Healthy Routines – Nutrition Series
At this point in our mini nutrition series we’ve covered what we should be eating and when we should be eating it. Now it’s time to get the wheels on the road and start putting this into practice. As with everything in life the theory can only get us so far, if we want to be really successful we need a system and that’s what we’re going to look at today.
As humans we are fairly fallible beings, we set out with best intentions, knowing what we need to do, yet, somehow, what actually ends up happening is completely contradictory to our goals and we end up regretting later. For example, we’re trying to eat better and lose some weight yet when we get home at the end of a busy day we suddenly realise we actually had half a pack of biscuits at work without realising it. This tends to happen because, whilst we might all feel we are strong willed creatures our willpower is actually hilariously weak and is quickly eroded by a busy day of decision making. This gives our monkey mind chance to take over and before we know it we’re hastily wiping away crumbs before anyone notices.
The good news is that it is relatively straightforward to counter this habit of ours with 3 simple strategies. These will help preserve your willpower and decision making ability, meaning you stay on track with your nutrition and have more energy for the big questions you face in your typical day.
The concept of decision fatigue is important to understand here. Essentially we all have a finite reserve of decision making power we can call on each day. If you’ve ever been shopping after a busy day at work, you will know what I mean. You’ll likely have stood staring blankly at the shelves in front of you unable to make a simple choice of what to have for dinner. At the point when decision fatigue sets in it is very easy to make some poor calls nutritionally and forget your goals.
To counter this, we need to automate our daily diet to some extent. In my experience the easiest way to do this is to have the same breakfast and lunch each day. The beauty of this is that you know exactly what to eat and get through those 2 meals without having to make a decision and use any of our reserve. As we know from last time, these 2 meals are the most important for setting us up metabolically through the day and therefore give us greater freedom when it comes to choosing our evening meal. If you like a bit more variety in life, then pick a couple of options for each and rotate through or just sit down on a Sunday eve and make your choice for each day and pin this on the fridge.
To really make the automation process work we need to wrap some positive routines around our eating. Build your breakfast into a structured morning routine where everything is laid out, yes children may make this a challenge but the same system works for them too. You can then find opportunities to ‘spec up’ your morning by adding other healthy routines. 5 minutes a morning of a specific stretch may help fix that back problem or 10 minutes of meditation before everyone is awake will help you feel calm through your busy day.
Remember that the success is in the system and the more you can execute these routines the quicker they will become habits. Whilst eating the same thing at the same time each morning may seem monkish and dull remember that it is hitting your nutritional goals and saving your crucial decision making power for the big stuff that is coming later on in your day.
If this, then that
Whilst the first 2 strategies will get you a long way we still need to recognise that our lives rarely run as smoothly as we’d like. There will be days when the routine goes out of the window, a sick child or a difficult client will throw things off filter and, if we’re not careful, we will quickly divert to old eating habits. Luckily we can prevent this happening with our third strategy.
Take a moment to reflect on when your eating has fallen off track in the past, consider the specific situations around these and try to spot any triggers. Was it a stressful deadline that prompted a mini chocolate binge? Or a long day that saw the wine and pizza replace the wholefoods evening meal? Once you have your triggers you can start to create ‘If – then’ rules. These are simple intention plans that will override any of the old habits with healthier alternatives. For example:
- If am stressed at work and craving chocolate then I will take a walk and eat some nuts instead
- If I haven’t prepared lunch then I will buy some meat and cheese to have for lunch instead.
- If I have had a long day and don’t have time to cook then I will make a tuna salad.
These simple intentions can keep your progress safe in stressful situations by again removing the need to think. You just do.
I hope this quick run through has proved useful and you now have a plan to build your new, healthy diet around. Remember that your success is in the system and the less you have to think the better the outcomes will likely be!