Make Healthy Decisions with the Behavior Change Menu
In 2020 US News reported the 35 best diets of 2020. The Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet, the Flexitarian diet, Weight Watchers, the Mayo Clinic diet, the Volumetrics diet, the TLC diet, the Nordic diet, Vegetarian diets, Jenny Craig, the South Beach diet, the Biggest Loser diet, the Zone diet, and the list goes on. This is despite the fact that diets only work if the dieter adheres to one principle, maintaining a caloric deficit.
There are also more than enough running and strength training programs. These programs also only work if you adhere to one principle, progressive overload. We are constantly being told that one method is the best while being robbed of the fundamental principles that make these things work. It’s not surprise that we experience paralysis by analysis. What direction should we go in when there is no clear direction?
Your Personal Behavior Change Menu
Let’s say that there are four categories of behavior that will have major impacts on your life (1) exercise (2) diet (3) energy and (4) sleep. You can approach improvement in these areas with any number of behaviors. You need to pick what sounds interesting to you. With each of these categories ask yourself how willing you are to do it (on a scale of 1-10) and how confident you are that you can do it (on a scale of 1-10). Only pick things that are an 8 out of 10 or higher for both confidence and willingness. This is your behavior change menu. It’s what you’re most likely to do.
Behavior Change Menu
Exercise and physical activity
Diet and weight
Life and Energy
Take the stairs whenever applicable
Take a 10-minute walk
Add strength training to your routine
Add aerobic training to your routine
Walk 10,000 steps per
Go hiking once per week day
Do body weight exercises during commercial breaks
Get outside more frequently
Reduce soda intake
Weigh yourself daily
Include green vegetables to meals
Avoid trigger-based eating (stress)
Keep a diet journal or track food intake
Meal prep once per week
Replace starchy carbohydrates with vegetables
Don’t multitask when you eat
Have a fruit smoothie for breakfast
Reduce eating out by one time per week
Spend more time with loved ones
Have more sex
Cut out toxic relationships
Don’t judge others
Start a gratitude journal
Write a gratitude letter
Unplug from social media
Treat yo self (i.e. pedicure, massage
Go to bed 30 minutes earlier
Avoid caffeine in the afternoon
Keep a consistent sleep schedule
Shut off electronics one hour before bed
Cut back on alcohol
Cut down on tv time
Make it detailed
Now, let’s make these behaviors specific with an action plan. Action plans give details of when and where the behavior will occur. If you said you were going to do 10,000 steps when is this going to happen? What is the appropriate opportunity? Maybe you can do 2,000 by walking to work, another 2,000 during a lunch break, and an additional 3,000 at dinner (hopefully you pick up the additional 3,000 just through normal movement).
Whatever your goal is, be sure to give it specific details.
Let’s say you had three things on your behavior change menu, walk 10,000 steps, have a fruit smoothie for breakfast, and to start a gratitude journal. Schedule a time once per week to evaluate your success. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What am I most proud of this week?
- For each behavior, what percent success would I give myself (0-100%)
- If you scored under 100% ask yourself, “what did I learn from my experience to bump my success up by 10%?”. Make your detailed plan again and try to act on it
- If you scored 100% ask yourself “how can I push myself further”
Change can be tough. It can seem that we have so many options. Yet these options are often based on simple principles. Health behaviors are exactly like medicine. Medicine only works when you take it, health behaviors only work when you do them. Use the behavior change menu to decide what you want to do. Make the behavior specific. Reflect on your success and what you learned. Use that information to improve.