Healthy Eating 101: Challenge #2

abc-behaviour-crop

DO YOU KNOW YOUR ABC’s?

After logging your meals and keeping notes of when you’re eating and under what circumstances, you can begin to break down your habits into the ABC’s of behavior change. Knowing the ABC’s of behavior change don’t require you to learn a song, just three simple words: antecedent, behavior, and consequence.

ANTECEDENTS

In behavior change, antecedents are the situations or triggers that prompt you to act out a certain behavior. You might think it’s impossible for you to stop loving cookies (I would never give up cookies by the way), and you might be right. The trick is to manipulate your environment to work in your favor so cookies don’t lead you to completely messing up all of your hard work towards your goals. If you know you always get hungry around 10:30AM, and the fastest option to satisfy that hunger is grabbing some junk food from the break room…prepare yourself for that specific situation! Instead of constantly riding the roller coaster of setting healthy goals and falling off because you “can’t control yourself around junk food,” start packing a healthy snack in your bag, or keep some healthy options in your desk. Now when the hunger hits, you don’t have to compromise.

BEHAVIORS

Behaviors are the actions that we perform throughout the day. In the scenario above, when stuck at work “starving” with no healthy options around, the behavior was grabbing a quick fix of junk food. Look at your food log. Observe yourself during the day. What behaviors do you want or NEED to change? What actions are holding you back from reaching your goals? Write down these behaviors. Use paper, your phone, sticky notes…whatever you have available. Your homework after writing out these behaviors is to back track and figure out why (the antecedent) these behaviors are constantly manifesting in your life.

A little over a year ago, I discovered that stress is a HUGE trigger for me. I could be 100% on top of my health game, but when heavy stress hits, I always run to the junk food. And just to be clear, I don’t mean a small bag of Cheetos. I would get a box of Little Debbie snacks, lots of candy, soda, a big bag of chips…anything I could get my hands on. For some reason, I felt like pigging out on junk would make me feel better. Well it did temporarily, but later I still had to face whatever was causing the stress AND the consequences of my actions.

CONSEQUENCES

We all know that every action or behavior has a consequence. For me, the consequences of binging on junk food included wasting money that could be spent doing something worthwhile, missing workouts because I felt so weighed down and tired, and delaying the time it would take for me to reach my health and fitness goals.

On the flip side, not all consequences are bad. When discussing antecedents, I mentioned that you should change your environment to work FOR you. If you pack those healthy snacks, the behavior will most likely change. Instead of running to the cheesy, salty junk, you can have a snack that will actually contribute to your health. In return for the good energy you put out, it will come back to you! Now, your consequences will change as well. Instead of setting yourself back two steps, you will have more energy, a stronger will to exercise, and 10x more confidence knowing that you have the power to turn your life around.

April 2014. On this chart, I rated my level of temptation to eat unhealthy foods on a scale from 1-10. On the left side, you will see different situations that were particular triggers for me. I measured my temptation at the beginning (baseline), the halfway mark, and at the end of my behavior change plan.
April 2014.
On this chart, I rated my level of temptation to eat unhealthy foods on a scale from 1-10. On the left side, you will see different situations that were particular triggers for me. I measured my temptation at the beginning (baseline), the halfway mark, and at the end of my behavior change plan.

A NOTE TO SELF

The examples I gave above relate closely to my own journey, but everyone has a unique life. So what are you working on personally? For some, binge drinking or drugs might be the behavior they need to change. Maybe it’s self starvation. Spending too much money recklessly could be holding you back from really getting on top of your health. Even negative self talk and neglecting your mental health can have profound effects on your health/fitness journey. When you’re sitting down to figure out what changes you need to make in your life, be completely honest with yourself. Don’t pick out the “easy” stuff and leave the heavy work for later. Start today, and you will thank yourself later down the road! Leave a comment below and share your own story with us. Also like this post if it was helpful to you.

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-Erin


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