Eat This: Change your behaviour to feel better

There are incremental steps and choices made that we’ve all taken in our life that have us in the place that we are at right here and now. Some have led to hugely successful and positive outcomes, and some the polar opposite that look like failure and breakdown. Then there’s the middle of the road outcomes like the day to day that are somewhere in the middle. Sometimes there are great things happening for us and it feels like the world is your oyster and then there are times that don’t. 


I’ve spoken to more people than I care to count who are not feeling good at the moment. While the world is opening up again, it seems to be that the getting back to ‘normal’ that we were all so desperate for, actually looks different than pre-pandemic, and it’s leading to a new wave of emotional stress, depression, anxiety, a lack of motivation, and overall not feeling your usual self. There’s an off kilter, off balance or what I call ungrounded feeling that we can experience but often are not quite able to put your finger on – but you know it doesn’t feel good. Last week in episode 119 with Dr Brockenshire, we talked about how we are both seeing patients and clients who have put on weight and despite their usual efforts, they can’t shift it. We went into why that’s happening and what to do about it. Now that we can, going out and seeing people, meeting up in gatherings and getting back to ‘it’ – whatever your ‘it’ is – has some momentary ups, but maybe not quite enough to get you out of the funk that you’re in. If you’re like 80% of people out there, who change their eating behaviour in response to stress, you are likely expressing some sort of maladaptive habit with your eating. A recent stat that I came across said that about 45% eat more at times of stress, anxiety, depression and worry and 35% eat less. Which do you fall into? Me – I’m in the latter category. My appetite shrinks to nothing at times of stress. Behaviours that I observe in people like my clients, my friends, and my family are easy to see and I’ve had the help of intuitive coach Carolyn Monden that we spoke with in episode 102 who regularly calls out my patterns and behaviour so I can see it, but what if you don’t have someone like that in your life and want to keep saying the same story of your aches and pains, your lack of sleep, inability to control what you’re eating.


So today on EAT THIS with Lianne, let’s dig into some behaviour analytics from experts in the field, and have your next steps towards feeling better be your most positive and successful habits yet. 

After a conversation with my depressed 91 year old dad the other day, I found myself speaking to him and applying all that I’ve come to know about how focusing on where we are at, all the negative stuff and all that’s not going right, has no forward momentum to feeling better. Not at that moment anyway. His patterns, him saying that this is how he has always done things and that’s not going to change, had me validate his thinking and feelings, offer empathy and also left me wanting to kick his butt and change his mindset all at the same time. Then I observed the level of resistance to change so he could feel better. He just couldn’t bring himself to do what would really move the needle towards feeling better. As we know from my DNA test results that we talked about in episode 111, my super power is in part my emotional intelligence and feeling people (insert ep 111 from 13:39 – 14:59 and 16:13 – 16:21 or so), and this is when I’m using all that my genetics have to offer, and that inspired me to this topic today.


While our behaviour rules our lives and decisions towards food, it also touches every aspect of our lives – how we relate to others, how we choose what to do with our time, and plan for the day, or next week and so on. What you’re capable of is infinite, but really dictated by your behaviour and beliefs about yourself. Can you give up chocolate, coffee, sugar? Sure you can. You can do anything. But you choose otherwise and sit and eat what you feel like at the moment. I honour that to a point. To the point that it’s destructive behaviour and has a more self-sabotage pattern to it. You could think that you’re a little overweight, and that’s ok – lots of people are, but knowing that even being a little overweight can double your risk of death, that can change behaviour when faced with a wake up call like a heart attack, cancer diagnosis or confiration that you do in fact have diabetes. 


We learn our these behaviours early, I know that, and maybe you see it or you don’t. Our relationship to food is thinking about how you were soothed or how you celebrated when you were younger… Carolyn explained it well in episode 102 [Carolyn ep 102 – 15:30 – 16:28 – self sabotage and where it comes from]


So how can you make changes to what is ingrained in you and that has been a habit? 


I’ve been listening to BJ Fogg PhD, the author of Tiny Habits and scientist who has studied human behaviour for over 20 years and he has a way of describing how behavirours become automatic or a habit. He says that emotions create habits and that there is a relative imprtance of simplicity and motivation when it comes to motivation change. His short answer that he shared in his TED talk is that when it comes to long term change, simplicity is the more reliable factor. Doing little behaviours can then lead to positive outcomes. He says that tiny behaviour helps defeat giant size self sabotage. 


As I’ve been focusing on changing my own behaviours, and supporting my daughter who suffers with depression and anxiety with hers, I listened to a podcast and dove into a book book by a British doctor, a GP, author and an impressive bio list Dr Ragan Chattergee and his book Feel better in 5. Some of what he said is what I already recommend to clients, to help them change their habits, and I thought putting them into a few easy steps for you could be useful.  


One of the easy habits that we do without thinking anymore is to brush your teeth. It’s easy, and even though you’re tired and rushed, you’ll brush your teeth. It’s ingrained. And it’s also easy and doesn’t take much thought because it’s a habit. 


Motivation – finding motivation – can be a lot more challenging than brushing your teeth right? 

Behaviour drives success and while when you don’t feel like making a change, it’s the only way out of it. 


BJ Fogg talks about motivation, ability and triggers coming together at the same time. Any behaviour needs a trigger. You remember to do something, you’re pushed because your doctor says your blood pressure is too high. Maybe you put notes somewhere for you like a post it – I need things to right in front of my face to not forget. 


Best way to succeed is to add in a behaviour to something that you’re already doing. That’s the point that I make by adding more veggies to your meal – more colour on your plate because you’re already eating, and my clients not only benefit from the antioxidants, nutrients and fibre, but they also feel like they’re in control and there’s success. 


Think of a habit that you want to create. You can start with creating a tiny habit – let’s take working out. Sure you could research the gym, go check it out, look at the plan options, the classes on offer and check how lonog the commute is and just how much gas it’ll cost you to get there. Then you’ll get the new gym gear, set your alarm and finally hit the gym. Right? Sound familiar to changing your eating habits? Find the diet, get the book, find the recipes, create the shopping list, go to the store and buy it, bring it all home, pack it away, get out the book, the bowls, make the new recipe and expect that the new recipe is going to take your BP down a point or five. Expectations play a part in this too. It’s loaded, right? 


The suggestions that I offer, what these other writers, researchers and people that I’ve been listening to of late suggest is to find ONE thing to change. One step, one move, one action towards feeling better. Sure you can do it when you feel like it as in when you’re inspired. You can set an alarm on your phone – and then ignore it – but what if you added one move, one action, one change to an existing habit that you don’t even think about? 


  • Making coffee in the morning – do a push up or a wall sit – you’ve just worked out. 
  • Brushing your teeth – smile at yourself and tell yourself you are gorgeous or it’s going to be a great day. 
  • What about when you get in the car to drive to work you don’t listen to the news but some calming music or an enriching podcast. 
  • What if when you choose off the menu the next time you’re in a restaurant you have the salad. 
  • When you’re hungry for lunch you don’t go to the usual drive thru but order the salad your cubicle neighbour gets and try that instead. 
  • When you make up your plate for dinner, you add one more veggie to it. 
  • While you make your morning cuppa, take out your vitamins. 
  • As you put your head on your pillow, think of one good thing that happened today and feel gratitude. 
  • As you lay in bed, you pick up a book that you’ve wanted to read instead of your phone and scroll. 
  • As you put your feet on the floor in the morning, say “today is going to be a great day” 
  • As you pour another cup of coffee or have a second glass of wine, you drink a large glass of water. 
  • As you get ready to sit down on the couch with your usual snack, rather than the snack cupboard, you go to the fridge and get the carrot sticks or cut up an apple. 
  • Rather than sit at home on your own, plan a regular walk, meet up or something that creates connection with someone that you miss. 


Nurturing habits then takes a bit of time before it becomes like brushing your teeth. Waiting for inspiration can work for some, but with the busy lives that we lead, it’s usually jumping from one task to the next without much space to let it come. Sure the inspiration that you see from a social media post – like one that I put out on SR and LP on Sundays for instance, I post a new recipe, or a few things to include in your diet are all well and good. Just because you read it, and are inspired by it, doesn’t lead to the benefit of the greens, the fibre or the success of making it an enjoying. Iit’s the putting things into action that is what needs to happen. Right?! Knowing it and doing it are two different things. Inspiration comes, the yes I’ll try it only to be met with resistance – I don’t have enough time, or whatever. I recall a client who wanted to make change. Wanted to lose weight and feel better because he knew that what had transpired during the lockdowns wasn’t good for him. After our first consultation we talked about three things to do over the next two weeks before we would speak for a follow up session. It took him 10 days to make the switch to a better breakfast. The water first thing in the morning was happening, water before coffee was a huge win. The breakfast took longer because of resistance and fear to the taste, that it was different and push back on committing to something new and letting go of the old. 


Speaking of water in the morning, what if that was your tiny habit for the next week? You go to bed with a wter bottle in hand or a glass, and when you wake up, drink it before anything else. 


Lastly, to work towards changing behaviours to feel better, please manage your expectations – there is a big change, as in all in one day that’s going to be sustainable or successful. The number one way to success is one thing that could take 30 seconds. Or in the case of EAT THIS with Lianne it could be one mouthful at a time. 

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