You'll have more success in changing your eating habits if you make a plan. The plan should include long-term and short-term goals as well as ideas for getting past barriers—things that might get in the way of changing your eating habits.
What is your long-term goal? A long-term goal is something you want to reach in 6 to 12 months. When you have high blood pressure, the long-term goal is to lower your blood pressure and lower your risk of health problems caused by high blood pressure. Your doctor will give you a blood pressure goal.
What are the short-term goals that will help you reach your long-term goal? Short-term goals keep you going day to day. They are usually goals you hope to reach tomorrow or next week.
Look at the DASH eating plan. Come up with a short-term goal that looks pretty easy. For example, you might decide that your first short-term goal will be to eat 4 servings of vegetables every day. As soon as you've made those extra vegetables a habit, you can add another short-term goal.
Here are some ideas for eating with the DASH plan:
Many people find that it helps to write down everything they eat every day. That way they can easily see how much of each food group they've eaten and where they need to add or cut back tomorrow.
A registered dietitian can work with you to change your eating habits and help you plan menus that follow the DASH eating style. Ask your doctor to recommend someone.
Take the time to think about what things could get in the way of your success. These are called barriers. And by thinking about them now, you can plan ahead for how to deal with them if they happen.
An example of a barrier might be eating in restaurants. If you do that a lot, you may want to plan ahead for how you will stay on your DASH plan when you eat out. Possible solutions could include:
It's perfectly normal to try something, stop it, and then get mad at yourself. Lots of people have to try and try again before they reach their goals.
Having a lot of support can make it easier to change your eating habits. For example, if family members tell you that they love how you're getting healthier, you may be motivated to keep up the good work. Here are some other ways to get support:
It can be frustrating to start a new project like healthy eating and then have to stop because something gets in the way—illness, travel, or even just boredom. Your goal is to get back in the habit and make it a routine part of your life.
Remember that you can't create a habit overnight. Keep at it, even if you slip up along the way. It can take as long as 3 months of repetition to form a habit, so every day is a step in the right direction.
When you slip up, don't get mad at yourself or feel guilty. Think of it as a learning experience. Figure out what happened. Why did you stop? Think of ways to get yourself going again. Learn from your slip-ups so that you can keep on toward your goal of healthy eating.
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