August 23, 2011

Breaking the Eating Habit

For some, like me, it's near to impossible
to "just say no" to such cute little
cupcakes as these
You have probably heard the old saying, "eat to live don't live to eat".  If you think about it, diet and health professionals base their healthy eating plans on eating to live (translation: the science of eating to stay alive)...but what about the psychology of eating? What about most of us who may live to eat? I don't know about you, but I think about food probably way more than I should (and I am not even hungry when I do). Moreover, I tend to reach for something after work, on a road trip, or even at work when I have a boring project in front of me.....this is the habit of eating.

For the last three weeks now, I have been working at breaking my eating habit.  It is interesting what I have learned by placing my focus on my motivations for munching.  For me, during and after work is the biggest challenge. In the old days, I would have a bag of nuts or jellybeans at my desk and slowly make my way through my stash during the day. I would then go home and make a snack before dinner not even asking myself if I was truly hungry or was just automatic (and very relaxing). There's nothing better than cracking a pear cider and enjoying a bowl of hot buttered popcorn after a long, hard day of eating jelly bellies.

For the last three weeks, before jumping a bowl of tortillas or a plate of yam fries, I would ask myself if I truly needed it or I'm acting under the influence of an old habit.  The answer would ultimately be habit.  So far it's been great, but I have yet to apply this practice during the time my hormones are in the drivers seat and I have little to no control over my actions (yup..I realize the importance of self-responsibility but I don't see anything in the text books or research on the influence of raging hormones on "healthy choices").

Not too long ago, I decided I never
want to feel like this poor Anime
character does....stuffed, sick, and
full of regret. 
 Since I've been working at this change, I have had two very challenging moments I would like to share. The first happened this weekend at one of my favorite restaurants. I ordered the citrus chicken salad with the dressing on the side and my lunch mates order a huge plate of nachos dripping in melted cheese (my ultimate favorite thing in the whole world).....and they couldn't finish it (always an invitation to do your part to help out a friend).  While the fragrance of baked chips and cheese took over the room, I created a list in my head of the pros and cons of diving in with both hands.  I knew that I could never just have one chip (many of us start like this...saying, "I'll just have one and leave it alone". Unless you have superhuman control I challenge the effectiveness of this strategy).  I also knew how I would feel if I did succumb (both physically and mentally). I knew my salad choice was very healthy and would give me what I needed to feel alert and healthy and with that, I didn't take one chip. This was a huge deal for me...I was partying in my head for hours after. Once you pass a test like that, the rest become easier. It's the little successes that make all the difference.

The next test was last night after work. I was feeling kinda beat up, tired, bored, and the weather was gloomy and cold. All I wanted was a bowl of popcorn and a good movie. Instead, I opted for some blueberries and watermelon and felt better for it. Not that popcorn isn't a healthy option but I wanted to break the habit of always popping it as I came home.  Slowly but surely my eating habits are evolving (that's not to say I don't think about ripping open a bag of Doritos or ordering a dozen donuts or baking that cake and eating the whole thing with a fork). When I do have these thoughts, I remind myself of how crappy I will feel after and lack of nutrition and crap in each craving and try my best to move on or at least replace it with something healthier. This takes a lot of self talk and negotiation, but it's possible if we just take the time to think before we act. 

The habit of eating, in my opinion, is one of the greatest motivators behind weight gain and lack of success losing weight. Unfortunately, the psychology behind behaviour change is overlooked in many (if not most) of the weight loss programs out there. Yet, by understanding our own habits and taking little steps to break them, we will soon find ourselves ascending to new heights and even overcoming some of the greatest challenges of change.

God I love psychology! It's so fascinating and drives so much of what we do.....never underestimate the power of a good lookin' fudge brownie on a stressful day (there's no science in the world that will save you from it's stronghold....only psychology).


1 comment:

  1. After reading this post again (it's November now) I just want to follow up and let you know that I have lost 20 pounds since I started "breaking my eating habit". I have been amazed at the changes and didn't realize how much I was eating until I focused my attention on it.

    Now, although I travel and succumb to the odd chinken finger or french fry, I get back to it quick (feel gross when I do eat the grease) and crave salads.

    I lost the extra pounds without using exercise (although I exercise for health). When I couldn't exercise, I stopped my stressing over it. It's a great way to live and highly recommend it.