4 Ways to Change Bad Eating Habits
Every day it’s the same. 10:15 am is time for a coffee. You’ve looked forward to it since you woke up and you counted the minutes as the time got closer. It’s your habit to have a cup at around 10:15. How do you know it’s a habit? Aside from the fact that you do it every day, the real sign of a habit is when you try to imagine going without your morning coffee, or even just pushing the time back an hour to 11:15.
If that thought makes you break out in a sweat because you’re not going to get your coffee when you expect it, you know you have a real habit. But where did the habit come from? You weren’t born having a coffee at 10:15 every day.
Every habit, good or bad, starts with a single act or behaviour. One day, you took a mid-morning break and, looking for a refreshment, you tried a coffee. It tasted great and you thought you’d like to experience that again so you did the same thing the next day. Over time, your body and mind learned to expect the behavior, and soon you had a caffeine habit.
Fortunately, coffee isn’t a particularly bad habit that you necessarily need to change. But the mistake we make when trying to change bad habits, like unhealthy eating, is to think that, just like the habit started one day, we can undo it in one day.
If you try to change your unhealthy dessert habit by going cold turkey one night, you’ll be up against powerful cravings for that piece of pie for days and weeks. Cravings that are difficult to defeat.
Eating habits in can be particularly resistant to change because many of them are unconscious. You might not even realize that you reach for the chips after every time you talk to your friend whose life seems way more fabulous than yours.
How to Conquer Bad Eating Habits
The most effective way to change any bad habit is to not stress over the habit itself. It’s there, it’s not healthy and it might be contributing to your weight gain, but if you focus on it you’ll still be tempted to try to get rid of it immediately.
Instead, take more indirect approaches that, in essence, replace the bad habit over time with a healthier one. In other words, you learned a behaviour that became a bad habit, so try to learn a new behaviour to take the place of the bad habit.
Here are a few ways you can do that for unhealthy eating habits, as suggested by The Mayo Clinic. Give them a try and work on the ones that appeal to you.
1. Create a Distraction
Despite how powerful they feel when they hit, food cravings generally don’t last more than 20 minutes. When you feel a craving coming on, look for a way to distract yourself from it. Find new tunes for your playlist, catch up on emails, call your Mom or go for a walk. Anything that will distract you from the craving until it goes away.
2. Take Small Steps
If you snack on the wrong things in the evenings, take small steps to change the behaviour instead of cutting it out in one swoop. Start to measure and reduce how much you eat. One night, before your regular snack, have an apple or glass of water so you don’t eat so much of the bad stuff. Or make one evening ‘no snack’ night. Successes with each small step will lead to bigger steps and more success later on.
3. Get to the Root of the Behaviour
Every time you indulge a bad habit, you go through three stages: the trigger, the behaviour and the consequence. In the case of talking to your fab friend, hearing about her wonderful life triggers your sense that your life sucks. That prompts the behaviour of grabbing the chips, and the consequences are that your health suffers and you make it more difficult to manage your weight. While you don’t want to lose a friend, maybe you can cut down on the frequency of the conversations or at least be aware of the trigger and try to not let it lead to the behaviour.
4. Confront the Habit
You know it’s bad, but you convince yourself that, because the muffin has blueberries, it’s sort of healthy, so you pick one up on your way to work every morning. One morning, even after you buy the muffin, take a look online for its nutrition facts. Maybe, after you find out that it packs almost 20% of the recommended daily calorie intake, about 8 teaspoons of sugar, almost 3 grams of saturated fat and over 20% of the recommended daily ‘adequate intake’ of salt – that’s for a medium-sized muffin – maybe you’ll be ‘scared straight’ and try some fresh melon instead.
Trying to change bad eating habits is just one way for you to try to better manage your weight. If you’d like to learn more, and get the support you need to help you make real transformations in your health and nutrition, contact the nutritional specialists at your local Herbal One Centre.