This is a bit of sneak peak into the content that I’ve been discussing with my 8 week nutrition cohort.

As someone with a background in Public Health, I’ve always been interested in the social determinants of health. How do our landscapes, opportunities, communities, and environments shape our health outcomes? Specifically, how can access (or lack thereof) to fresh, nutritious, and affordable foods impact mental health or chronic conditions? Through this lens, I worked in many landscapes. Everywhere from rural Cambodia to rural Appalachia then to New York City. While my heart and passion will always lie in food insecurity, I started to gain interest for how our emotions and psychology shape our behaviors. Enter: nutrition coaching.

I had a client tell me once, “I tell everyone you’re my therapist” and while therapy is out of my scope of practice, I do find the intersection often. After all, our behaviors are linked to our emotions. Our food choices are linked to our emotions. Arguably, behaviors are linked to our food choices. So while this may seem like a small venn diagram of a truly intricate web, the reality is, we’re just one constantly moving cog. It becomes clear that nutrition coaching cannot involve just “eat this” or “try this”. Nutrition coaching is about understanding the emotions behind cravings, understanding sleep, examining water intake, looking at stress levels, and developing habits.

As we round out the end of the first month of the year, some of us have already abandoned our habits and goals we set for ourself in the new year. If you’ve made it this far, congratulations, you’re one of the 10%! But I want to address what happens to other 90% and remind you that making healthy choices is not an all-or-nothing mindset. Here are some of the key components of a good habit:

  1. Start small – Pick one thing and do it well. Is it to drink more water? Start with a cup in the morning, then add a cup before each meal, then add a set ounces each day, etc. Don’t say, “I’m only going to drink water and nothing else” but rather, “I’m going to increase my water intake by ____”
  2. Make it easy – You should approach each habit and think “wow, that’s not even a challenge”. The best way to do this is add a little bit to something you already do. If your goal is to run 10 miles a week. How about you focus on just running 1 mile a day. Or, run an 800 before and after class. Or, take a lunch break and run two miles. “Easy” is relative, but it should be something you can do with confidence
  3. Name the want – Often we make habits for sake of wanting a result. “I want to exercise 4 times a week so I can lose weight”. But why do you want to lose weight? What is it about losing weight you desire. Is it to improve health? Then, start to think of your want as a routine. “I’m going to exercise because this serves my better and moves me closer to where I want to be”.
  4. Set up your environment – Is your goal to stop drinking so much coffee? How about not brewing a pot every morning? Instead, make a french press or half pot. Something single serve. Is your goal to get off of social media? Set up restrictions on your phone, move your phone out of the room if you’re working/sleeping, etc.
  5. Don’t think all or nothing – even if you slip, even if you don’t have a “perfect” day, those small changes add up to big results. Practice, patience, and progress NOT perfection.

A lot of this ideology is based on Atomic Habits by James Clear, but utilizes behavior-based stages of change and trans-theoretical models. For help navigating these changing cycles, consider signing up with a nutrition coach!

And remember, “the secret to change is to not focus on fighting the old, but building the new.”