When it comes to eating, some of our habits are good and others are not. Although many of our eating habits were established during childhood, it’s not too late to change them.
Making sudden, radical changes to eating habits can lead to short-term weight loss. However, such radical changes are neither healthy nor a good idea, and won't be successful in the long run. Permanently improving your eating habits requires a thoughtful approach in which you reflect, replace and reinforce.
- Reflect on all of your specific eating habits, both bad and good, and your common triggers for unhealthy eating.
- Replace your unhealthy eating habits with healthier ones.
- Reinforce your new, healthier eating habits
1. Create a list of your eating habits. Keeping a food diary for a few days, in which you write down everything you eat and the time of day you ate it, will help you uncover your habits. It's good to note how you were feeling when you decided to eat, especially if you were eating when not hungry. Were you tired? Stressed out?
2. Highlight the habits on your list that may be leading you to overeat. Common eating habits that can lead to weight gain are:
- Eating too fast
- Always cleaning your plate
- Eating when not hungry
- Eating while standing up (may lead to eating mindlessly or too quickly)
- Always eating dessert
- Skipping meals
3. Replace unhealthy habits with new, healthy ones. If you eat too fast when you eat alone, make a commitment to share a lunch each week with a colleague, or have a neighbor over for dinner one night a week. Other strategies might include putting your fork down between bites or minimizing other distractions that might keep you from paying attention to how quickly — and how much — you're eating.
Here are more ideas to help you replace unhealthy habits:
- Eat more slowly. If you eat too quickly, you may "clean your plate" instead of paying attention to whether your hunger is satisfied.
- Eat only when you're truly hungry instead of when you are tired, anxious or feeling an emotion besides hunger. If you find yourself eating when you are experiencing an emotion besides hunger, such as boredom or anxiety, try to find a non-eating activity to do instead. You may find a quick walk or phone call with a friend helps you feel better.
- Plan meals ahead of time to ensure that you eat a healthy well-balanced meal.
4. Reinforce your new, healthy habits and be patient with yourself. Habits take time to develop. It doesn't happen overnight. When you do find yourself engaging in an unhealthy habit, stop as quickly as possible and ask yourself: Why do I do this? When did I start doing this? What changes do I need to make?
You can do it! Just take it one day at a time.