In this webinar, nutritionist and health expert Ruth Tongue explored the key factors influencing behaviour change and making habits ‘stick’ for life. She explained why it’s essential to consider the following factors (outlined in the Self-Determination Theory), that affect our motivation to change, when thinking about developing new habits:

1. Competence –  the need to feel that you’re the master of something, the need to show progression and feel effective.

2. Relatedness – gaining a sense of community, being connected and caring for or caring for others.

3. Autonomy – the feeling that you have the choice in the activity and that this habit hasn’t been forced upon you.

We’re in the midst of a chronic disease and mental health epidemic and unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately depending on how you look at it) much of this is due to our lifestyle. Sleep, nutrition, physical activity and mental health and all inherently related and it’s important not to look at one in isolation. Having worked in health and corporate wellbeing for almost 15 years, here are my science and experience-based tips for staying well in each of these areas:


Signs of sleep deprivation

1. Routine – same time to bed, same time to wake 7 days per week and perfect your wind-down routine each night (e.g. bath, teeth, pyjamas, book, lights out).

2. Sleep environment – daylight and darkness regulate your circadian rhythm (melatonin production). Light and blue light (from technology) can affect melatonin production and disrupt sleep so ensure you have a dark room with no blue light from devices. Ideal temperature for sleep is 18 degrees C (64.4 degrees F) and avoid raising body temperature with exercise or heavy meals too close to bedtime (less than 2 hours before bed). Eliminate noise pollution or wear ear plugs when needed!

3. Practice Relaxation – use meditation, body scans, journalling of your worries, breathing exercises or use an app such as Calm or Headspace for their meditations and sleep stories.

4. If you can’t sleep – get up, do something quiet & relaxing in dim light for 15 minutes and try again. Avoid bright lights when getting up to use the bathroom.

5. When travelling remember that daylight regulates circadian rhythms so get out in the daylight for some gentle exercise as soon as possible and switch to your new timezone as soon as you can (adapting to their sleep and meal patterns). Travel rested as the likelihood is that you’ll miss out on sleep during your travels. Melatonin can help with jet lag but seek advice from your medical practitioner.


1.Routine is key – especially when travelling. Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner and don’t leave long gaps between meals. Try to combine lean protein, plenty of fibre and some slow releasing carbohydrate at each meal to keep you feeling energised, alert and regulate sleep. Don’t be tempted to add more stress to your body by skipping meals when you’re already in a heightened state of stress, anxiety or arousal (as most of us our in a busy working lifestyle!).

2. Don’t fall for the quick fixes. Diets don’t work – if they did the multi-million pound diet industry wouldn’t be so.

3. Eat mindfully – sit, chew, relax, without distraction for AT LEAST one of your three meals a day (ideally three). This moves us from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) and allows us to absorb nutrients efficiently, recognise fullness and enjoy food.

4. Plan but be flexible. To be resilient we need to be flexible, and we also need to be flexible with our eating habits. Think about whether your food is nourishing you both physically and emotionally.

5. Don’t get bogged down in the minutiae – we’ve over-complicated nutrition. On the whole, most people could benefit from eating more plant foods, eating less red and processed meats and eating less sugar and salt. Simple.


1. Make it fun

2. Check in with the 3 factors – 1. Are you able to measure your progress? 2. Does it enable connectedness? 3. Is it autonomous (i.e. do you really want to do this?)

3. Remember that exercise doesn’t need to be high intensity – in fact lower intensity may be more beneficial for you if you’re already in a ‘stressed’ state physically or mentally.

4. Exercise is one of the best stress relievers there is, but sleep should take priority if you’re sleep deprived!


Remember that we all have mental health – we should be able to talk about it as openly and non-judgementally as we talk about physical health.

Mindfulness is ‘the awareness that arises by paying attention on purpose in the moment, non-judgmentally.’

Benefits of mindfulness:

– Reduce stress and anxiety, helps fight depression

– Improves concentration and focus

– Improves compassion and empathy

– Increases our wellbeing – encouraging positive emotions and feelings of gratitude

– Improves memory

– Increases behavioral regulation

– Boosts immunity

– Decreases reactivity

ALTO members please visit the Members/ Member Resources area on the webpage to watch the recording of this webinar available until 31/03/2020 and contact me with any questions or suggestions for future webinar topics.