I originally wrote this post when my blog was called “Mindful Health” back in November of 2006. While the content and direction of my work has changed to a degree, the fundamentals of my approach have not. As much as I love a challenge or a real-food detox (like my 21-Day Sugar Detox) as much as the next person, I know that often people need or want to take baby steps. In fact, for many, even a Paleo challenge or detox for 21-days is just that, a baby step. Often people use that time to take two steps forward, then take one step back after the set timeframe is up. That's okay. You learn so much in the time of a nutritional challenge, that it's nearly impossible to fall 100% back into your old ways. At least not without being mindful of how new habits felt versus the old.
That all being said, I wanted to revamp and revisit one of my very first posts:
“One step at a time.”
I recall writing this post for a friend who was feeling overwhelmed by all of the new information about health and nutrition being presented to her in the media, and even from people like me. It was all too much, and she felt like she needed to know just one first step to take to start her journey.
Every journey begins with just one step.
Many people fail at making a lifestyle shift/change because they set themselves up for failure. It's like trying to pull a U-turn on a one-way street when you try to go from one way of living to something that may be completely different. It just doesn't work because it's not practical, and you haven't got the space to make it work!
Looking back at when I had about 30lbs to lose, I realize that taking small steps was exactly what I did. I took steps that were manageable and that I felt confident I could tackle. When I got those down to where they were things I did without thinking twce – choices I made instinctively – I added on from there. This is how change will stick for most people.
I actually remember my very first “step,” in which I included three small but monumental changes for myself:
- No fried foods. At the time I was not cooking things at home in appropriate oils, so this meant I was nixing french fries, mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers, etc. I grew up in New Jersey so this also meant giving up things like funnel cakes and zeppoles on the boardwalk at the Jersey Shore.
- No ice cream. In hindsight, don't know why I made this rule for myself, but perhaps then, as now, when faced with a pint of the cold, sweet, creamy, and delicious treat, I simply can't eat just one serving. The entire pint becomes the serving. Oopsie!
- Soda only on Sundays. And just one. I didn't even drink much soda at the time – so this was not a habit that was hard to kick. But it was one of those things I knew I shouldn't be consuming, so I reserved a single Dr. Pepper for my weekly Sunday dinners with my girlfriends at our local Panera. It was a ritual and a treat, and it kept me in-line the rest of the week knowing that this was a rule I had made for myself.
This was back in 2001 and these rules worked for me. I was getting healthier week by week, and making progress on my weight-loss journey.
Now that I teach about a Paleo diet, and many of my friends and colleagues do the same, we're in this bubble where people often forget how monumental even those three changes above can be in a person's life. Someone doesn't need to be grain-free from Day 1 to be making progress. It's a new attitude about food and making positive choices that feeds-forward into even more of the same. And, bear in mind that Paleo Perfectionism is often not a useful approach.
I applaud those who make one small change, succeed at maintaining it, then continuing on their own journey.
So, please don't freak out and think about all of the things you're doing “wrong.” Focus on doing just one thing right. Make one right choice at a time. Change one thing about the way you eat and choose things to eat at a time. When you have “mastered” making that choice, move on to the next one and add to your knowledge.
Knowledge is power and the ability to make changes based on knowledge is the absolute key to success in any new lifestyle action-plan. Once you know what you should be choosing to eat (or not eat) and why, you can't pretend like you don't know. Once you know that you're perfectly capable of making at least one change, you are empowered to move forward and continue with more.