if you fail at it multiple times, you’ll keep going? I can think of a few examples: being a parent, being married, owning a business, playing a sport or participating in a hobby you’re passionate about. You keep going because you have a strong emotional connection to it and you love it. The joys outweigh the failures.
This is where you have to get to with your relationship to food.
Find a way to make nutrition fun and playful: if you can turn it into something you love and something that matters to you, you will have a much easier time making behavioral changes and sticking to it long-term. Find the joy in it. Learn from your behaviors around food. It’s never a food problem, ever. You know what to do; you just aren’t doing it, and that has more to do with psychology, behavior, and emotions than any food advice I could give you.
The hardest part for most people will be accepting this information. Everything in life is designed to teach you something about you: what you’re willing to do, what you’re willing to endure, and the self-confrontation to move through difficult things. Working on nutrition is no different.
What are you willing to do about it?