When it comes to eating, we have strong habits. Some are good, and some are not-so-good. Although many of our eating habits were established during childhood, it doesn’t mean it’s too late to change them.
Many people make sudden, radical changes to their diet in the hopes of “getting healthy” or “losing weight” quickly. These radical changes often fail because they don’t take into account our life-long habits. Improving your eating habits requires a thoughtful approach, making small changes as you go and re-defining older, unhealthy habits.
First of all, reflect on all your current eating habits, both good and bad. What are your personal triggers for unhealthy eating? Keep a food diary for a few days, writing down everything you eat and the time of day you ate it. Also note how you were feeling when you decided to eat. Tired? Hungry? Stressed?
Highlight the habits on your diary that may lead you to overeat. Common eating habits that can lead to weight gain include eating too fast, always cleaning your plate, eating when you are not hungry, eating while standing up, always eating dessert, or skipping breakfast or other meals.
Once you’ve identified your unhealthy triggers, identify and replace just a few you’d like to work on improving first. Pat yourself on the back for the things you’ve doing right. Recognizing your successes will help encourage you to make more changes. For long-term success, slow changes always work better than fast turnabouts.
Slowly replace unhealthy habits with new, healthy ones. One change that can really help is to learn to eat more slowly. Put your fork down between bites. Minimize distractions such as watching TV during dinner. Distractions keep you from paying attention to how much or how quickly you’re eating. Eat only when you are truly hungry instead of when you are tired, anxious, or bored. Plan meals ahead of time to ensure healthier choices.
Finally, reinforce your new, healthy habits and be patient with yourself. Habits take time to develop, and they don’t happen overnight. When and if you do find yourself engaging in an unhealthy habit, stop as quickly as possible and ask yourself why you chose to go that way. Don’t berate yourself or think that one mistake “blows” the whole day! Take it one day at a time and remember to celebrate your successes!
Reflect Replace Reinforce