It's the start of the new year! Many of us are in the process of setting new goals and intentions for the coming year and for many, these goals will include a nutritional focus as we strive to improve our physical health and live with more vitality.
As a Wellness Consultant with certifications in holistic nutrition, I agree that nutrition is something that we can improve on to increase our overall wellness. However, in my experience both personally and professionally, working towards our nutrition goals in a structured SMART goal framework (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) does not necessarily translate into the results that we are looking for. Why? Because so many of the reasons that we eat certain foods, at certain times and in certain amounts are deeply connected to our emotions and are often buried deep in our subconscious. Most of the time, we don’t even know these thoughts and impulses are happening. Traditional SMART goals don’t touch any of this deeper mental/emotional stuff. We need to DIG IN, be more mindful, grow our sense of awareness of ourselves and the world around us, reflect and talk about the things that we are working on. Working through this stuff truly engages and connects us to the PROCESS of meeting our goals and this is where the magic happens!
I recently led a holistic goal setting workshop called The Reason Why Your Smart Goals are Not so Smart. This post won’t get into all of it, but if you want to check out the workshop content and work through a few exercises to get clear on your goals and what might be keeping you from achieving them, you can check it out here.
One of the first elements of the holistic smart goals process is making small, manageable changes and increasing our daily healthy habits. Whether your goals are health related or related more to business or love, this aspect needs to be a focus for us. Good quality nutrition and improving our daily habits provide the solid foundation that everything else is built upon. Making small manageable changes in this area will make us FEEL better. We see an increase in our energy, we sleep better, have less pain, our hormones balance, we have a more consistent mood. We start to notice improvements in ailments that we may have been experiencing. When we FEEL better in our physical bodies we are much more likely to be positively engaged in our the process of meeting our goals.
These small changes also help us to increase our level of confidence in ourselves that we CAN make changes and that the end goal IS a reality for us. Set huge changes off the bat and you will most likely find them too hard, too scary and you will stop. Our nervous system is hard wired to make sure that we don’t get too uncomfortable. It keeps us safe but it also keeps us stuck. (This is another thing that we chatted about in my holistic goal setting workshop and if you have ever felt like a failure for not reaching your goals in the past, you should really check it out.)
So, when working with clients in my group programs or one-on-one coaching, we strategize about small changes that they can commit to that are manageable for them to do consistently, every day. These aren’t big changes, but they make an impact over time. As Jeff Olson eloquently states in his book The Slight Edge, “Simple daily disciplines - little productive action repeated over time - add up to the difference between failure and success.”
Regardless of our goal, when we look at the big picture of all that needs to happen to reach said goal we can spiral into feelings of overwhelm and doubt. We must ensure instead that we stay focussed on the process, and start with the the small manageable changes and daily healthy habits that WILL produce a change over time.
1. Shop with a list!
Not only will this impact what you buy, it will impact what you spend as well. What to put on your list? Well, we could get into a discussion about meal planning but really, meal planning works for some and not for others In the very least take some time to think about what you are low on, what you will probably need during the week and what you will need to prepare those things. This doesn’t need to be a time consuming endeavour. Make a list and stick to it when you are shopping. If you find that you can’t stick to it no matter what you do, don’t be afraid to ask for some help. Most of us need this kind of support when we are making changes.
2. Stick to the outer edges of the grocery store.
Have you ever noticed how the grocery store is arranged? Notice this next time you go shopping. Whole foods like produce, meat and eggs, bulk foods and whole grains are typically located around the outer rim of the store. Venture down the inner aisles and you will be bombarded by the bright colors and attractive packaging of the most toxic, highly processed, preservative laden and high calorie foods in the store. Stay out of the cereal aisle all together! There is nothing there that you or your kids need. If you do venture down one of these aisles go with a clear intention of grabbing the item that you require and stick to that. You will be amazed at how the contents of your shopping cart and therefore cupboards change.
3. Eat a healthy snack before you head to the store.
We are much more likely to shop based on impulse and cravings when we are hungry. This tip will be especially helpful if you tend to shop later in the afternoon (between 2-4pm) as we often tend to experience mid-afternoon hunger bursts (impacted by our circadian rhythm and hormone levels). Before you head off to the store, eat something. Focus on eating a snack that has a higher protein content as it will keep you satisfied until your dinner and you will be less likely to snack while cooking. Think of, a handful of nuts, some plain greek yogurt or a homemade protein ball. If protein isn’t available to you at that time, aim for a whole food option that will give you an enjoyable sensory experience and leave you feeling good. A crunchy apple, sweet strawberries or slightly sour raspberries, aromatic peppermint tea, a fuzzy kiwi fruit or a couple of salty olives. This doesn’t have to be a super complicated process that adds to your day. If you are heading to the store after work, just pack an extra little snack in your lunch and save it for your pre-shop. Ensuring that we are feeling satisfied when we shop will help us stay focussed on the things that we need that are on our list, not what we are craving because we are hungry.
4. If it is not in your house, you are less likely to eat it.
Plain and simple. You are in charge of what you bring into your home from the store. Most of us know which foods are healthy and which are not. We also have a pretty good sense of what we are likely to mindlessly binge on. It may take some awareness in the moment to refrain from buying these things, but not having them in your home WILL impact what you eat. This doesn’t require fancy meal planning or calorie counting. It just means that you don’t buy these things. Heck, you may even save some money along the way.
5. We are more likely to eat the first thing we see.
A study conducted at Cornell University revealed that we are three times more likely to eat the first thing we see than the fifth. Think for a minute what you keep on your counters and what the first things you see are when you open the fridge or the cupboards. A few minutes spent re-organizing your cupboards and fridge can have a big impact on what you decide to eat in a moment. Instead of keeping a cookie jar on the counter, aim for a fruit bowl, or better yet, a vegetable bowl. If you are a parent, this can be a really helpful strategy to encourage healthy choices by your children as well.
Because these changes are small, they are not threatening. They are easy to add to your routine and easy to maintain. Repeated over time, they engage you in the process, allow for gentle change to take place and increase your confidence in your own ability to shift your life in a positive direction.
WHEN you hit a road block, and you will, because we all do, be mindful. Ask yourself questions from a place of curiosity and drop the judgement. Why did I just grab that box of cookies? I ate it so fast, did I even taste it? What was I doing? How was I feeling? What triggered this action or reaction? Grab your journal, write it out.
This is the process! This is where we really get into the meat of our goals and the subconscious blocks and/or beliefs that are keeping us stuck in unhealthy patterns and our goals dwindling in the distance.
This is the focus and the basis of the design of my ComplEAT Wellness Lifestyle Program that launches on Monday, Jan. 25th. It includes 8 weeks and 9 modules that include weekly group calls, content and holistic strategies to solidify your nutritional foundations, work through your blocks and start taking a more holistic and mindful approach to living your life. This is what makes our goals and dreams come true. Regardless if your end goal is nutrition and health focussed or more related to business, love or even just finding more joy in your day to day life, this process WORKS.
Not quite sure? Maybe you have some questions about how this process would work for you. I’d love to chat with you. You can schedule your free chat here.
Here's to healthy habits and making your greatest dreams a reality.