Recently I’ve been conducting research into what aspects people feel are holding back their health, along with the main barriers standing in their way of change.
The reason for this is I’m in the final stages of completing my upcoming book, and as I primarily work with busy professionals, I wanted to ensure the guidance and support within it covered everything impacting their lives.
From my research, something became abundantly clear:
The biggest barriers people face in regards to their health are time and motivation.
At the end of the day eating healthy and finding balance is tough, I get it. Especially after a long day, nightmare commute, on top of trying to juggle family life with a career.
But the reality is there will never be a right time to focus on your wellbeing, which is why regardless of how difficult or ‘inconvenient’ it may be, you simply need to find ways to give it at least some of the attention it requires.
The good news is with a little thought and preparation, this can be done in a way that fits into your lifestyle and routine, which is why this week’s post is all about strategies to get round the barrier of time in regards to eating healthier and improving your diet.
Just like many other things in life, success and planning go hand in hand. Therefore, the easiest way to improve the way you eat, is to have a rough idea of exactly what you’re likely to be consuming for the week ahead.
I know initially it may seem like a hassle or time consuming, but as with anything else, the more you do it, the quicker and easier it becomes.
That’s why I like to coach my clients on principles based around what I like to call the 3P’s: Plan, Practice, Perfect.
Getting this right is all about finding ways to make the healthy option the easy option and can be done in conjunction with the ideas below:
1) Make a meal plan
Chances are you’ll eat at least some of the same foods on a regular basis, which is why I highly advise you sit down and make a meal plan for the week ahead. That way you know what you’ll be having for most meals, making it less likely you’ll act on impulse and turn to other convenience offerings instead. This is probably the biggest issue of them all, as it’s been found that it’s in these moments that we’re more likely to make negative choices, such as turning to takeaways or other processed foods.
This is also great way to get the whole family involved as well. I’ve found doing so has the added benefit of making kids far more likely to be accepting of a healthier way of eating, as they feel like they at least have an input and this ‘change’ isn’t being forced upon them.
Depending on what you decide to make, you can use your plan schedule or determine who is responsible for cooking on different days, helping you structure you schedule accordingly.
Initially it’s best to keep things simple and start with seven days at a time, but as you get more comfortable, you could easily extend it further.
2) Make a weekly shopping list
Shopping can be an inconvenient and time consuming experience, but by having a list for your meal plan you can save a massive amount of time in store, as you won’t be aimlessly wandering around trying to decide what you need.
3) Shop online
You could even take this a step further and use a home delivery service. Once set up you can quickly add regular items to your list, reducing your weekly shop time down to a matter of minutes.
Shopping online is also temptation-free. This is important as more often than not spontaneous decisions are based around unhealthy snacks or treats you don’t actually need, but are in most cases hugely detrimental to both your health and your waistline.
4) Bulk cook
Find a day or afternoon where you can free up some time and prepare as many meals as possible then freeze them. The extra effort involved for making larger portions is minimal and can save you a huge amount of time in the long run.
By having a freezer stocked with healthy nutritious meals, you can quickly throw one in the oven or microwave after a long day, thereby removing the temptation of turning to take away on nights that you’re too tired to cook.
You could also pack and prepare a few days lunches ahead of time, meaning it’s no longer a daily chore on your to do list.
5) Make extra for lunch
If you’re eating out for lunch most days you’ll probably be struggling to find healthy options and more likely than not indulging far more than you realise or should be. If this is the case and you don’t feel like preparing lunch, then just make a larger dinner and take left overs.
6) Make extra and freeze it
If bulk cooking doesn’t appeal to you or you don’t want to eat the same meal two days in a row, try cooking larger dinners and freezing the leftovers so they’re there for another day.
7) Turn to other healthy convenience foods
On days you really don’t feel like cooking, instead of turning to takeaway, get a rotisserie chicken or other ready-made freshly cooked items. Not only are they fresh and delicious, but they’re also free from all the chemicals and processed ingredients you should be aiming to avoid. All there’s left to do is buy a salad or microwave some vegetables and you have a healthy dinner ready in minutes.
8) Prep ingredients when you get home from store
If you’re rushed for time in the evenings, try chopping up veg or other items when you get home from the store. That way they’re kept in Tupperwares ready for use and you can quickly throw together anything from a stir fry to a pasta dish or salad in under 15 minutes.
9) Keep fridge stocked with precooked proteins
Roast a chicken or other meat on a Sunday, chop it up and store it in the fridge ready for use. It’ll last for up to four days, meaning it massively cuts down on preparation and cooking time.
10) Set up cues
Try setting up cues that encourage you to act upon healthy actions. For instance; if you regularly skip breakfast, one thing you can do to embrace change is to place everything you need out on the counter the night before. Doing so will act as a visual reminder of what you need to do, thereby making it far more you won’t skip it.
As an example of this in action; by having everything ready you when you get up you can quickly throw some oats in the microwave, while they’re cooking slice some banana then add some peanut butter and Greek yoghurt. There you have a filling nutritious breakfast prepared and eaten in under ten minutes.
Developing cues is an essential part of creating healthier habits, which initially may need some work or conscious effort to go through with, but will in time simply become another part of your routine. It’s been found it can take anything from 15 to 60 days for a habit to be formed, so even if it may not seem like it now, you can replace bad habits with actions that positively impact your health instead.
Putting this into practice
Principles like these can be developed and applied to all aspects of your wellbeing, from becoming more active to managing stress and achieving balance.
These are just a few ideas you could incorporate into your daily routine, but what you’ll find is by properly planning and thinking about your current behaviours you’ll easily find other ways to streamline processes that work for you.
With that being said though, what other ways can you think of to get round the barrier of time in regards to eating healthier and improving your diet that may help others?
Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below.