Healthy Eating: Overcoming Barriers to Change
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Replacing a bad habit with a good habit takes time and patience. It requires several steps, from setting your goals to getting support. One of the important steps is figuring out what your barriers are.
What has stopped you from changing your eating habits in the past? What do you think might stop you in the future? Identifying these barriers now—and having a plan to help you get past them—will help you change bad habits into good habits.
A barrier is anything that causes you to slip up in your goals to make lifestyle changes, such as changing your eating habits.
Even when you know about the benefits of healthy eating, you may find it very hard to change your eating habits until you deal with the reasons you give yourself for not eating healthy. Barriers to healthy eating include the valid reasons why you don't make healthy food choices (for example, food allergies) as well as the excuses you make to avoid doing something you dislike.
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In the area of changing bad habits into good habits, barriers are:
Things that get in your doctor's way when he or she is trying to help you.
Things that block you from opening the refrigerator.
Things that keep you from having success in changing your habits.
Things that keep you out of the kitchen.
Figuring out what your barriers are and how you can get past them will help you reach your healthy eating goals. When you know what things can get in your way, you can plan what you will do to get around them.
Knowing what you can do when you come up against a barrier is part of the overall planning you need to do to be successful at changing any habit. Making lifestyle changes is hard, but you're more likely to have success if you:
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You'll have more success making lifestyle changes if you think ahead of time about what options you have when you have slipped up or are about to slip up.
The best way to overcome barriers is to identify them ahead of time and have a backup plan to deal with them. Some barriers are the kind that keep you from even trying to change a habit. Other barriers pop up later.
When you hit a barrier—and most people do—get support. Talk to your family members and friends to see if someone wants to be active with you or cheer you on. If you have concerns about your health, talk to your doctor to make sure you're doing your activities safely.
There are many reasons why you may not want to try to change your eating habits. Here are some frequent barriers and some solutions to them.
Not believing you can do something is often really just a fear of failure. People put off making changes in their lives because of this fear. This kind of barrier can keep you from even starting to make a lifestyle change. But it can also crop up on days when you feel discouraged.
This is a very common reason not to change. It can take the form of "My life is too busy," or "I'm always feeling rushed," or "I have more important things to do."
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." Often a fear of the unknown is behind these reasons.
It's true that things like fresh produce, whole-grain breads, and other healthy food items can cost more than fast foods and junk foods. Sometimes it seems like your budget would do better if you just ate cheap fast food every day.
But you can stay within your budget by putting in some extra time planning, shopping, and cooking. And the more time you invest, the more money you'll save.
Many people are held back from changing their eating habits because of how they think it will look to others. It can be hard to stick with a healthy eating plan when family and friends don't want to join you.
This reason may take the form of "I'm too old (or fat, or set in my ways) to make changes." Often, low self-esteem makes it hard to change.
To help you identify your own barriers to changing your eating habits, think about 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 your list of reasons and responses whenever you are about to make a choice about what to eat.
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Most barriers are based on some type of fear.
Now that you have read this information, you are ready to start making those healthy changes in your eating habits.
If you need more help in changing your eating habits, see:
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