How to form healthy eating habits and stick to them
Your life today is essentially a sum of your habits. What shape you are in, how successful you are, how happy you are; they all are a result of your habits. What you repeatedly do (i.e. what you spend time thinking about and doing every day) ultimately forms the person you are, the things you believe in, and the personality that you portray.
The pattern behind habits
But what if you want to improve and form new habits and make them stick? There is a framework that can make it easier to stick to new habits so that you can improve your health, your work and your life in general. Every habit (good or bad) follows the same 3 steps:
- Reminder (something that starts the behaviour)
- Routine (the behaviour itself)
- Reward (the benefit from performing the behaviour)
This pattern, also called the “Habbit Loop” or “3 R’s”, has been proved by behavioral psychology researchers over and over again. It's more important to realize that there’s a lot of science behind the process of habit formation, and so we can be relatively confident that your habits follow the same cycle. Let’s pour this pattern into a relevant example.
- Your stomach growls (reminder). This is the reminder that initiates the behaviour. The empty stomach feeling acts as a trigger to tell you you are hungry and somebody please goddamn feed you.
- You eat (clean) food (routine). This the actual action. You start cooking or grab that meal and devour it like a Tyrannosaurus rex.
- You kill the hunger and feel satisfied (reward). This is the reward - or punishment, if you ate not so tasty food.
So if the reward is positive, then you will want to repeat the routine again the next time the reminder happens. Repeat the same action enough times and it becomes a habit. Start by encoding your new behavior in something that you already do and ask yourself: “How can I make this new behavior so easy to perform that I can’t say no to it?”
5 practical tips to form healthy eating habits
Eating clean and healthy food sounds very simple on paper or screen, but for most of us it is hard to stick to and make a habit out of it. Work meetings get in the way and push you to get that unhealthy lunch you do not actually want, but you’re just hungry and want freaking food. Having an empty fridge after coming home late from work/sports makes you run to the nearest supermarket, and you grab whatever your hungry mind is succumbing to quickly please that growling stomach. These situations can be avoided and healthier eating habits at the same time can be created. We give you 5 practical tips to keep in mind when you want to start off healthier eating habits.
1. Eat healthy food you actually like
Silly as it sounds, it is uber important you eat what you like - not what is just considered healthy. If everyone around you is getting all crazy and fired up about the next super-nutritious-human-power-boosting ingredient and recommending you to eat it every single second of every day, but you do not like the taste of it one bit - do not eat it. There are plenty of healthy and tasty alternatives for every ingredient. Food should be a reward, so seek that enjoyment. Be open to test new flavours and ingredients and list down things that work for you for each macro (carbs, protein and fats). Then prepare meals with the ingredients you picked for those 3 categories. Your lunches and dinners will not be boring or unhealthy anymore.2. Have the essentials in your fridge
Planning ahead is key here. Make sure you have something in your fridge to save you from the disappointment when you open your empty fridge just when you need its love the most. A day or two before you know busy and late times lie ahead, get a couple of vegetables in, make sure there is some carbs in the cupboard and have a form of protein in the fridge. With the minimum amount of ingredients and trickery you can magically let a healthy meal appear. An option is to double your portion and use that as a lunch for the day after.
3. Long-term vision
Lasting change is a product of daily habits, not once-in–a-lifetime transformations. Short-term solutions, like seven-day cleanses or “get abs in 30 days”, are designed to kick-start a healthy lifestyle and produce rapid yet not-lasting results. They are not feasible for the long-term and you will give them up after a while (for real, who is going to do 100 push-ups every day for the rest of their lives?).
Repeated and small actions for a considerable amount of time are very powerful. The amount of things you can do within one day is limited. But over the course of a week, month, year or even a decade the results of forming a habit can be extraordinary. Keep that in mind, even when you fear you slipped for a moment.4. Balance is key
A solid base of nutrition is where it all starts from. The 80/20 rule supports balance in all aspects of your life, also food. Form good habits for 5-6 out of the 7 days in a week and choose a day where you feel indulging is permitted. Having a “day off” is totally fine and actually very necessary in the forming of habits; if you think you will fail miserably because you skipped part of your diet, you are setting yourself up failure. Think of your food intake more as a solid guideline and do not tell yourself “I am following a diet”. You will stop following it eventually and fall back into the crevices of unhealthy eating habits you were having before. If you are following a diet you do not like 110% and it feels like a constraint, you will not stick to it and the effort to form a healthy habit is lost. Forming a healthy eating habit takes time, but requires a healthy balance even more.
5. Get the meal prep done
Meal prepping food for multiple days takes planning, effort and time. For many it works like charm and they manage to form a habit. Others try meal prepping for some time, but do not stick to it.
When it comes to making a habit of eating healthy and clean food on a daily basis, FuelMe can nudge you in the right direction and make meal prepping quick and easy. Once you have a certain set of meals delivered to you every week, it makes it so much easier to stay on track with your food intake. Having a bunch of healthy clean meals in your fridge can be a lifesaver during certain days. Get some extra ingredients as a reserve and you are always good to go. You are not ordering FuelMe out of hunger; rather you would like to form those time-saving healthy habits that eventually lead to a healthier lifestyle.