There are many reasons why you may not want to try to change your
eating habits. Here are some frequent barriers and solutions to them.
"I'll never be able to do this." Not believing
you can do something is often rooted in fear of failure. People put off making
changes in their lives because of this fear. Solutions include:
Carefully defining "success" and "failure." If
your goal is simply to improve your food choices or lose a modest amount of
weight, you will probably be successful. If your goal is to lose an unrealistic
amount of weight, "cure" a disease, or eat "perfectly," then the fear of
failure is likely to hold you back.
Setting small, measurable
goals. Eating two pieces of fruit a day can be easily done; giving up your
favorite food is much harder, and you will be more apt not to try.
"I don't have time to make changes." This
reason not to change is very common. It can take the form of "My life is too
busy," "I'm always feeling rushed," or "I have more important things to do."
Learning ways to manage your time better. Find
time management techniques that work for you.
Asking others how
they manage to fit good nutrition into their lives.
Not trying to
make too many changes at once. Small changes take less time, but they add up.
Asking your family and friends for help as you change your eating
behavior. This may involve having them help you to free up your
Cooking quick meals. Many people believe that to eat well,
you need a lot of time to cook. This is not necessarily true. There are many
cookbooks on how to prepare quick, healthy meals.
"I don't like health foods." Many people use
this reason or variations of it such as "I don't like vegetables," "I don't
like low-fat foods," or "I really crave sweets and high-fat foods. I'll miss
them." Solutions include:
Committing to change. Food preferences are slow
to change, but they do change over time. Making a new behavior a habit usually
takes 3 months or more. Decide to withhold your judgments about what you like
and dislike in foods until you have given the new foods a chance.
Taking it slowly. You usually do not have to give up favorite
foods completely, but you may have to change how often you eat them. Make your
changes small and give yourself time to adjust.
others influence your food preferences. Carrots aren't nearly as tempting (or
as profitable for the sellers) as cheesecake, and advertisers know it and play
upon these preferences. Recognize advertising ploys as a way of manipulating
your tastes. Also, if you think "rabbit food" when you eat carrots or salad,
try to replace these negative messages with more positive messages about these
"My family or friends won't support my new
eating habits." Many people are held back from changing their
eating habits because of how they think it will be supported by
others. Solutions include:
Letting your family and friends know
why changing your eating habits is important to
Finding others who want to change. Take a class on
cooking healthy meals, find a Web-based community, or involve your family. Many
people are working on nutrition issues.
Finding places to eat where
you are comfortable.
Ordering "special foods" (meat broiled
instead of fried, salad dressing on the side) casually and with minimal fuss.
Ordering in this way is common, and both the cooking and wait staff are likely
to be quite familiar with your requests.
"I am not good at making changes." This
reason may take the form of "I'm too old (or fat, or set in my ways) to make
changes." This kind of thinking is based on a fear of change. Often low
self-esteem makes it difficult to change. Solutions include:
Making small and measurable changes. They are
easier to make and usually cause less fear because there is less at risk. For
example, try eating one more piece of fruit a day than you usually
Working on self-esteem, if this is an issue. Counseling can
help with issues of self-esteem. The success you feel from improving your
eating habits may improve your self-esteem as well. Gradually you may begin to
change the way you view yourself and your ability to change.
To help you identify your own barriers to changing your eating
habits, recall the last few times you thought about changing your eating
behavior but didn't follow through with it. What held you back? Write down your
reasons. Then for each of your reasons, write a response that helps you
reconsider your choice. Look at this list of reasons and responses whenever you
are about to make a choice about what to eat.