Changing eating habits can be a difficult thing to change. After all they are an ingrained habit what we have conditioned our body to do and expect.
Changing these habits may require an initial period of discomfort and continual ongoing conscious awareness to develop a new habit. With your health at stake though, implementing strategies to develop new habits may well be the difference of a life of good health or illness.
Initially, it is important to assess why you want to change and how dedicated you are. Generally speaking it is unlikely that success will occur if you aren’t truly dedicated to wanting to change.
It is a good rule of thumb to only attempt to change one habit at a time, as research indicates that if you attempt one habit, your success rate will typically be around 80%, however once a second, third or a number of changes are implemented to take place at once, the success rate drops to under 20%. Therefore, even though it will take longer to implement changes, you are more likely to succeed if you take it slowly. Also, most studies suggest it takes 21 days to change a habit, so focus on staying committed and mindful for at least 3 weeks for the changes to be effective and long lasting.
Picking the worst habit that is affecting your health or hindering your results can be a great place to start. Examples of these habits may be drinking soft drink daily, always having desserts, consuming excess alcohol, or buying too much take away food. The key is to focus on the one habit and find alternative options or strategies to avoid it.
Some strategies that can be utilised to help with changing habits include:
- Plan meals and snacks – try to pre plan your meals and snacks at a time when you are focused on your goals, that way you will not get stuck and have to buy unhealthy options or be exposed to situations that will sway you from your goal.
- Don’t shop when hungry and shop from a list – if you shop when you are starving, chances are you are not going to make the wisest choices. Generally speaking, once that food is in your house it will most likely be consumed at some point. A better option is to write a list of foods needed for the week and shop from it on a day you are feeling satisfied, well rested and focused on your goals. Completely avoid the isle that contains foods that aren’t on your list as this may lead to impulse buying. In general, try to ensure most of your foods come from the perimeter of the supermarket
- Clear out your pantry of unhealthy foods – it is generally considered that if you have a food in your house, there is a reasonable chance it will be eaten at some point. Therefore, for complete success it is ideal to remove these from your household. If this is not an option move them out of site or to an inconvenient location in which it takes more effort to get them. This gives you an opportunity to evaluate if you really want this item.
- Be mindful and enjoy food – when you are eating, sit down, turn off any distractions and put your full attention into what you are eating and enjoy every mouthful, taking time to digest it.
- If you are prone to serving yourself oversized dishes try using smaller plates – this is a great technique to trick your mind into thinking you have a nice full plate that you are accustomed to, however your portion size will be less
- Only eat to 80% full – no doubt everyone may have heard it can take up to 20 minutes for your brain to register that you are satisfied, by this time, however, it is possible to over eat. Therefore, by stopping when you are 80% full, by the time your brain registers you are contently full, you will be satisfied and not have over consumed
- Always have protein and vegetables – protein is utilized in every single cell in the body, so therefore vital for health. It also keeps you feeling full for longer and boosts metabolism. Vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that assist with essential functions within the body, plus most are relative low in calories and consuming a larger amount is generally not detrimental to those who are trying to lose weight. Therefore by consuming these at every meal you are providing your body with great nutrition and boosting metabolism.
- Have carbohydrates after exercise, particularly if weight loss is your goal – carbohydrates are best tolerated and absorbed after exercise so this is the best time to consume them particularly if your goal is weight loss. However different people can tolerate carbohydrates at various times based on their physiological makeup. If having carbohydrates outside of post exercise, ensure they are wholegrain cereals and fruit in its natural state. It is best to avoid all overly processed forms such as flours, white breads, white rice, biscuits, cakes, lollies, concentrated juices, cordials etc
- Eat healthy fats daily – fat is an essential nutrient that is required by the body. It is important to consume fat daily, but the healthy sort. Examples of this are olive oil, coconut oil, nut oils as these can assist with healthy daily functions of the body.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day – water is so vital to health and not drinking enough can have detrimental impacts on health. The general recommended intake for adults is 8 glasses per day, but more is necessary if exercising or in hot conditions. Drinking water can also make you feel full so there is less likelihood to over eat. Sometimes when we feel hungry it is actually the body letting us know it needs hydration.
There are many ways you can make small daily changes to your life. Pick one of the tips above and start implementing them into your lifestyle.