Finding the right strategies to help you stop bad eating habits can be like trying to find the perfect pair of jeans: You may have to try on a bunch of different styles until you find the one that fits the best.
If you’re struggling with bad eating habits, you’re not alone. Most of us reach for not-so-good-for-us options from time to time. Here’s how you can break bad habits and feel better than ever.
1. Keep a food journal to avoid emotional eating.
Sometimes without realizing, we eat when we’re feeling anxious, depressed, sad, bored or even happy. Solving this common habit often requires some detective work in the form of a food journal. Write down what and how much you eat, identify emotional triggers, environmental situations and the intensity of hunger. Once you’ve pinpointed situations or feelings that lead you to eat, be proactive when these events occur. Instead of reaching for the pint of ice cream, bag of chips or whatever it might be, call a friend, do five minutes of deep breathing or head outside for a brisk walk.
2. Limit distractions to avoid overeating.
Do you typically eat your lunch at your desk while reading emails? Do you pick up your phone in the middle of a meal? Instead, limit distractions and get into the practice of focusing on the food you are eating. Turn off and put away cell phones, iPods, laptops and other electronics at mealtime. Prepare and eat more meals at home. And when you eat, sit at a table (not in front of the TV or on the sofa) and enjoy your food. You’ll eat less and make better food choices.
3. Get enough sleep to avoid weight gain.
Lack of sufficient sleep has been linked to weight gain and the risk of obesity. According to research at Johns Hopkins University, sleep deprivation impacts two hormones that influence hunger levels. An imbalance in the hormones, ghrelin and leptin, will cause sleep-deprived individuals to eat more and have less control over when to stop eating. If you find yourself extra tired on a given day, recognize the potential to overeat and prepare in advance. Plan meals ahead and pre-portion snacks. Resist the urge for caffeine late in the day, which can further interfere with sleep. Aim to get enough sleep each night — the average adult requires between 7 and 8 hours.
4. Practice mindful eating to develop lifelong healthy habits.
Poor eating habits and other health problems creep into our lives when we don’t take time to recharge. Schedule yoga or mediation in your daily or weekly routine to ensure time to focus on relaxation and breathing awareness. And give yourself mini breaks by simply shutting your eyes for a few minutes to take notice of your breathing before each meal. You will be more aware of your physical hunger, and that will allow you to slow down while you’re eating and make more conscious decisions about food.