Are you a proactive or reactive grocery shopper? Do you make a shopping list and stick to it or do you impulsively put whatever appeals to you in your cart? Perhaps you’re somewhere in between. You go to the store with good intentions, but can’t resist the specials on potato chips and chocolate milk. If you’re like many consumers, you give in to temptation.
It’s mid-afternoon. You’ve been having a stressful day. Those emails never seem to stop and everyone wants an immediate response. You skipped breakfast as you hurried out the door, so you made a quick stop at the drive-thru to pick up coffee and a doughnut. By 11 am, you’re hungry again so you eat the sandwich you brought from home. You know it’s smart to pack a lunch because you can control the portion size and ingredients, but, many days, you don’t bother. It’s 3 pm and you’re hungry again. You head to the vending machine and get a soda and chips. By the time you get home, you’re exhausted and famished and can’t wait until dinner’s ready. You fill yourself up with whatever you can find in the pantry. You’ve eaten the caloric equivalent of a full meal before dinner.
If you recognize yourself as having some of these bad habits, it’s time to try my triple-A strategy for self-improvement: Awareness, Attitude and Action.
The first step is to increase Awareness of your habits. If you’re oblivious to them, you can’t change them. The next time you need to go to the grocery store, make a list of what you need. It’s not necessary to stick to the list 100 per cent, but it will set the tone for your excursion. However, a list is not enough. Eat something before you head out. Shopping on an empty stomach is a recipe for disaster. When you get to the store, skip the junk food aisles. Scrutinize the ingredients and nutritional listings on anything that comes in a box, can or bag.
Make mindful choices. As you’re placing items in your cart, ask yourself if the item is healthy or if you can do without it. Don’t let your emotions rule your decisions. Before you proceed to the checkout, review the contents of your cart and make a final decision about each item. Remove the items you don’t really need and those that will not serve you well. Will your choices help you lose excess weight? Will they help you with any existing medical conditions or contribute in the long-term to your health?
If you’re hungry, bored or stressed while waiting in line, don’t grab a chocolate bar. Eat something nutritious from your cart. If you’ve planned well, you’ll have brought a healthy snack and a water bottle with you from home. It’s common to misinterpret thirst as hunger.
The second step is to change your Attitude. You won’t make any changes to your habits if you don’t care. Do you suffer from Ostrich Syndrome? Do you just want to enjoy everything in the moment and ignore the uncomfortable facts and potential consequences? Do you not care that some of your choices may be damaging your health or your children’s health? If you already have health issues or risk factors, do you poke fun at yourself and rationalize that you might as well enjoy today because there’s no guarantee of tomorrow? Is your attitude your hurdle or your helper?
Carpe diem doesn’t simply mean seize the day. It involves taking action today for your future. Educating yourself about some of the benefits of a healthier lifestyle is a crucial step. Unfortunately, knowledge isn’t always enough to motivate you. A support system comprising positive role models can encourage you to shape your behaviours and make better choices.
This leads to the third step: Taking immediate Action. You’re becoming increasingly aware of your habits. Your attitude is evolving as your knowledge bank increases. You see the success stories of your role models and you want to emulate them. Now you’re in a better position to take the appropriate actions. Instead of blindly giving into temptations, you’ll be more discerning when placing items in your cart. You’ll make deliberate choices throughout the day. You begin to realize that when you replace some bad habits with better ones, you feel better and the improvements will translate into a better appearance and better health. You’re poised for success. Strike while the iron’s hot!