Making one small change to how, when or what you eat over 30 days can easily improve your health and lead to substantial and positive results.
This new change can also include how you think about food (your mindset and relationship with food), as well as meal planning and meal preparation habits.
In other words, every action you take in relation to food and eating can and will have an effect on your health.
How will habits improve your health?
Habits play a significant role when it comes to making healthier eating choices. Over time when you layer habits – meaning one habit has become a regular practice – the next habit will add to the improvements gained from the previous one.
This is referred to as the snowball effect – as a snowball rolls down a hill it picks up more snow and becomes larger. The same is true for layering “good habits.” A single good habit will offer results, but when you layer a few good habits that support and enhance each other, that’s when you really begin to reap substantial health benefits.
Improvement takes time and effort
At our best, humans create, push themselves to succeed, try and do better than before and reach for the proverbial peak.
If you’ve achieved any level of great success (however you define that) you know what I’m talking about. How many years did you push yourself to the limit, to exhaustion? What did you give up to focus on your goal? How many tasks and projects did you take on to get to where you are now?
Pushing yourself to the limit to succeed is not sustainable over the long term. We breakdown at some point from lack of rest, sleep, proper nutrition and emotional connection.
Things at rest want to stay at rest – that’s the nature of homeostasis and that’s also the desire of TV show producers and other forms of entertainment like Facebook or YouTube. They are distractions that will keep you from achieving your goals if over used and abused.
If I was to tell you that you only need to make one small change, or add one simple habit to your day, you might respond, “Wait, just one? I don’t have time for that! Give me the whole damn program and I’ll get it done by this afternoon!”
What we need, however, is sustainable, long-lasting change, which is the result of regularly practiced habits and routines that have since become unquestioned or unconscious actions in our daily lives.
The all-or-nothing, let me do it all now approach might work to get an urgent project completed and delivered on time. Improving your health takes time and conscious, consistent effort. Our bodies are not a work project that once completed require no more work. Our bodies are an organic living entity that respond and react to the world around us (work, stress, people, pollution, food, environment, etc.) and the world within us (healthy bacteria, presence of illness, physiology, mindset, etc.).
When past habits no longer serve you
One of my clients used to be a competitive wrestler in high school. For summer jobs he worked as a garbage collector, lifting and heaving cans of garbage into the back of the truck and running alongside the truck all day long. He was ripped, strong, full of energy, and he could eat like only an active teenager can.
At university and his subsequent career his focus shifted. Slowly but surely he worked out less and sat longer. He still loved to eat, but that teenager appetite, minus the intense daily exercise, slowly erased his six-pack abdominals.
What changed? His eating habits didn’t, but his exercise habits faded into distant memory. Now he’s 40 pounds overweight and with serious health issues.
There is no miracle cure to improve health
There are only changes that you can consciously and consistently make over time. These changes, if they are to have an optimal effect, must be unique to you.
Some changes require more effort. Some changes will teach you what you value and what you resist. Some changes require little to no effort.
Let’s focus on changing something small. Something that would benefit most people.
Can you make a list of a few small things that might offer big health benefits down the road? Things that you know would be easy for you to do?
30-Day Healthy Habits
At first glance these habits might seem too easy, but don’t let appearances fool you. Pick the one that appeals to you the most. The one practice that you know you can easily do without much effort at all.
1. Eat one serving of vegetables at every meal (the size of your fist).
Benefits: more nutrients, fibre, more fullness with fewer calories.
2. Eat a healthy breakfast every morning.
Example: 1-2 mini quiches with a serving of fruit (banana, apple, a handful of berries, etc.)
Benefits: more energy all day long, less need for coffee, less need for a sweet or high-carb snack like a muffin or donut in the morning, helps with body-fat loss.
3. Eat a healthy salad with lean protein every weekday for lunch.
Example: A salad of mixed or field greens with nuts, seeds, chicken breast, olive oil and lemon juice.
Benefits: lots of nutrients, fibre, large variety of greens that offer a host of health benefits, protein builds muscle and provides satiety, lunch is often an easier time to make a health choice.
4. Prepare meals and snacks in advance.
Example: Make a slow cooker recipe of 4-6 servings to provide dinner and lunch the next day.
Benefits: Having meals prepared means you don’t have to think about what you’re going to eat; better adherence to eating healthy, simplifies your work day.
A personal story
In 2014 my partner and I decided to not eat desserts for 30 days. This was partly for vanity reasons and for better health. Yes, we had become lazy and we were eating too many desserts too often.
Since I cook my own meals the only processed food I was eating was in the form of store-bought desserts. I was consuming refined sugar from desserts and eating too much saturated fat, as well as low nutrient quality fats.
Long story short, I weighed myself for total body weight, skeletal muscle mass, and body fat .
We only ate dessert two times that month when we visited our families for Mother’s day. At home we stayed on track 100% of the time.
At the end of the 30 days I lost 5 pounds of body fat. My muscle mass stayed exactly the same. I didn’t change my workouts or my level of physical activity for the month. The only change in my lifestyle was not eating desserts.
That one small change of not eating desserts for an entire month resulted in,
- A loss of 5 pounds of body fat;
- I felt better about myself, and;
- I didn’t fell bloated all the time.
Chose one thing you want to stop doing.
Or think of this choice as, one thing you are going to “start” doing.
What’s holding you back? What are the limitations or challenges in your life that could make it “seems like” that change, that simple, little change, would be too much? Take a few minutes and write down your thoughts.
Still struggling with resistance?
Read this article if you can’t seem to get clear on why you’re struggling with change.
What to do today.
When you’ve chosen what you want to stop doing, or what you want to start doing, take another moment to decide when you are going to implement that change.
Don’t put it off making this change for a week or you’ll lose the momentum of the moment.
Start today, or latest tomorrow.
Book your new practice in your calendar if this is something that needs to be scheduled. Otherwise, write a post-it note or add your habit to a task app and set a reminder. Make that reminder recurring and with an alarm for the next 30 days.
I’d like to know what you’ve decided to practice. Would you do me a favour and write your answer in the comments below?
Eat well to be well.