By: Nadia Bedrosian, CSUN Dietetic Intern
You’ve seen it before, friends and family doting themselves to a new routine at the start of the new year, month, or on a Monday. They say, “Tomorrow is a new day, I will start then.” Whether it’s a fitness routine or a nutrition routine most people jump in head first with an all or nothing mindset. If making drastic changes was easy, there wouldn’t be such a market for gimmicky weight loss plans.
Let’s face it, as humans, sometimes we want instant gratification for our actions. But with this method, we may not gain the skills and mindset in which we could with small adjustments.
I’m here to tell you, yes you can do it! But you don’t need to do it all in one day.
Making small changes that can lead to a big impact can be easy and fun to do. Small changes can be more practical to reach and maintain.1 Gradual changes allow us to adjust to the new environmental changes in our lives.
Small Nutrition-Related Changes
For an individual that has a nutrition-related goal, such as eating more vegetables, implementing the change in smaller, gradual steps can help make this change a lifelong habit. Here are some practical ways to incorporate more vegetables into your everyday routine:
- Sauté extra batches of your favorite produce items, some examples are onions, bell peppers, and spinach. Mix them in with eggs in the morning, or as a side with chicken and some brown rice.
- Incorporate veggies into smoothies. If you like the idea of having kale or spinach in your smoothies you can add different fruits into resealable freezer bags with your choice of green leafy vegetables. By doing this you can have a few pre-bagged smoothie sets ready to go with prepped fruits and vegetables. Then you can add a splash of your favorite dairy or non-dairy milk when the contents are placed in the blender.
- When cutting fresh fruits or vegetables, cut a little extra to have ready-to-go. Store them in a mason jar or any type of food-safe container and keep them in the refrigerator. You can even add dip for the vegetables at the bottom of the container.
- Pair veggies with hummus, plain yogurt mixed with fresh herbs and seasonings, or a vinaigrette made from your favorite type of vinegar (e.g. balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, pomegranate vinegar) combined with a dash of olive oil.
For fitness, a small change can be something as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or starting a fitness class once a week. You can walk or ride a bike when going to nearby locations.
Video Series on Practical Changes for Health and Wellness
The Choose MyPlate website contains many resources to finding simple ways to make changes in your routine, including a video series on practical changes for health and wellness.
For breakfast, they suggest having whole grains and fruit. For lunch, they suggest having lighter dressings for salads. And for dinner, they suggest having foods prepared by either being broiled, baked or steamed. They include tips on how small changes in meals can help lower the amount of added sugar, saturated fat, and sodium consumed.2 MyPlate is a great method to help shape your meals and to help build a healthy eating style through small changes.
Journaling for Behavior Change
The idea that is most significant behind small changes is that they promote behavior change. The changes can fit into an individual’s lifestyle with realistic outcomes, that can then become a long-term behavior change.3
You can plan out the changes you would like to make using a bullet journal which is a journal you can design and log in your notes and thoughts to reach your goals. You can start by drawing out your month or week and writing one small goal that you would like to meet for a time period.
You can log exercises you did that day or the type of food you consumed. For example, if you have a goal to eat 5 servings of vegetables per week, you can log in the days that you had vegetables and then tally how many servings you had in the week. Journaling can be a tool to track your progress.
What is Your Goal?
Individuals that set a plan to implement changes will have a better chance of reaching their goal. Attaining small changes can help increase self-efficacy which can motivate that individual to attain more small lifestyle changes.1
At California State University Northridge (CSUN), there are many resources available to learn more about wellness. Free nutrition counseling services are available through the Klotz Student Health Center for current CSUN students, staff and faculty. The Marilyn Magaram Center (MMC) provides workshops on cooking, gardening, and wellness topics that are often open to the public. Appointments for nutrition counseling with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) at the MMC are also available, which can assist you in making small changes that can lead to big health and wellness changes. For those who would like to track how the small fitness and nutrition changes are improving their body composition, they can book BOD POD services to help determine muscle mass and percent body fat.
I encourage you to find out what works for you and give making small changes a chance, you will find yourself pleasantly delighted when you start seeing how the small changes can lead to goals you always wanted to achieve.
- Hill JO. Can a small-changes approach help address the obesity epidemic? A report of the Joint Task Force of the American Society for Nutrition, Institute of Food Technologists, and International Food Information Council. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008;89(2):477-484. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2008.26566.
- Make Small Changes. ChooseMyPlate. U.S. Department of Agriculture.
https://www.choosemyplate.gov/eathealthy/myplate-mywins/make-small-changes. Accessed September 24, 2019.
- Lutes LD, Daiss SR, Barger SD, Read M, Steinbaugh E, Winett RA. Small Changes Approach Promotes Initial and Continued Weight Loss with a Phone-Based Follow-Up: Nine-Month Outcomes from ASPIRES II. Am J Health Promot. 2012;26(4):235-238. doi:10.4278/ajhp.090706-quan-216.