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Healthy Eating: Overcoming Barriers to Change


One of the important steps in changing your eating habits is figuring out what your barriers are. A barrier is anything that causes you to slip up in your goal to make a lifestyle change. The best way to overcome barriers is to identify them and make a plan to deal with them.

What has stopped you from changing your eating habits in the past? What do you think might stop you in the future? Write down those things that might get in your way. Then for each of those barriers, write some ideas for how you could get around it.

You can also talk with others about your barriers. Getting support from family, friends, a counselor, or your doctor can help you succeed.

How do you overcome barriers to healthy eating?

All kinds of things can get in your way when you're trying to eat better. If you're stuck, it may help to think about what keeps you from eating healthier and how to get around those things.

Here are some steps that may help.

  1. Think about your barriers.

    Work, long commutes, taking care of loved ones—everything you have to do in a day—can make it tough to eat healthier. Sometimes the challenges are not just what we do, but what we say to ourselves. Do you ever:

    • Feel bad about yourself if you slip up? "I don't have any willpower. I'm just always going to be this way."
    • Feel hopeless that you can eat healthier? "I'm not good at making changes."
    • Feel overwhelmed by the thought of shopping and cooking? "I don't have time. It's quicker to go through the drive-through."

    What are your personal challenges?

  2. Imagine moving past your barriers.

    You don't have to get around every challenge right now. Here are some ideas about small steps you could take.

    • "I don't have any willpower. I'm just always going to be this way." Just because you have struggled before doesn't mean that you can't succeed now. Instead of thinking, "I don't have any willpower," maybe you could say to yourself, "I just need to give it more time and be patient with myself." What other supportive comments could you say to yourself? It also may help to make sure that you're eating healthy meals and snacks throughout the day. Otherwise, you may get so hungry that you overeat. And that can make you feel like you have no willpower. Think about this journey as changing how you eat, not taking away foods you love.
    • "I'm not good at making changes." Change can be hard, and it can take some time to build new habits. But you may already be making some positive changes. Maybe you love green vegetables and eat a salad at lunch. Could you add a vegetable at dinner? Or perhaps you've cut out sugary drinks. Could you drink more water? Those are great steps. Can you think of a healthy eating choice that you have made before? How did you do it?
    • "I don't have time. It's quicker to go through the drive-through." What is one idea that you could try this week to save time? Maybe one night you could cut up and bag some veggies for snacks for the week. That's just one idea. You'll have other ideas of your own.
  3. Make it real.

    If you write down the answers to these questions, you're more likely to make some healthy changes.

    • What are the things that get in your way of eating healthier?
    • What are some steps you could take to get around those barriers?
    • Is there one idea you think you could do pretty easily?
  4. Commit.

    Set a date to start that first step, so you can experience the strength and satisfaction of meeting your goal.


Current as of: September 20, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.


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