Well, it’s everyone’s favourite time of year again…back to school! *Cheers in the background* Whether it is actually your favourite time or not, it is here and we all know that it means we will be busier. This also means our stress levels tend to increase. Like many, I’m heading back to school this fall. So, I thought that this would be a great time to talk about one of the things that I’m sure many of us worry about when we get busier – maintaining healthy eating habits.
Whether you are going back to school or you’re a parent sending the kid(s) off to school, life gets ridiculously busy and healthy eating habits tend to derail. It happens to the best of us. Late night study sessions or driving kids around does make it difficult to ensure that healthy meals are cooked. Especially because it’s way more convenient (low-response effort) to buy ready-made foods. And let’s be real…who doesn’t love to binge on chocolate or chips while studying. That’s totally fine if it’s your thing, but we also know that it is important to keep our bodies well fueled, so we can tackle our busy schedules without getting sick or crashing.
So, what if I told you that there are ways to fit healthy eating into a busy schedule? Mind blowing, I know. Lucky for us, we are in a field that gives us the tools to help make this happen. I’m talking about those amazing self-management tactics (with a splash of antecedent strategies). *It is important to note that I am not trying to tell you what and how to eat. I just want to share the strategies that I used with the hope of inspiring and helping others to find what works for them.*
When I started living on my own during university, one of things I worried about was not having healthy meals/snacks available. because I had to start preparing meals myself. However, I made sure to put healthy eating on the top of my list, and with the help of a few strategies, I was able to reach my goal of maintaining healthy eating habits.
- Get rid of all the junk food!
Manipulate your environment by removing the unwanted stimuli (junk foods). You can’t snack on unhealthy foods if they are not in the house.
- Plan meals while making the grocery list
This is a great way to try new foods and ensure you have fresh ingredients for a great meal to fuel your body and mind. I even planned my daily snacks so when I was hungry throughout the day, I knew there were healthy options available to satisfy my hunger. The grocery list will also act as a textual response prompt to remind you that a trip down the junk food aisle is not necessary because none of those items are on the list. Bonus: This is also a great way to stay on budget.
- Don’t forget to treat yourself!
Let’s not forget about how to maintain this behaviour. Of course, if you want to increase and maintain your behaviour, you’ll want to provide some sort of reinforcement. Depending on your goals and values, there are many ways you can do this. One of my favourite ways was to designate a time when the reinforcement was available. For example: I know that I have a sweet tooth and often enjoy something sweet after dinner. So, when I went grocery shopping, I always put one chocolate bar on my list so that way I could enjoy a bite after dinner to satisfy my craving (fixed interval schedule of reinforcement). The trick to this is to also put the chocolate out of plain sight while it’s unavailable so there isn’t any temptation. This provided enough access where I was not completely deprived or satiated of the reinforcement and maintained motivation to reach my goal.
About The Author:
HI! My name is Cassandra, and if you didn’t catch the “u” in “behaviour”, I’m Canadian. I am a self-proclaimed Behaviour Analysis geek. When I am not learning more about the field, you can find me walking my dogs, working out, reading a book, or watching a sport/binging shows. My dream is to work in the areas of fitness and nutrition and show how Behaviour Analysis can help people reach their goals. Follow me on Instagram at @thebehaviourdiet.