Zoe Bingley-Pullin: Forming healthy habits for a better life & a better world
This International Women’s Day is the perfect time to talk about changing habits and challenging stereotypes. With the campaign theme being “Each for Equal”, it’s about taking responsibility for our own thoughts and actions. This can play out in your own life, improving your health, home life or work situation. And collectively, each one of us can help create a better, more equal world that is free of bias. #eachforequal
Why habits are hard to break
You want to live a better life and be a better person, right? Most people want to eat healthier food and exercise more, learn new things, enjoy close relationships with family and friends. On a broader level in your community, perhaps you want to contribute more, make a difference or speak up more to effectively bring about change. So what’s stopping you? Fear is a big one, but so too are our entrenched habits.
We all have hundreds of little habits that steer us through our daily routine. Perhaps you always put the milk in before pouring the coffee, or brush your hair before cleaning your teeth? Most of our habits are so embedded that we barely spare a thought for them. That’s because these behavioural patterns become fixed into our neural pathways. Our brain receives a trigger and the behaviour is played out in an almost robotic way.
Not only are old habits difficult to break. Healthy habits are often harder to develop than one would like! Despite our good intentions, our old behaviours can often undermine our plans to get to the gym three times a week, to not eat in front of the television, or to recognise ingrained gender stereotypes.
Luckily, through repetition and becoming more ‘aware’ with a greater consciousness, we can form new habits, and maintain them. Our neural pathways get stronger with repeated recurrence until the behaviour is the new normal. Even long term habits can be broken with consistency and determination.
How to form a new healthy habit – in 7 steps
Did you know that only 7.5% of adult Australians meet the guidelines for vegetable consumption? And only 15% of adult Australians are getting the recommended amount of physical activity? Those statistics are pretty worrying. If you’re one of those people that falls short, then you’ll probably agree that you need to establish some new healthy habits that naturally become your new normal. Here are the steps to follow.
Step 1 - Awareness. Firstly you need to have a personal sense of what needs to change.
Step 2 – Thought. Work out which daily patterns no longer serve you and think about the impact long term if you don’t change, versus what could improve if you do.
Step 3 – Goals. Set a specific and achievable goal with a reasonable timeframe to allow change to take hold.
Step 4 – Actions. Determine the incremental steps needed for you to achieve that goal.
Step 5 - Mindfulness. Be positive and focus on the outcomes you want. At the same time remain aware of any environmental influences and your cues that can cause you to revert back to old habits.
Step 6 – Repetition. It takes 21 days (or more) to form a new habit. So, consistency is key! Make sure you do it over and over and before you know it, the action will be set into your normal routine.
Step 7 - Support. Include others in your quest for your new healthy habit goals so they can support you too!
Putting the steps into action - example of a new habit plan
Whatever your health goals, why not try to apply the 7 steps above to creating your new habit? Here’s an real-life example, to help you navigate this process.
Awareness. I’m feeling a little sluggish and overweight. I know that if I eat healthier food I will lose weight and feel happier within myself.
Thought. I’ve been in the habit of overeating the wrong foods without being conscious of whether it’s doing my body good. I want more energy so I can enjoy my life more and feel great.
Goals. I’m going to focus on eating more vegetables and fruit and cutting out some discretionary foods.
a. Plan and pack myself a healthy lunch every day. I start with only placing healthy food in my shopping trolley.
b. Every day I will take healthy snacks to work – such as vege sticks, an apple, yoghurt, berries, nuts and seeds.
c. I’m going to limit myself to just one coffee each morning and try to drink more herbal tea.
d. I won’t keep sweets in my desk at work anymore as I can’t stop at one.
e. Instead of visiting the vending machine in the afternoons, I’m going to eat my own healthy snacks and take 5 minutes to walk around the block to get some fresh air.
f. For my evening meal, I’ll fill half my plate with vegetables from now on.
g. I’ll buy dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate as I know I can limit myself to just a couple of pieces at a time, after dinner (and maybe not every day of the week).
a. Before eating, I’m going to check in with myself about whether I actually feel hungry.
b. I’m also going to eat more slowly and not eat at my desk or in front of the TV, where I can be distracted.
c. I’m aware that I associate drinking coffee with eating sweet biscuits so I’m going to try to savour the smell and taste of the coffee by itself.
Repetition. I’m going to follow my new habit plan religiously for one whole month and I’ll mark daily reminders in my calendar to keep me on track.
Support. I’m my own personal champion along with those around me such as my partner, kids, workmates and friends who I let in on my new goals so they can encourage me all the way. I’ve also signed up to two new health newsletters to help motivate and educate me.
How Dietlicious can help you form new healthy eating habits
When wanting to overhaul your diet, the part that many people struggle with is the forward planning and food preparation required, and the time it takes, when it’s all new to you. Thankfully, Dietlicious makes this so easy for you! There’s no need to think about shopping, cooking or calorie counting as that’s all done for you. For many people, a Dietlicious plan offers the perfect way to start healthier habits. The meals provide a model of what a healthy dish should consist of, in the right portion sizes you should be aiming for in your own home cooking. Plus, you get exposed to a variety of foods that you may not ordinarily cook with or eat. Below are some great options to jump start your new eating habits.
Food Cleanses – are an excellent way to kick-start a weight loss or healthy eating plan and will detox, rebalance and revitalise your body. Designed to give your digestive system a break from preservatives and additives, highly processed foods, wheat, gluten, dairy, red meat and sugar, this type of clean-eating will help you look and feel great! They come in 3, 5 and 10 day options but they can be quite hard-core for some people as they limit calories to just 1000 per day.
Meal Plans - provide a winning formula for short or long term use. Offered over 5 or 7 days at a time, they come in 1200, 1500 or 1800 calorie per day levels, depending on the results you are looking for. Also available is the 5:2 diet if you’d like to sample the benefits of intermittent fasting on two days per week, as well as the more restrictive Fast 800 diet for achieving rapid weight loss in the initial stages. Lunch and dinner packs may also work for those who are happy to make their own healthy breakfast and snacks.
4 Week Body Reset Program – is a complete 4 week wellness program I co-developed with Dietlicious to provide a comprehensive, holistic framework for long term healthy mind and body. This program was specifically developed to train you to cook healthily as it’s the most effective way to help break old unhealthy habits. The program also combines nutritional education with my weekly meal plans, recipes as well as cooking demonstrations, movement videos and meditations. The program includes 20 meals and 20 snacks from the Dietlicious range, which helps ensure you eat well every day, even if you don’t have time to cook.
Whatever healthy new habits you’re hoping to establish this year, I hope these ideas and practical steps can help you succeed. Good luck!