Habits are a normal and natural part of human behavior. Repetitive actions get you through the day and help you accomplish goals.1 Sometimes, though, these automatic behaviors, like unhealthy eating habits, can be bad for you. Fortunately, there are a few tips and tricks to help you break free from these bad eating habits. Read below to learn some tips on how to make healthy eating your everyday norm.
Exploring Bad Habits And Food
Many people know that certain foods are bad for them, yet they can’t stop eating them. There’s a reason for that. Your brain receives pleasurable stimuli from foods that contain sugar and fat. When you consume these potentially unhealthy ingredients, your brain actually rewards you with dopamine.2
This provides you with a momentary sense of satisfaction, even though the result is not necessarily healthy for the body. That’s the tricky part of unhealthy eating habits. They have the weird ability to satisfy and please, despite the fact that they are detrimental to your health.3
Tips To Break Bad Eating Habits
Fortunately, you can transform the power of habits to your advantage. Good habits can harness this same feedback loop of action and reward to help you make good diet choices. Making these changes may help with weight loss and other health benefits.4
Recognizing Your Eating Habits
Developing good habits starts with listening to and responding to your body. Your mind reacts to stimuli in ways that you may not always realize. Recognizing these impulses may help you shape a healthy response to them.5
Bring your unconscious actions to the forefront of your attention. This takes a little self-awareness and effort, but the pay off will be a comprehensive understanding of what habits you need to break or replace.6
Watch for unhealthy eating habits, such as:
- Mindless eating
- Binge eating
- Emotional eating
- Sugar cravings
- Indulging in high-fat foods7
Understanding What Causes Bad Habits
Do you ever finish a tough day and just want to dig into a bowl of ice cream? You’re not alone. In fact, there’s quite a bit of science to explain habits like craving sugar or binge eating. For some people, stress is the most common source of unhealthy eating habits.8
Stress causes adrenal glands to release cortisol – which increases appetite. Plus, it drives your motivation up, including the motivation to eat food. If that weren’t bad enough, these same hormones and chemicals increase the desire for foods high in fat and sugar.9
This is why stress can cause many people to crave hyperpalatable foods that are rich, sweet, and high in fat. These desires may then lead to weight gain or other health risks.10
Work on limiting stress in your life, and you may find that healthy eating habits and weight loss occur with greater ease.11
Old Habits Don’t Have To Die Hard
The good news is that it’s never too late to change habits. You can reshape your bad habits at any age. The first step to accomplishing this goal is recognition. You need to identify the things you do automatically before you can change them.12
Switching Bad Habits For Healthy Ones
It can be tough to break a habit. So, instead of trying to completely change your routine or behavior, you can try to swap healthy habits
for bad ones.13
For example, if you feel the need to decompress by sitting on the couch with a bag of chips, make a change. Try swapping those chips out for a healthier snack, like carrots and hummus. Instead of soda at lunch, drink a kombucha or sip on some sparkling water.
Build A Support System
Chances are, you aren’t alone in your desire to lead a healthy lifestyle. Talk to friends, family, or coworkers to find someone with
similar goals as yourself. Build a system of accountability together to encourage one another on your mission to eat better.14
Plan Your Meals
It’s easy to lose focus and stray from your healthy eating habits during those busy days. All of a sudden, a frozen burrito might seem like the only snack option if you don’t plan ahead.
A food plan may help you avoid poor food choices by helping you list your meals for the week or coming days. This has been shown to improve meal qualities and decrease unhealthy habits, like binge eating.15
Also, studies have shown that people who plan their meals eat higher quality food and are more likely to lose weight.16
Tracking calories allows you to design a manageable and successful dietary action plan. Research shows that people who manage their
calories experience increased weight loss.17
This doesn’t mean you need to ban all snacks or enjoyable food from your diet. You don’t want to torture yourself, after all. In fact, studies have shown that some people who abstain from foods altogether develop increased desire for them.18
But, you do want to understand the caloric value of all your food so that you can create a healthy balance. There are many apps available to help you accomplish this goal. Or, you can speak to a doctor to determine an ideal number of calories for you to consume.19
Regulate Portion Sizes
Be aware of your portion sizes throughout the day. Large portion sizes do more than provide extra calories. They may actually encourage you to eat more food and underestimate your total caloric consumption. You can work to avoid this simply by using smaller plates and cups or even by measuring out portions for yourself.20
Good Habits For A Better You
Habits are mindless and repetitive for a reason. They help us accomplish simple tasks without using up precious brain power. But, that
same efficiency also gives habits a powerful ability to shape the way you consume food.
Take the time to observe your eating habits. Find out what emotions trigger unhealthy desires. Or, look for times when you mindlessly snack or overeat. Recognizing and observing your eating habits is the first step to reshaping them.
Use all of this knowledge to build up a diet that replaces those habits with healthier versions. These new eating habits may help you lose weight, feel great, and live healthier. And, that’s a habit worth keeping around.