Your Eating Habits- Part 2: How to Change Them
your eating habits: How to Change them
Before we change our eating habits we need to make sure we identify them first.
Being self-aware and mindful and doing a few exercises will usually help you with that (check out part 1 of this article for more tips).
Will it be easy?
I’m not going to lie to you :) Changing eating habits is not going to be easy. Many of us often are able to make some changes and feel great about them for a short period of time. But, when things get rocky or stressful we often turn back to our old ways. When we’re stressed or emotional, our automatic responses kick in and we ditch any new habits we intended to practice. This is all connected with how our brain functions and its need for survival. Think about it – food is key to our survival. Therefore food represents safety and comfort to our brain. Anytime you try to change anything around food habits, our brain reacts to it as to a threat, so with fear. That reaction usually brings on the primal automatic responses.
Where to start
First, we need to be aware and mindful what are our eating habits and which ones we’d like to change. But this is not enough. In order to change the habits, we need to dig deeper to understand why these habits exist in the first place (the WHY exercise described here works great for that). After that, we want to be sure we take small steps into a healthier everyday practice.
3 Steps to Change Your Habits
Understand what your eating habits (can be done by being self-aware, self-reflective and by doing some habits exercises).
Understand the root of the habits – why do they exist? Self-reflection and digging deeper is key. Things to think about here: Have you had any history of eating disorders, rigorous dieting? Any significant childhood memories around food?
We want to practice a small steps approach and ‘crowding out’ in order to permanently change our eating habits and live a healthier lifestyle. The more of healthy foods, routines and habits we add to our life, the more of negative, old ways and foods will slowly be ‘crowded out’ and replaced. This is not an overnight process - the slow, steady pace is key here.
Health is outcome of small choices you make on daily basis
Eating healthier doesn’t need to be complicated or intimidating. It takes a bit of practice, determination and will. Keeping a food-mood diary is a great way to notice how the small changes you introduce make you feel. Notice any patterns. I bet that the differences you see will motivate you to keep going! Eventually, your taste, preferences, and habits will change and you’ll be closer to making permament shift in your health journey.
How to change eating habits
Here are a few tips to make the journey easier for you:
Be mindful– pay attention to what you’re eating and why. Some tools and tactics to help you in this step are:
Food diary – notice any patterns and feelings associated with foods you eat. Look through the diary daily to see and asses your eating habits. How many veggie portions did you get? How about protein? What were your snacks? Anything that you don’t like the look of? If yes, try to change it the next day.
Be present - slow, careful chewing and being ‘present’ at mealtimes
Intuitive eating – ask yourself: ‘What do I feel like eating right now? And why?’
Listen to your body - if you feel bloated, don’t go and have another coffee. Herbal tea or rest would be better choices. If you are not feeling hungry, wait until you do. Have a glass of water and check back in with yourself later (don’t let the clock dictate your meal times).
Make small swaps – if you’re not sure where to even start, try to think super small. Every little helps and over time it will add up and make a big difference. Plus, you will learn that healthier eating is about healthy choices. And you are in charge of that! Some simple everyday swap examples include:
Swapping mayonnaise for mustard or avocado
Make sure that veggies fill up 2/3 of your plate and aim for 5 a day
Black coffee / with a dash of plant-based milk instead of a latte
Avoid frying; try steaming, grilling, baking instead
Avoid any carbonated drinks - have you read the labels of even the (so-called) healthy drinks? They’re usually loaded with sugar! Plus, unnecessary plastic :) Water is your best friend!
Don’t buy salad dressings - make your own. They’re super simple to prepare and taste amazing (message me if you’d want some simple recipes!)
If you’re a fan of cocktails, look for low sugar versions. I love a good cocktail, but they can be loaded with sugar. If you have a few of them one evening... You do the math (or have red wine instead).
If you like spirits + coke/lemonade/mixer, try swapping it for soda water + lemon. Almost always works! (my old time ‘skinny favorite’ is: vodka + lime + soda – never fails :) ).
Get plenty of sleep – it is VERY important to make sure we rest well. Lack of sleep or poor sleep quality make us tired. Tiredness makes us crave more sugary and fatty foods. And these make us want more of sugary and fatty foods :) The cycle then continues. Besides feeling rested and energized, sleep will stabilize your blood sugar levels, give your body a chance to regenerate and your digestive system to do its job properly.
Read the food labels - so simple, yet, we often forget to do it! Take a note of anything you buy or eat. Read carefully and be inquisitive. Look at nutritional values and list of ingredients. Chances are that if you do not know what an ingredient is, you probably better off not eating the product. Tip: you should be alarmed if you read the ingredients and one of the first 3 ingredients is sugar or something unknown. Remember: ingredients are listed in order of predominance, which means the ingredients used in the greatest amount are listed first.
Aim for 12 hours overnight fast – not everyone can or is interested in doing intermittent fasting. Rightly so, you don’t need to. But, 12 hours seems doable for most people and it will give your body and digestive system a well-deserved break. No better time to do it than overnight. Tip: try to calculate it backward - if you need to leave the house/have your breakfast by 7 am, aim for your last meal to be by 7 pm the night before.
Change your mindset – have you ever noticed how changing 1 word can make a difference? Try to swap ‘can’t’ with ‘don’t. E.g. Instead of saying “I can’t eat pizza”, say “I don’t eat pizza”; or “I can’t have a bagel every day”, say “I don’t have bagels every day”. How does it feel? Saying ‘can’t’imposes restrictions. And no one likes them! Saying do/don’t means you have a choice and you’re the one who makes the decision. It empowers you.It's similar to saying “I try to eat healthy” vs.“I am a healthy eater”. Which sentence do you think has more power?
Set intentions – set small and realistic goals for yourself and try to focus on feelings and emotions you’re aiming for rather than the scale or numbers, as those could be deceiving (especially at the start). How do you want to feel when you eat healthier? What is the reason you’re changing your eating habits?
Start a vision board –it can be a very powerful tool for any change! Our mind reacts to visual stimulation. We want to surround ourselves with images that bring positive emotions, inspiring quotes or affirmations. Our brain will react to them as 'if they’re already here' and our subconscious attracts the things that are alike. Is there a particular picture/ vision you have in mind that represents the end goal? What do you want to look like/feel like? What do you want to hear, think and say as a healthier you? What foods you’d love to be eating? What and who is around you on this journey? Possibilities with a vision board are endless; you can create a digital (I love Pinterest) or traditional one made on paper. Go wild!
Be prepared –stock up on healthy foods and get rid of anything that isn’t helping you with changing the habits (would you like to chat about your kitchen pantry revamp?). If you know you have a busy week ahead and won’t have time to cook, prepare some food in advance. Boil some brown rice, bake a few sweet potatoes, chop some veggies and have everything accessible and prepped. If you’re busy and need to eat on the go, make sure you pack some healthy foods - things like boiled eggs, veggies, fruit, nuts or even homemade sandwich are so easy to prepare and will make you feel better than impulse and craving-based bought food.
Practice self-love – be kind to yourself throughout the journey and remember why are you doing it. You’ve decided to be healthier and stronger, this is the best choice you can ever make. Love your body and mind, avoid judgment and challenge that inner critic voice of yours. Celebrate every little win like better snack choice, walking to the train station, more glowing skin, or eating your 5 a day for the whole week. It all adds up and you’ll be seeing benefits of it soon.
Create a morning routine – yes, it’s important. Very important! Often how you start your morning will set you up for the whole day. Having a morning routine removes procrastination, stress, anxiety and sets a mood for the day. Have the first hour of your day sorted by doing things that matter and give you energy, e.g. stretching, work out, meditation, hot water with lemon, breakfast prepped the night before etc. Whatever rocks your boat, really. Set yourself up for a successful and positive day. I cannot imagine starting the day without my routine these days; I’d feel so lost and irritated!
Be realistic but determined – healthier eating habits are not going to come in a day, a week or even a month. It’s about the journey, not the destination. You’re trying to change your lifestyle, not get a one-time fix. Remember that and be realistic with your expectations. Slowly your habits will be ‘crowded out' and replaced with new healthier ones. Apparently, as the latest research says, it takes on average 66 days to create a habit. So, don’t be discouraged.
When it comes to eating habits, start small and build it up. The decision is the first BIG step; after that take small steps, one at the time and try to enjoy the journey to a healthier you!