To print: Use your web browser's print feature. Close this window after printing.

Healthy Eating: Overcoming Barriers to Change

Table of Contents


Replacing a bad habit with a good habit takes time and patience. It requires several steps, from setting your goals to getting support. One of the important steps is figuring out what your barriers are.

What has stopped you from changing your eating habits in the past? What do you think might stop you in the future? Identifying these barriers now—and having a plan to help you get past them—will help you change bad habits into good habits.

How do you overcome barriers to healthy eating?

The best way to overcome barriers is to identify them ahead of time and have a backup plan to deal with them. Some barriers are the kind that keep you from even trying to change a habit. Other barriers pop up later.

When you hit a barrier—and most people do—get support. Talk to your family members and friends to see if someone wants to be active with you or cheer you on. If you have concerns about your health, talk to your doctor to make sure you're doing your activities safely.

There are many reasons why you may not want to try to change your eating habits. Here are some frequent barriers and some solutions to them.

"I'll never be able to change how I eat."

Not believing you can do something is often really just a fear of failure. People put off making changes in their lives because of this fear. This kind of barrier can keep you from even starting to make a lifestyle change. But it can also crop up on days when you feel discouraged.

Possible solutions:

"I don't have time to make changes."

This is a very common reason not to change. It can take the form of "My life is too busy," or "I'm always feeling rushed," or "I have more important things to do."

Possible solutions:

"I don't like health foods."

Many people use this reason or variations of it such as "I don't like vegetables," "I don't like low-fat foods," or "I really crave sweets and high-fat foods. I'll miss them." Often a fear of the unknown is behind these reasons.

Possible solutions:

"Health foods cost too much."

It's true that things like fresh produce, whole-grain breads, and other healthy food items can cost more than fast foods and junk foods. Sometimes it seems like your budget would do better if you just ate cheap fast food every day.

But you can stay within your budget by putting in some extra time planning, shopping, and cooking. And the more time you invest, the more money you'll save.

Possible solutions:

"I'll be criticized or made fun of if I eat health food."

Many people are held back from changing their eating habits because of how they think it will look to others. It can be hard to stick with a healthy eating plan when family and friends don't want to join you.

Possible solutions:

"I'm not good at making changes."

This reason may take the form of "I'm too old (or fat, or set in my ways) to make changes." Often, low self-esteem makes it hard to change.

Possible solutions:

To help you identify your own barriers to changing your eating habits, think about the last few times you thought about changing your eating behavior but didn't follow through with it. What held you back? Write down your reasons. Then for each of your reasons, write a response that helps you reconsider your choice. Look at your list of reasons and responses whenever you are about to make a choice about what to eat.

Credits for Healthy Eating: Overcoming Barriers to Change

Current as of: February 28, 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.

Note: The "printer friendly" document will not contain all the information available in the online document. Some information (e.g. cross-references to other topics, definitions or medical illustrations) is only available in the online version.

© 1995-2023 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.