Welcoming a new year often comes with hopes and dreams of change. You might see new year new you! all over social media, you might be hearing a lot of chatter about new year’s resolutions, you might even be creating your own. When it comes to change and creating new habits in life that are pretty different than your current habits, it takes a lot more than dreaming about the changes we want.
You see, creating a new habit is hard. There are countless books written on this topic, all so full of great information trying to hack our human nature that so strongly pulls us to return to our set point of being. While there are many great tactics out there to create new habits and make them stick, the one thread that seems to run through them all is practicing the new desired habit long enough so that you no longer have to think about it anymore. The process up to that point can be dicey, but it is possible.
Generally our brains are fairly lazy. Once it doesn’t have to work so hard to resist the changes we are trying to make, it finally accepts the new habit and then stops resisting it. Eventually the new habit occurs unresisted, without having to think about it. When you are trying to create any change in your life, the inevitable force you are up against is just yourself and the old habit you are trying to replace. You have to constantly work towards convincing yourself that the new habit is worth keeping around through practice and consistency.
When it comes to healing from a life of chronic dieting and emotional eating, it can be tough to create a new habit of relating to food in a non-emotional way. The truth is that diets don’t work but creating new healthy habits, one small incremental step at a time does. If you want to transform your relationship with food, your body and yourself, it’s best to start small, acknowledge and accept that it will take time, effort, concentration, focus, backsliding and picking yourself back up and planning and…you get it, it just takes a lot.
It’s helpful to start the process of change and healing your relationship with food with giving up the belief that a diet or any “lifestyle” or wellness program will cure everything. It is helpful to then get really clear on why you want what you want. Having a plan, a dedicated focus and the willingness to commit to yourself and recommit to yourself over and over again will bring you closer to making this desired change.
I think one reason change and creating new habits is so hard is because we’ve been seduced by the idea that it should be easy. This idea sells a lot of diets, program and systems. So much media attention is placed on 3 simple tricks to…, or the 1 hack you need to…, or how to lose X pounds fast while still eating whatever you want. These are all sensational, get our attention and when it doesn’t provide the promised result we just get caught up into the next shiny headline.
If you can let go of the belief that it will be easy, simple and fast and then trust yourself to show up for what you want, it may not be fast and easy but it will be possible. There might be some fun hacks, and it might be interesting to learn what makes us tick, but there is nothing like starting where you are with what you have and making a choice that today is the day—every single day.
To begin, know what you want, what vision you have for yourself, make sure you are super clear on WHY you want this. It’s helpful when your why is enough to motivate you during those times when your motivation wanes. Then determine the habit you’d like to create that will help move you closer to where you’d like to be and why you want to be there.
Now consider the action steps it will take to implement this habit. For example, if you’d like to begin eating more vegetables, the action steps might be, 1. Buy a leafy green or other vegetable that you like, 2. Have a recipe ready to prepare this vegetable, 3. Plan what day you will cook/prepare this recipe, 4. Follow through on your plan, 5. Reflect on how you feel. 6. Repeat!
The process of reflecting on how you feel will help you navigate how it’s really going and what you might need to shift or change. This is how habits become sustainable, when they are doable within your current life schedule, desirable-you truly want it-and when they are not rigid. If it isn’t doable, desirable and if you feel like you have to be perfect you are setting yourself up for failure.
Once this new habit is FIRMLY in place (you no longer have to think about it anymore and you are eating vegetables every single day without resistance) choose the next habit you’d like to implement. This process is simple and yet definitely not easy. There are going to be days you don’t want to eat your veggies. There will be days you have to throw a vegetable away because you never got around to preparing it or eating it. There will be days you don’t have time… These will feel like failures and it feels terrible to fail so then we figure it’s easier to just stop and give up then it is to try again and possibly fail again. This is backsliding. Backsliding is an inevitable part of the process of change.
When backsliding occurs, please don’t get discouraged. Return to reflecting on your goals, what you want and understand why it’s not working. Find the belief in what you want to be possible so you can keep trudging forward with your plan. Return to WHY you want this and let that help to support you and motivate you to keep trying. Then one magical day you’ll just be eating your vegetables without having to think about it (or do the exercise or meditation or cleaning or stop eating when satisfied or…whatever your goal may be) and you will feel the benefits of your hard work, determination and the willingness to believe in yourself.
There is no simple trick, only the determination to put in the work and make it happen, even when—especially when—you don’t want to. Staying the course even when you backslide, even when it’s hard, will help you learn and grow and create the change you desire. One day it becomes not so hard, and you feel the shift and that’s when you know you can savor the changes you’ve made and even begin to look to what’s next. Consider taking yourself through this process and prepare yourself for the challenges and the delights that lie ahead.
Happy New Year!!