“I don’t have time to eat healthy”. How often have you heard yourself utter this sentence? How often have you found yourself skipping meals or making unhealthy choices because ‘you don’t have time’? Sadly, this excuse for not being in a healthy eating routine is spoken far too often.

So let’s look at this scenario from another angle: if you were to do an inventory of your day, how often would you have ‘empty’ time which is filled with unnecessary events such as being on Facebook, sitting in front of the TV not really watching anything, playing games, hitting the snooze button in the morning? These times are different to the quality me time or social events which are a necessary part of a balanced life. They are the times where you were just plain unproductive. Many of us would find a couple of hours a day where time is wasted.

So how can we get out of this bad habit that is taking time away from important tasks such as eating an early breakfast, prepping the day so that you have snacks and lunch when you are at work, and preparing healthy dinner meals?

One person who is extremely passionate about this topic is Mel Robbins. She created the 5 Second Rule to trick herself into stop procrastinating and improve her life. She says that the moment you feel yourself hesitate you should start counting backwards: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. It works by interrupting your habit of overthinking, making it easier to engage in the procrastinating behaviour. Robbins says that the rule acts as a ‘starting ritual’ that breaks bad habits and triggers positive new behaviour change.

Now we need to learn how to put this into practice to get into better eating habits. Here are some simple things (yes, it really shouldn’t be difficult!) you need to remember to focus on to get the right habits going:

  1. Make a list of daily, weekly and even monthly tasks you will need to work on to get into good, healthy eating habits. These can include eating breakfast, taking lunch to work, working out a weekly menu, doing a weekly grocery shop etc. etc. Don’t let this list overwhelm you, rather choose one or two habits to work on every week and get these habits going.
  1. Set an alarm to remind you to do the task. It is very easy to run out the house without having had breakfast or forget about eating during the day, especially if that is your current habit. It is therefore very helpful to set alarms to remind you to do the new tasks, especially if you are prone to forgeting about it because you are too busy with other things.
  1. Take time out to eat. In other words, don’t eat and work at the same time. Many people feel that they have to work through lunch because there are not enough hours in the day, but studies have shown that some time away from the desk can help you work more efficiently in the later part of the day. Even if you just take some time out for a quick walk or stretch, any breaks will help to revive your energy and help you focus better thereafter. Start thinking of your toilet breaks as a quick reviving break rather than a bother…
  1. Set aside time to work on your meals. It is important to prepare your meals and snacks so that you know it will be easy to eat well at the appropriate times. It is helpful to do this the day before rather than in the morning, especially if mornings are a crazy time in your home. Set aside some time on the weekends to prepare meals for the week – these can be refrigerated or frozen for those days where you get home too late to cook.
  1. Reset. You may need to do an inventory of your eating habits every so often just to check that you are still doing the tasks that you had planned on some weeks before. When tasks are not habitual yet it is easy to forget about them when time gets tight. By checking on yourself every so often you’ll keep prioritising the new task and thereby help it to become a natural part of your day.
  1. Treat yourself occasionally. This is really important to ensure that you are not feeling deprived and end up sabotaging your efforts. Treats are often those foods that are not very nutritious but you absolutely love them. Let yourself enjoy the occasional treat – have a small amount of your favourite, sit in a comfy spot, and eat the treat slowly, savouring every bite.
  1. Forgive yourself if you get it wrong. We are humans (as opposed to robots), and every so often life throws complications our way, making it necessary that we wing it. The daily tasks and habits are more difficult to adhere to. So forgive yourself if it doesn’t go according to plan. But don’t make excuses. Get right back to the better ways the very next meal or at least the very next day.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 GO. Don’t let yourself think, just get on with it. You’ll be amazed at how much better life can be when you are eating well and have healthy eating habits.