Let’s be honest, once we form a habit it can be fairly hard to break. This is especially true when it comes to making changes to our diets, as many of our eating habits were formed as early as childhood. There are often many barriers such as the lack of time, pleasing everyone’s preferences, special dietary restrictions, our emotional connection to food, and budget. While making dietary changes can be hard, it is not impossible. We will talk you through some ways to make your goals work for you, and most importantly discuss ways for healthy habits to stick around for the long-run.
Set S.M.A.R.T goals
When making any type of change in habit, research shows that goal-setting is an important part of finding success in achieving that goal. More specifically, it is helpful to set up a goal that works for you. A popular and successful approach to setting goals creating a SMART goal, where SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable/Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.
A SMART goal can help you think through the details and give you a better idea on how you can actually tackle your desired outcome. For example, saying you want to lose 10 pounds is very general and doesn’t give you much direction on how you can accomplish it. Even a goal such as “eating healthier” or “exercising more” can be quite general. Instead, try to think of a goal such as increasing your vegetable intake to two vegetables per day three times a week, going for a 10 minute walk break during your lunch hour Monday-Friday, or drinking two full water bottles each day before 8:00 pm. The more specific you can get, the better. If you’d like to learn more about SMART goals, we spell it out in this blog post here.
Think about the long-term, not the short-term
When you are considering making changes to your diet, think of the journey as a marathon and not a sprint. This is especially important when it comes to making changes in our diet for weight loss. While research does support that dieting can lead to weight loss, what should be considered is an approach that can help weight stay off and prevent weight regain.
A healthy rate of weight loss is a maximum of 1-2 pounds per week; anything more than this may risk slowing metabolism and/or regaining the weight back. Any type of diet program that makes promises that sound too good to be true likely are not looking at long-term success. Be cautious if you hear any messaging that promises to lose 10 pounds in one week or melt belly fat without any work.
One more thing to think twice about is any dietary program that encourages severe restriction, cutting food groups, or requires purchasing expensive shakes or pills. These approaches may put you at an increased risk of failure and weight regain, nutrient deficiency, and lower self esteem. Additionally, too many dietary changes at once may cause burnout. Small, gradual changes are more likely to stick for the long run.
Make it convenient and work with your personality and lifestyle
In addition to making goals that will set you up for long-term success, another thing to consider is how well the goal fits with your personality and lifestyle. For example, if you have always been a night owl and cherish your evening time, making a goal of a 5:00 am workout may not be working in your favor. Instead, maybe an evening yoga class or a mid-day jog would be more realistic for you. If you know you get busy during the weekdays, cooking a healthy dinner each night may be setting you up for failure.
Perhaps you could prep ahead on the weekends and simply reheat on those busy nights. While there will always be obstacles along the way, find ways to work with your personality and lifestyle instead of against it. Anticipate roadblocks, but don’t let them get in the way of your goals.
Find ways to measure progress
Once you have made your SMART goals and you’ve thought about how to make changes for the long-term that work for you, start thinking of ways that can measure your progress. This may require thinking outside the box. The number of the scale is not the only way to measure success when making dietary changes. Some other signs of progress to look out for could include having more energy, feeling less bloated, clothes fitting better, less achy joints, decreased brain fog, or sleeping better. Success can also be seen in biomarkers such as improved blood sugar control , improved blood pressure, or better cholesterol levels. It may be helpful to take note of your “before” status, and check in with yourself or your health care team regularly to see your progress.
Celebrate reaching milestones
As mentioned earlier, making changes can be tough. So when you do notice you are reaching your goals and making your new habits feel like part of your normal routine, don’t forget to celebrate! If you made a goal to run a 5k by the end of the summer, perhaps some new running shoes would be an excellent reward. If your goal was to drink 16 ounces of water before 10:00 am, maybe a fun new water bottle would keep the inspiration going after you’ve been consistent with that goal for a month. When it comes to dietary changes, it is often a good idea to find ways to celebrate that do not involve using food as a reward. So get creative and celebrate those milestones in fun ways!
How can GenoPalate help?
If you find yourself feeling stuck with making changes, you are not alone. Sometimes the challenge is simply where to start and guidelines to make those initial small steps that will eventually gain momentum. Goals, challenges, motivations and lifestyles differ from person to person. It’s important to know where these differences exist and where to begin making changes. Our genetics can give us clues to these differences and provide us insight at the foundational level to our personalized dietary needs. Gain a better understanding of your body, allow your genes to inform your new dietary habits to support your health goals. Click here to learn more about your DNA’s guide to healthy eating.