Immediate gratification is our culture’s favorite drug. It’s easy to get sucked into the hype of a buzzy diet or short-term program that promises big results, but most pros will agree that the real results come to those who wait — and work at it.

According to registered dietitian nutritionist, Maya Feller, building sustainable habits in the kitchen can take time to perfect — and that’s more than okay. Discover how to build healthy habits that will last from a nutritionist who knows…

Most of my patients come to me for medical nutrition therapy. Maybe their doctor told them that their blood pressure was a bit too high and they should start to think about medication, or that their cholesterol needed to be lowered. Maybe they reached a crossroad with their health and the common denominator is that they don’t want to take a prescription medication for the remainder of their lives.

Oftentimes the conversation starts with a patent saying exactly that and me saying, Ok, so we are looking at making lasting modifications and meaningful changes where food becomes therapeutic? And then I usually go on to remind them that they have already developed a long relationship with food throughout their lives, one that started somewhere between their first six and twelve months of life. This means we are looking at years of learned food-related behaviors. Years of habits that are engraved into their way of life.

On our long-term relationship with food…

Each of us has interactions with food — some of which are impulse driven, others that are made with intention. Given this long-standing relationship, it would be foolish to ask someone to drastically change overnight, in my opinion. It’s also unnecessarily cruel. I understand and respect that a long-term approach requires a certain amount of self-reflection as well as a willingness to continue to work over time. And for some, it’s much harder than going on an extreme diet for thirty days — mostly because it’s not about making the changes your ‘new normal’.

I’ve heard from more than a few of my patients that long-term thinking doesn’t work for them — they prefer immediate all-or-nothing change. And to that my response is, Okay, but permit me to offer up a question: What happens when you are in the “all-or-nothing phase” and are struggling to get back to the ‘all’? And when you are in the ‘all’ phase do you feel like this can be your new normal? For many of my patients the answer is usually that they do not think the all-or-nothing or drastic change is in line with long-term sustainable change. This is where I think the long-term approach, mixed with evaluation and modifications that take the individual into consideration, prevails.

On giving yourself time to change… 

Taking a long-term view literally allows you to take your time and create and learn new food related behaviors that have your long-term health in mind. It allows you take yourself into consideration.

Let’s use the example I hear all the time, when people want to modify or reduce carbohydrate intake. We know that carbs come in many forms: refined, unrefined, fruits, vegetables (both starchy and non), grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. If the desire is to increase the ratio of carbs coming from non-starchy vegetables, having a balanced amount coming from starchy vegetables and legumes with a minimal amount coming from grains, the long-term approach allows you to think about where you are with your current consumption, where you want to be in the future, and how you intend to get to your desired goal.

Because you are working with a long-term view, you also have space to adjust based on how you are feeling or how your body reacts. It’s an internal conversation with your best health outcome in mind.It may not be as sexy and flashy as following a diet, but it sure beats the feelings that come along with falling on and off a strict program.

The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. 
All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programs. 

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  1. I really appreciate the reminder that we spent our entire lives establishing one relationship with food, and that, of course it will be difficult to re-write a new one. Thank you!

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