By Leah R., Lifestyle Consultant, St. Cloud Livea and Lauren E., RDN, LD, Roseville Livea
Have you ever changed a habit in 21 days? Me neither. Habits can be deeply rooted in our lives, maybe even since we were children! Every year, the week after Christmas, I would stock up on discounted chocolate covered cherries. I grew up eating them and I found myself craving them every December. Decades later, I finally realized, I don’t even like them! Yet I still find myself having to consciously turn away from this treat in the grocery store because I associate it with warm childhood memories.
Take a moment to think about what habitual food choices you have developed throughout your life. I’m going to share with you several tips that can help you rewire your habits to set you up for a healthy and successful New Year.
Give Yourself Time
We must learn to be patient with ourselves as change doesn’t happen overnight. It is a long-term process. Each time you get it right, celebrate yourself. If you make a mistake, learn from it, and move forward as soon as possible. When we dwell on an experience and have guilt about a past action, often we look to comfort ourselves especially in the form of emotionally eating unhealthy foods. This can set back our progress. Punishing ourselves when we feel that we “failed” does nothing to serve us. There are, however, great benefits to recognizing ourselves when we do succeed. When we acknowledge our wins from accomplishing our goals, it raises our self-esteem, our drive, and increases the likelihood that we will do the right thing again next time. The more we practice these behaviors, the more we will develop strong patterns of healthy habits. We will then rewire our habits over time. Watch this wonderful webinar on Creating Habits for Lasting Change!
Utilize / Find Your Support
Do you know anyone that can accomplish everything completely on their own? I could not think of anyone either! Having a support network is essential for developing new habits along with maintaining them. In a two-year study of about 800 participants, people who received coaching as a part of a lifestyle intervention program lost more weight, had better blood sugars, better cholesterol ratios, and improved Metabolic Syndrome Severity scores (2). Having a team to support you can help you to navigate challenges and create solutions that consistently work for you. Aside from those close to you, your Livea team is here for you every step of the way!
Practice “Flexible Restraint”
Perfect eating, especially around the Holidays, isn’t always realistic. Set a specific, but flexible boundary for your food intake. For some, this means choosing the dark meat turkey, even though it is not as lean, if you happen to like it the best. For others, this might mean choosing a small slice of pie at dinner while passing by the rolls, stuffing, and potatoes (3). Identify what your specific goals are for this day or even for the one week. Is it to lose weight, maintain your weight, or even gain a little weight? Be realistic with what is important to you and share that with your Livea team as we can help you to achieve your goals. Also, it is important to acknowledge that your goals may be different for that day or that week and that is okay too. It can be very helpful to check in with your Livea consultant the week prior to the holidays as they can help you set boundaries around food.
Make a Plan and Ask for Help
To ensure you are set up for success for the holidays, it is very important to plan ahead. The holidays can be very challenging as you will most likely be surrounded by large portions of tasty food options and treats. This can be a trigger for many people and make it hard to resist. If you want to stay on track with your goals, it is vital that you plan what you are going to eat before, during, and after the occasion. Livea has a great webinar on Holiday Meal Planning if you would like additional tips!
Do not be afraid to ask for help from those around you. Would it help if family or friends kept the treats out of the main sitting area? Ask for this! Would it help if seconds or leftovers were not offered? Can you bring your own healthy salad to share? Let your host know! People around us are often willing to support us if we advocate for ourselves and what we need.
Change Your Rewards
In the battle of weight loss and weight maintenance, there is often tension between two things we want: Food vs. Benefits of weight loss (1,3). We know that choosing certain food will set us up for either healthy or unhealthy outcomes, but it can be difficult to see that in the moment. For example, around the Holidays, we tend to connect food to many positive experiences like connecting with loved ones and celebration. When we eat that food, we feel the reward of that food for a moment, but in the long term, we may miss out on the reward of feeling our best.
One of the most impactful ways to manage this tension is to find what reward the food is providing for us and find a healthy, non-food experience to receive that same reward (1,3). For example, if you tend to overeat at Holiday gatherings, what are you looking for in the food? Is it celebration, connection or even just nostalgia? How can you experience those feelings without extra food? A few examples might be cooking healthy recipes with your loved ones, playing games, or building a snowman. Find what works for you!
Build Food Routines that Consistently Work for You
Have you ever seen those Instagram-Perfect photos of meal prep containers and felt like you could never do that? Well, the good news is, that is not the only way to meal-prep! The important part is to find a meal routine that works for you, so you can stick with it and be consistent. You could start by finding some staple meals that you and your family enjoy and make those consistently on certain days of the week. An example would be, having Taco-Tuesday, you can have tacos or taco salads. This takes the guesswork out on what to have for dinner and it can be made relatively quickly, especially on a busy weeknight. Planning out your nights not only will set you up for following your goals, but you will have an easier time grocery shopping as you already know what you will need. Another way to build a healthy food routine is choosing a few foods that the family really likes and eating those for snacks. If you have a snack you can count on, that is one less thing to worry about during a busy week. Even having a couple of go-to choices at restaurants can be a great help if you don’t want to make food at home on a particular night. Livea has a dining out guide you can reference for local and chain restaurants. Be sure to pick something that you like! With the meal already chosen, it takes the temptation out of the equation! Consistency does not mean eating the exact same thing every day, but it can mean less stress of decision making, more frequent healthier choices, and less focus on food.
A lot of times we imagine that exercise will help us lose a lot of weight, but the truth is, while exercise has some benefit for weight loss, it has significant benefit for weight maintenance. Physical activity helps to keep our body in a healthy place to maintain a healthy weight. Having a healthy amount of muscle mass will enable us to burn more calories at rest, improve our strength, regulate appetite, longevity and help to prevent bone density loss and injury. It can also be helpful by decreasing the number of sedentary activities we do each day, like watching TV.
By now, you’ve probably noticed some habitual behaviors that you want to improve on and the first step to creating a healthier habit, is to acknowledge that habit. The best way to develop a healthy habit is to replace an old, not so healthy habit, with a better one. Give yourself grace and patience as a habit change takes time and a strong support system. It also takes planning and strategizing for our mindset and our environment. Your Livea Team can help you customize your approach to find solutions that consistently work for you for long term success!
Greaves C, Poltawski L, Garside R, Briscoe S. Understanding the challenge of weight loss maintenance: a systematic review and synthesis of qualitative research on weight loss maintenance. Health Psychol Rev. 2017 Jun;11(2):145-163. doi: 10.1080/17437199.2017.1299583. Epub 2017 Apr 7. PMID: 28281891.
Hochsmann, C., Dorling, J.L., Martin, C.K., Newton, R.L., Apolozan, J.W., et. al. February 9, 2021. Effects of a 2-year primary care lifestyle intervention on cardiometabolic risk factors: A cluster-randomized trial. Circulation. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.120.051328