The New Year is a great time to try and make some changes in the foods we eat. But even if you substitute in healthy foods, you still may have a hard time eating a healthy diet. Why?
Because for most of us eating is a habit, a set of behaviors that we do regardless of whether we are hungry or not. Eating when we are not hungry is a bad habit that can really get us into trouble. Not only do we need to eat the right foods, we need to develop good eating habits.
How do you develop healthy eating habits? Know your eating patterns, know when you are hungry, and substitute new behaviors for old eating behaviors. Here’s how to do that:
1. Recognize your eating patterns. You need to know when you are eating out of habit and when you are eating out of hunger. To do this, keep a sheet of paper with you this week. Every time you eat something write down what you ate, what time it was, what you were doing and whether or not you were hungry
What you are going to find is that certain activities go with eating whether or not you are hungry. So things like watching television, reading, talking with friends. Chances are your food record will show that you are eating during these periods even if you are not hungry.
2. Stop eating when you are not hungry. Now, just telling yourself you are not going to eat is not enough. You need to fill that behavior slot. The easiest thing to do is to pick an activity that you can not do if you are eating too.
Things like exercise, household chores, playing with your children are all activities that make it difficult to eat at the same time. So if for example you find that you eat desert after dinner when you are not hungry, try taking a short walk immediately after dinner during the time you might be prone to eating desert.
Another example is eating while watching TV. Chances are you do a lot of eating when you are not hungry in front of the television. If you are watching TV with your kids try playing a game instead. Or try watching television in a room where you don’t want to eat (the dining room, a room with a white carpet etc.)
By recognizing your eating patterns and challenging your eating behavior (by asking if you are hungry) you will begin to break your bad eating habits. Ultimately doing this will help you separate “good” eating from “bad” eating and you will be on your way to a healthier diet.