Changing your habits can be a difficult task. The information about what to do is more prevalent than ever, with social and commercial media both understanding how well nutrition and lifestyle rates. However, how to change your behaviours and what mistakes to avoid are often overlooked. Having worked within the Nutrition and Fitness Industry for 8 years, I often see a few mistakes that are repeated by lots of clients across many demographics. Take a read below and make sure you aren’t following in the same footsteps.
Taking Education or Advice from the Wrong Places
From personal trainers, to celebrity chefs, to Instagrammers, to parents, to friends, to the back of cereal packets, many of my clients come in seriously misinformed as to how food and their body actually works. I can’t emphasise enough to apply some critical thinking as to where you get your nutritional advice from. Make sure you talk with a qualified professional to only receive information you can trust to be true.
Lack of Planning
How are you meant to change your behaviours or what you eat, if you don’t plan ahead? Waking up on a Monday and saying, “I’m going to eat better this week” or “I’m going to bring in lunch from home this week” doesn’t provide any framework for you to be able to change what you are doing. Simple ideas around planning can provide some basic framework for you to stick to. This could include doing a reconnaissance mission for some healthy and nutritious lunch spots around work, or writing a shopping list for your meals and snacks for the week.
Being Too Strict
Nutrition is not an exact science. Behavioural science is definitely not an exact science. Out of the last 10 years and with the rise of technology, so many of my clients feel that they need to track everything they do, from eating, to exercise, to sleep. Not only that, many feel that if they aren’t perfect then they shouldn’t bother with change, or that if they are being perfect, and they have one meal or snack that doesn’t meet their self imposed, unrealistic high expectations, then they may as well not bother. An idea that I try to get across to my clients is that improvement is improvement, no matter where you are. 50+1% is still more than 50%.
Falling at the First Relapse
Relapse is a natural part of behavioural change. It happens to everyone, and it happens often. So many of my clients fall after a hurdle, and never get back up. You will fail, everyone will fail. It is part of being human. Understanding that is the key to making long lasting change. Do some introspection, try to figure out why you failed, then plan accordingly.
Not Setting the Correct Goals
What goals you set will play a big part in defining your success in changing behaviours. Clear, realistic, and achievable, behaviour based goals are a great tool to use to allow you to focus on what you want to change, to solidify your ideas into something you can grasp onto. Behaviour based is key. Setting outcome-based goals, such as improving fitness or energy levels, is a good long-term strategy, but the day-to-day goal setting needs to focus on specific behaviours.
Not Learning from Previous Mistakes
I’ve seen so many clients fail in their attempts at long term, sustainable change. Just like relapsing, failure is part and parcel with trying to change your behaviours. However, if you fail, at least do some introspection, a review of what you were doing and the true reasons as to why it may have failed. Don’t just hop straight back into what you were doing previously. Tried going to the gym, hated every second of it, and only lasted a few weeks? Then maybe the gym isn’t the answer this time around!
Not Acknowledging Progress
An important aspect of long-term change is recognising where you have come from. Of seeing where you have come from and making sure that you congratulate yourself for every small piece of improvement. It’s so important to look back at where you have come from as opposed to only looking at where you want to go. The latter can get daunting; the former can make you appreciate how hard you have worked.
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