(Cartoon by Adrienne Hedger)
I couldn’t have said it better myself! After all the holiday treats I’m feeling a little meh, sluggish, and in need of a serious nap. All the overindulging has me committed to doing at least a month of straight clean eating come this New Year. Of course I’ve been contemplating and planning all my New Year’s resolutions, and it’s made me dive into a bit of research on forming good habits. I don’t want this to be a month of clean eating, then slide right back into life like it’s the holidays all over again. No, I want to have a healthy reset, and get my old healthy habits back on track for good!
Over the next few days I’ll be sharing some of the research I’ve found, and all the tips and tricks that got me to my healthy spot in the first place. For part one of my habit series I figure first things first:
We’re starting here because, let’s face it, we need to have the right mind set before we even start. Following these suggestions will give you a bit of a head start on forming your new habit.
When you’re making your list of resolutions keep it simple. James Clear in his habit guide suggests start with something incredibly small, so easy, you can’t say no. I tend to fall in the camp of wanting to perfect allll the things. I set so many goals that by the end of day 3 I’m already overwhelmed, and giving up.
To keep it simple make a list of your goals, then prioritize them on what is most important to you, or what you want to tackle first. Then work on JUST ONE GOAL at a time. Once you feel you’ve got that goal under control, and it isn’t so difficult, keep doing what you’re doing and start working on your next goal.
For me, my goal is 30 days of clean eating. I’m going to keep it simple by focusing on that one thing. I’m not going to monitor my water intake, count how many times I go to the gym, or work on any other goal. I’m not going to add any crazy rules to my clean eating to make it harder than it needs to be. I’m going to stick to the Whole30 rules, because I know that works for me, and that’s it.
I’m writing down my one goal in my day planner, followed by the things listed in my tips below. What is your one goal going to be for the New Year?
This is where we get really, really honest with ourselves and write down why we want to accomplish this task. The key here is looking for POSITIVE MOTIVATORS. This is so important because there’s a cycle of negativity and self loathing many of us go through, and it will not help us accomplish what we want. The reason? When we start progressing, we start feeling happy. The negativity and self loathing goes away. And then boom….there goes our motivation!
Then we quit, and we don’t understand why we can’t stick to our goals.
Make your motivation positive. Then as you start seeing results, and have positive feelings, those feelings will only help push you further along. For me, I want to eat clean not because I hate my body, it’s actually the exact opposite. I want to eat clean out of respect for my body, to have more energy, have clearer radiant skin, lose my seasonal allergies, improve my immune system, improve digestion, and feel better all over. All of these motivators will last my entire lifetime. I will always want these things.
Identify your personal motivators that will help you cross the finish line and keep you going for a lifetime.
Now that we’ve decided on the ONE goal we’re going to tackle, we need to make a plan on achieving that goal so we’re ready come Jan 1.
For my goal, that means I need to make a meal plan for several days, then go grocery shopping. If you have fitness goals maybe there is gear you need to buy, a gym membership, or clothing. Spend the next few days putting together what you need to be successful.
When you’re prepping for your goal, again keep it as simple as possible. When it comes to clean eating I make things simple by making breakfast fairly routine. It usually looks like sautéed veggies, then I add a few eggs and let them steam in the same pan. Lunch is always leftovers from dinner the night before. Then dinner is where I get creative, but I still try and keep things repetitive enough to keep it easy.
Write down the preparation steps you need to take to be ready for Day 1.
I learned this from my days of using a Franklin Day Planner, and truth is I’m old school and still use one. It’s pretty simple. You’ve decided on your goal, you’ve identified what preparation you need to do, now schedule everything in your calendar of when you’re actually going to do it. This works for many reasons. First, we’re taking a large goal, then breaking it down into smaller, simpler ones. Remember step 1, keeping it SIMPLE. Here we do that again, and create mini tasks, so easy you can’t say no. This also works so you have the time to accomplish what you want to actually do. You’ve already eliminated the old “I have no time”, or “I’m just too busy” excuse. The simple act of scheduling things in prioritizes these things as “important” in your brain. Giving you another boost of positivity to accomplish your goals.
One strategy of when to schedule things in is by creating “Behavior Chains” as an article at 99u calls it. Basically you do some “if-then” planning where an environmental trigger lets you know when to act on your new habit. This tactic works when you pick a regular part of your routine and build a “link in your chain” by adding a new habit to that already existing behavior.
For example, part of my daily routine is waking up and making everyone breakfast and getting them out the door in time for school and work. I’m going to add “eating only vegetables, fruit, meat and healthy fat” to that routine. It looks something like “IF it is breakfast, THEN I’m going to eat only vegetables, fruit, meat and healthy fat”. Let’s say your goal is to hit the gym, you could try “When I drive home from work I’ll head to the gym”, or “when my alarm goes off in the morning, I’ll change into my gym clothes and go workout”. This strategy works because instead of relying on will power (that we know can be weak under many circumstances), we rely on environmental cues.
Look for loops in your daily chain and see where it’s appropriate to create your behavior chains.
Over the next couple days I’ll be sharing more tips, tricks and what researchers say on how to stick to your goals after Day 1, and keep yourself motivated to cross the finish line and continue living in your newly formed habits.
Happy Holidays ~Tiffany