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Nutrition counselling is often about supporting people with habit change, whether it is adopting new habits, or letting go of ones that aren’t quite serving any more. It’s not uncommon for people to get “stuck”—a phrase that I hear often from my clients is “I know what I need to do, I just need to do it.”

If this sounds like you, here are three ideas to help you get “unstuck” and move toward sustainable self-care:

1. Practice Self-Compassion

Contrary to popular belief, self-compassion isn’t “making excuses” or “letting yourself off the hook,” and for many, may actually be the missing ingredient to lasting habit change. My clients have shared with me that when they are feeling “stuck”, their self-talk can be quite “mean” or negative, like “You should know better,” or “Why can’t you do this?” Self-compassion is acknowledging that:

  • Often our “bad” habits are still serving us in some way
  • It takes time to unlearn behaviours and beliefs that are deeply ingrained
  • There are external (sometimes systemic) forces that can influence our behaviour

Practicing self-compassion often means speaking to those parts of us that are sometimes left behind or ignored when we’re hyper-focused on change or “achievement.” It allows us to go from saying, “Why can’t you do this?” to “I know that doing this is comforting, and I’m ready to try something different.”

And sometimes, self-compassion can bring self-acceptance. For example, knowing that I’ve been struggling to go to bed earlier for pretty much my entire adult life (plus late adolescence, tbh) I’ve come to accept that I’m just a night owl 🦉🤷🏻‍♀️

2. Remember Your “Why”

It’s not uncommon for people who are trying to heal their relationship with food to slip back into dieting thoughts and restrictive behaviours, partly because dieting isn’t all bad (see section 1) and diet culture is very good at shape-shifting and making itself seem very attractive.

In Intuitive Eating (Amazon affiliate link), authors Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch talk about “hitting diet rock bottom”—the moment that dieting is at its most hurtful, and you don’t see yourself dieting again. Sometimes recalling that moment, with all of its frustration, deprivation, and pain, can be a helpful motivator. Conversely, holding on to what you are working towards (and perhaps the benefits that you’ve already experienced) can be motivating also.

Some helpful prompts to consider:

  • What made you decide to make this change?
  • What are you trying to move away from in making this change?
  • What are you hoping to gain/make possible?
  • What, if anything, have you already gained in starting to make this change?

3. Review and Reflect

Goals are unfortunately not slow cookers—you can’t “set it and forget it”. If possible, plan for regular opportunities (monthly, weekly, or even daily) to pause and reflect, with compassion. This gives you the chance to celebrate and reinforce what’s working well, and also the opportunity to adjust, or perhaps abandon goals that are no longer serving you.

What are your thoughts on these tips? Have you tried some of them before? What are some of your strategies for habit change? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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