Saturday, April 28, 2012

Behavior Change - Keeping a Food and Exercise Log

It seems that the past two winters I have fallen into unhealthy eating patterns.  Summers tend to be no problem since I am not teaching, but come December with high stress levels and unruly students I find my self loading up on coffee and refined carbohydrates.  Since I can see this is a pattern, it is time to start over and work to prevent this next year!

Knowledge does not always equal behavior

Knowledge is an essential part to changing behavior.  If you are going to eat healthier you must understand what foods are good for your body.  Most of us know that eating a diet high in sugar, chemicals, fast food, refined carbohydrates, etc. is bad for our health; however, this knowledge does not always equate to positive behavior.  What we know is not necessarily how we behave.  Sometimes, there are obstacles in the way preventing us from changing the behavior or sometimes it is a lack of motivation.  Possibly it is apathy.

Motivation and Overcoming Barriers

First, one has to be motivated to change behavior and willing to make the commitment to overcome any obstacles that block success.  Understanding what barriers exist is beneficial.  For example, one of the reasons I tend to eat unhealthy is because I am stressed out and on the go during the work day.  My obstacle is time, therefore I need to plan ahead by having meals already prepared for the day in order to succeed.

If you don't succeed immediately, don't give up!  Behavior change takes time.

There is this idea called the "rule of three" in behavior change, meaning that it can take up to three times of doing something to successfully change the behavior.  I believe it may take more attempts then three because one is breaking an old habit and starting a new behavior.  Once something becomes a good habit, it is automatic.  It is difficult for some to push past this uncomfortable stage as there will be relapse.

Here's what I am doing to try to eat healthier....

Training and Food Diary

First, I am planning meals and snacks so I know exactly what I need to buy when shopping.  Next, I am holding myself accountable by keeping a food and exercise log.  I feel that eating healthy is very necessary, but exercise is one of the single most important things you can do for your body.  We as humans are built to move and nothing signals our cells to decay more then being sedentary.  I find that I have lower stress when I exercise, which was one of my obstacles above to eating healthy.  Therefore, exercise will help to alleviate stress and planning will help to alleviate the other obstacle, time.

My food and training log

Writing down food that is eaten each day helps build awareness towards patterns in your diet that are unhealthy.  Also, you become conscious of what you are consuming and putting into your body.  My log has separate pages for both daily food intake and exercise.  This has actually become fun for me to fill out and I find that I work to improve upon my exercise regime each week.  

I could use some more veggies in my diet!

Types of Foods to focus on

If you have health issues or other problems, consulting with a nutritionist or doctor can be beneficial before starting to exercise and changing dietary habits.  When I found out I had food allergies the dietitian guided me away towards foods that could cause me harm.

There are so many diets on the market that claim quick weight loss.  Much of this is modern day quackery and a scheme to make money.  Eating healthy requires adopting a new way of life.  A quick fix diet will not  permanently change your behavior, however American spend millions believing these claims while our nation becomes fatter.  Your diet is simply what you eat on a daily basis.  From my studies as a health educator, I believe it is important to limit refined carbohydrates (white bread, cookies, many packaged snack foods) and processed or packaged food loaded with extra chemicals.  Incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables into each day is essential as it will add nutrients and fiber.

Taking control of what you eat by preparing your own meals much of the time instead of eating out will make the process much easier.  Eating when hungry and eating slow is important because it takes the brain about 20 minutes to know you are full.

Overall, behavior change takes time and patience.  Be kind to yourself in the process but stay motivated and results will come.  Stay excited to work towards adopting healthier habits!  

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Current stay at home mama and former teacher.  I'm interested in healthy allergy free eating.  I love music and trying new products.  I am working to reduce my consumption of the unhealthy elements in the world and increase my happiness.