When it comes to eating, we develop habits that usually start in our childhood. Some of these habits are good and some are not so good. I have heard from so many people who grew up being told, “you can’t have dessert until you finish all the food on your plate”. I know parents don't mean any harm in this but this way of thinking has stuck with many of us and created mind set issues in the way we look at food and dessert.
In this article you will find 7 tips to keep you from falling into unhealthy eating habits and a Reflect, Reinforce and Replace plan that will help you dive deeper into this. The more aware we are of our behavior and what triggers that behavior the easier it is to make long lasting changes!
7 Tips To Keep You From Falling Into Unhealthy Eating Habits
- Get rid of the unhealthy food in your home. I know what you may be thinking, “I can't get rid of all the unhealthy food because ________ " (fill in the blank with what your reason may be - ”I need to have it in case a neighbor stops by, my kids need to have junk food in the house, my husband loves sweets”….) In reality, you don't have to keep unhealthy food in your home for any reason. If you want to eat less sweets don't have sweets in your home, if you want to avoid eating Doritos, don't have them in your home. Now is a perfect time to purge your home of all the unhealthy foods that are causing you to fall into unhealthy eating habits.
- Be aware that food packaging is designed to get you to buy the food. Food marketing experts use specific wording so that you will buy their food. Words like “lite”, “only 100 calories”, “zero grams sugar” make it sound healthy even when it isn't. Don't fall for these buzz words. The 2 most important things to look at on a food label are the added sugars and the ingredient list. You want to keep your daily added sugar to under 24 grams / day so make sure what you're eating is low in added sugars. The next thing to check in the ingredients. I want to encourage you to only eat foods that you actually know what all the ingredients are. If the list is full of words you don't know - don't buy it.
- Ask God for help. I Peter 5:7 lets us know that God cares about all parts of our life. If you worry or care about something God does too. God also tells us throughout the Bible to come to Him and ASK for help. If you struggle to make healthy eating choices ask God to give you self control.
- Ask others to help you. Let people know you want to make healthy changes and ask for their support. My family and friends know that I like to eat healthy so when they invite me over for a meal they will cook healthier foods. No one ever buys me sweets because I've make it clear that I am choosing to eat healthy. You will be amazed at how much easier it is to continue to make healthy eating choices when you ask others to help you.
- Meal Prep so you have healthy foods ready to go. The great thing about doing your own meal prepping is that you can control the amount of added sugar and use real foods that are packed with immune boosting nutrients and good for your body.
- Exercise daily. When we do something good for our body it inspires us to make other healthy choices throughout the day. I can't stress enough how important it is to stick to an exercise routine. Don't fall into a mindset that it's coming up on the holidays and you will “get back to it January 1st”. Believe me, it's so much harder to get going when you have fallen out of a routine than it is to just stick with it and stay consistent. It's great to mix up your exercise. We have so many different types of workout videos! Invite a friend to join you in a workout it's more fun with a friend and you can hold each other accountable. It's so important to just KEEP MOVING.
- Know what obstacles have gotten in your way in the past and be prepared so you can defeat the temptations. I hope you will sit this week and write down what has caused you to fall into unhealthy eating in the past and then write down what you can do so it doesn't happen again.
I know that is a lot of information but please do not feel overwhelmed. Small changes over time lead to big results and the good news is that it’s never too late to make changes that will improve your eating habits. While change can be difficult, it is possible when you have a plan that will set you up for long term success!
It’s a simple approach called Reflect, Replace and Reinforce.
- Create a list of your eating habits. This will give you valuable insight. For example, you might discover that you rely on a soda to get you through the mid-afternoon energy slump or that when you skip a meal you overeat at the next meal.
- It’s important to make note of how you are feeling. Are you eating when you aren’t really hungry? Are you feeling stressed out or tired?
- Highlight the habits that are not healthy and spend time on the triggers that cause you to engage in those habits. Be sure to acknowledge the healthy habits you are getting right. Recognizing your successes is important in inspiring you to make more changes.
- Create a list of “triggers” by reviewing what typically causes you to turn to unhealthy food.Common triggers for eating when not hungry are:
- Seeing food
- Not drinking enough water
- Watching television
- Before or after a stressful situation
- No meal plan
- Someone offers it to you
- Seeing your favorite drive-through every morning.
- Feeling tired and believing food will offer a pick-me-up.
- (add any other triggers not listed here)
Now that you are aware of your unhealthy habits and the cues that trigger them, you can work to replace unhealthy habits with new, healthier ones. For example, could you make an on the go healthy snack to avoid the fast food drive thru? Have a water jug you fill every morning with a goal to drink it before the end of the day? Not keeping unhealthy foods in your house and definitely not keeping it out where you can see it?
When 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 like a quick walk or phone call with a friend. Meal plan ahead of time to ensure that you aren’t skipping meals, have something healthy to pull out of the fridge and are eating a healthy well-balanced meal instead of grazing on junk.
Reinforce your new, healthy habits by celebrating. Each time you say “No” to something unhealthy and say “Yes” to a healthy option you need to acknowledge it. Yes, give yourself a pat on the back and then thank God for His help.
Be patient with yourself. Habits take time to stick and don’t happen overnight. When you do find yourself engaging in an unhealthy habit, stop and quickly ask yourself: Why do I do this? What changes do I need to make so I can replace an unhealthy habit with a healthier one in this situation? Be careful not to shame or beat yourself. One mistake doesn’t blow a whole day’s worth of healthy habits. You can do this by taking it one day and one healthy choice at a time!
So you have to ask yourself - do I only care about the scale or do I care about my long term health and learning how to sustain it?