What to Tackle First for Healthy Eating
Many people have a good sense of what healthy eating changes they need to make, but have trouble deciding on WHAT to tackle first.
I love doing a lifestyle mapping exercise with clients to cut through the overwhelm to answer this question — what to tackle first. Take out a piece of paper and draw a line with an arrow on both sides down the center of your paper from top to bottom. At the top arrow write your why from the previous post. At the bottom just write the words “moving away from” and then restate your why
you put at the top of the paper.
Then draw a line with an arrow on both sides across the middle of your paper from left to right. On the right side of the paper write “easiest for me” and on the left side “harder for me.” Now the framework for the mapping exercise is done.
Now get out 15 sticky notes. On each sticky note write out one change that needs to happen in your lifestyle in order to achieve your WHY you stated on the paper. Don’t think too hard on this. Put one lifestyle change on each sticky. It is usually easy to get to 15. Here are some example changes my clients write down: “rationalizing decisions”, “setting boundaries”, “eating a colorful plate of
fruits and vegetables”, “eating more fiber”, “choosing walks over sitting in front of the television”, “quick nourishing meals ready to go”, and “eating higher percentage of whole foods in my diet.”
The last step for mapping out where you should focus first is take each sticky note and put it on the your paper where it fits best for you. Each person will put their sticky notes in a different location. This is the beauty of this exercise.
Whatever sticky note is the closer to the top and furthest to the right is where you want to start. That is a lifestyle change that will be the easiest for you to do and bring you the closest of any changes to your WHY.
You may want to go one step further and break down the easiest lifestyle change into smaller steps or habits. What habit change theory finds is less willpower is needed the smaller the change is. Once we make one small change, adding in more change becomes easier. You build on the one small step and over time you have made one large step.
Additionally, you may want to consider consulting a professional helping you implementing and mapping out in more detail this lifestyle change. This is especially true if you have a strong family history for a chronic disease like diabetes or heart disease or you are already showing signs of a chronic disease.
A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist can help you refine the mapping of your habits to bring about your WHY with cutting edge research. They also can shed some light on some additional lifestyle changes that would help you reach your WHY more quickly. And even better, they might spot a lifestyle change you listed that you don’t need to do to achieve your WHY.
Whether you consult a dietitian or not, going through this exercise is an easy way to filter through all the things your mind is telling you that you “should” be doing to live a healthier lifestyle and instead just focus on one that will bring you success the easiest. Once you have success with one habit change, the next one comes easier, and then the next and the next.
The most important part, is just start.