It can be hard to break bad habits, especially when it comes to eating. But the good news is that you can start building healthier habits today! Eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. With a few simple steps, you can start building healthy eating habits that will benefit your body and mind in the long run.
If you want to reach your health goals, there are better ways than drastic changes, like eating only chicken and rice. While they might lead to short-term weight loss, these measures are neither healthy nor sustainable in the long run. Instead, you need to take an intentional approach that involves reflection, replacement, and reinforcement to make lasting improvements.
- Reflect on your dietary habits, both bad and good, and your common triggers for poor eating.
- Replace your unhealthy eating habits with more desirable ones.
- Reinforce your new, better eating habits.
Step 1: Reflection
Make a List
Create a list of your regular eating and drinking habits. Keep a food and beverage journal for a few days. Take note of everything you eat and drink, including sugary drinks and alcohol. Jot down the time of day you consumed the item.
This will assist you in observing your habits. For instance, you could find that you continually search for a sweet snack to get you through the mid-afternoon energy dip.
It’s excellent to record how you were feeling when you chose to eat, particularly if you were eating when not hungry. Were you exhausted? Stressed out?
Find Your Habits
Focus on the behaviors on your list that may be causing you to overindulge. Everyday eating habits that can lead to weight gain include:
- Eating food too quickly
- Always finishing your plate
- Consuming food even when not hungry
- Eating while standing up
- Never passing up dessert
- Missing meals
Find Your Triggers
Taking a closer look at your unhealthy eating habits? Make sure you’ve figured out all the triggers causing you to indulge in them. Then, pick out a few that you’d like to focus on improving first.
Remember to pat yourself on the back for what you’re doing right. Perhaps you usually choose fruit as your dessert or stick to low-fat or fat-free milk – these are excellent choices! Acknowledging your successes will motivate you to make further changes.
Find Your Cues
Learn to identify and better understand your triggers for overeating by creating a list of “cues.” Review your food diary to learn when and where you’re “triggered” to eat for reasons besides hunger, and note how you typically feel at those times. Common triggers for non-hunger eating include:
- Having snacks readily available
- Watching TV
- Stressful situations
- Not having planned meals
- Gifts of food
- People at work bringing snacks
- Routinely visiting a favorite fast food restaurant
Circle any of the “cues” on your list that you confront daily or weekly. Even though the holidays may be a prompt to overeat, for the moment, focus on cues you encounter more frequently. Ultimately you want a plan for as many eating cues as possible.
Ask These Two Questions for Each Cue:
How can you avoid the cue or situation? This could be a great solution if the cue doesn’t involve other people. For example, could you take a different route to work and skip stopping at the fast food restaurant? Alternatively, is there another spot in the break room where you can set up, so you don’t end up next to the vending machine?
Can you do something different for unavoidable situations that would keep you healthier? Certainly, you can’t avoid all situations that induce your unhealthy eating patterns, such as staff meetings at work. In these circumstances, consider your alternatives. Could you offer or bring healthier snacks or drinks? Could you volunteer to take notes to divert your attention? Could you sit farther away from the snacks? Could you plan ahead and eat a nutritious snack before the meeting?
Step 2: Replacement
Instead of unhealthy habits, establish healthier habits. As you look at your eating habits, you may see that you eat too quickly when you eat alone. Make a commitment to meet with a coworker for lunch every week or invite a neighbor over for dinner. Additionally, put your fork down between bites. Furthermore, limit distractions like watching the news while eating. Such distractions keep you from noticing how quickly you eat and much food you consume.
Plan healthy meals ahead of time and slow down when you eat. Pay attention to whether you are full instead of just clearing your plate if you eat too quickly.
Not sure if you’re really hungry? Here’s a tip: if you’re feeling an emotion other than hunger, like boredom or anxiety, take a break from eating and try doing an activity that doesn’t involve food. For example, going for a walk or calling a friend for a chat can help you feel better without reaching for snacks!
Step 3: Reinforcement
Reinforce your new, healthful habits and be patient with yourself. Habits require time to form. They don’t occur suddenly.
When you catch yourself taking part in an unhealthy eating habit, stop immediately and ask yourself: Why do I do this? When did I begin doing this? What alterations do I need to make? Be mindful to not reprimand yourself or suppose that one error “ruins” an entire day’s worth of healthy eating habits. You can do it! It just takes one day at a time!
Building Healthy Eating Habits
Are you looking for healthy eating advice beyond these steps to help you reach your goals faster?
Our website is the perfect resource for you. We are dedicated to helping people build healthy habits and reach their health and fitness goals. Our resources are free to use and can be emailed directly to you.
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