It’s a joy to welcome registered dietitian Laura Clark back to the blog for her final guest post of the year. Laura is a monthly columnist here and will be back in 2019. Yay! I absolutely adore, and learn so much from her blog posts and know you all do too.
Here Laura shares insight into how to create goals which stick, which reflect your values.
Over to Laura:
It’s been another great year in my corner of the Honest Mum world. I hope you have enjoyed nutrition sense mashed up with a good dose of reality and science in equal measure with my monthly feature here.
As we look forward to another year the shelves will be bowing under the weight of all the ‘new year, new you’ jazz but times are changing, the fad diet message is getting scrubbed and we’re becoming wiser about the impact of the food choices we make.
Nutrition is overlapping with behavioural science – not surprising as over 95% of food choices are subconscious. We might like to think we behave rationally around food, but we don’t.
I am not a neuroscientist or a behavioural psychologist – if I’m truly honest, I’m a tired dietitian/ mother whose just had a wisdom tooth out in between carol concerts and Christmas fairs. But, with the new year in mind, I wanted to share some wise words from the brilliant Dr Heather McKee – a behaviour change specialist whom I interviewed recently on what it takes to make healthy habits stick. A timely post to help us feel empowered and confident in 2019.
How does a habit become a habit?
Our lives today are essentially the sum of our habits. How fit or unfit we are? A result of our habits. How well we do at our work? A result of our habits. In fact, researchers have found that at least 40% of the actions people take per day aren’t due to decision making but rather their habits.
The good thing about habits is if we repeat them enough, they become automatic, so we no longer have to think about them. This means that, over time, they stop using up our precious willpower and make it easier for us to stick with our health goals.
Change the goal posts…
Often when it comes to changing our habits, we let the outcome (the number on the scales) be the indicator of our success. Goals that are centred around external influences such as our performance or our appearance are known to be sources of extrinsic motivation. Research has shown that goals that are extrinsically driven are unsustainable long term, in particular when it comes to forming healthy habits.
These goals need external validation; others to say – you are doing well, the scales to tell you the correct number, the Facebook likes etc. When you focus all your attention on a numbers-based goal, you can start to obsess over that number, that’s when goals become too difficult and we get tempted to veer off track. Research has shown that if you reach your extrinsically motivated goal, the enjoyment of being there tends to be fleeting and can be quickly replaced by a new goal.
You then are susceptible to putting yourself under pressure to ‘step it up’ which can result in goal-failure due to the unrealistic expectations you set for yourself.
Make them sticky!
On the other hand, goals that are formed for personal significance because they mean something to you are what matters. These goals reflect who you are and what you wish to represent as a person. And these are much more sticky.
These are known as intrinsic goals as they are intrinsically/internally motivating to you. Intrinsic comes from the Latin word for inward, meaning ‘goods for the soul’. Examples of intrinsically motivated goals could be: being healthy is important to you because you want to be the best you can be in every aspect of your life, you want to have energy, to feel vital in order to focus on your work and to be able to be a positive role model for your children.
Because intrinsic goals are linked to the things that matter most to you, they are much more motivating in the long term. When it comes to staying on track with your healthy habits, it’s not your willpower to resist temptation which leads to long term success, it’s knowing that, that thing you are pursing is part of who you are, that it has a higher purpose, it’s your intrinsically motivating goals .
How inspiring now, for the new year and beyond.
Thank you Laura Clark and Dr Heather McKee.
If you want to see me or any other registered dietitian for advice check out www.freelancedietitians.org.
Read more of Laura’s posts here: How to Lose Weight as a Busy Mama, Food Assumptions and How They Affect Their Children, and Confessions of a Dietitian Mum: What I Actually Feed My Children.