How To Start Good Habits: Healthy Eating

September 25, 2017

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blog_habits01If you search on YouTube for “baby’s first chocolate,” you will find thousands of videos showing the same kind of general reaction that goes something like this…

 

After the initial bite, the baby’s eyes widen in all-consuming wonder. “Could this be real, or some sort of magic?” you might imagine the baby thinking if babies could string together sentences. The smile and giggles quickly follow. Then the inevitable reach for another bite. More, more, more!

And another one bites the dust.

These videos are no doubt cute, but they also offer a glimpse into the origins of unhealthy eating habits. This is where it all begins. A baby’s brain is like a blank canvas, painting us a picture of the power that sugar over our biology. It easily hooks us. “Baby’s first Brussels sprouts” definitely does not elicit the same type of response.

As we grow up and continue to consume sugar (not just in the form of chocolate, but in all types of foods and beverages because it hides in various forms under different ingredient names) our brains continue to experience the instant gratification that sugar produces. But the sheer euphoria of it diminishes. Maybe because its novelty has worn off. Maybe it’s because we know it’s bad for us, but we just can’t seem to quit eating it. You just know it doesn’t give you the baby giggles anymore.

And it’s not just sugar. It’s other addictive ingredients, like saturated fat and sodium. At first a joyful experience, foods high in sugar, fat and salt are making you heavy, lethargic and emotionally miserable.

You’re not alone if you feel this way about your eating habits. In addition to our biological wiring for unhealthy food choices, modern society does not make it easy on us. Our tech-driven, fast-paced life pushes us to find quick ways to eat. Unfortunately, whether by design or not, fast food restaurants and packaged foods are not exactly known for their healthy ingredients.

But everyone has to eat. So how, in the face of these obstacles, can we develop the healthy eating habits that will lead to a higher quality of life?

Take stock of your current eating habits

Many people say they’d like to eat healthier, but it’s often a hazy, general statement without specifics. But in order to truly change your habits, you must gain awareness of the details. That is where the devil is as they say.

To start, you must get very specific about your current eating habits. This will give you a place to start your healthy habit development. The best way to get granular about your eating habits is with a good old-fashioned daily food log. Carry a notebook around with you for two weeks to jot down everything you consume with the calorie levels if you can. Or find an app that enables you to easily document your current eating behavior and automatically provides calorie levels. If you are faithful to your task, you will have a detailed account of every breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack and Starbucks run in your current habits repertoire. This provides you with the awareness you need to start your change process.

Identify the offending foods and pick your approach

When you review your food log, the unhealthiest items will probably stick out like a sore thumb. So now that you know what you need to change, what’s the best way to actually do it?

There are actually different approaches depending on your preference. You can choose to do some research on satisfying healthy alternatives to the foods, which will allow you to continue your usual eating experience, but with improved nutrition. For example, replace a beef hamburger on a brioche bun with ketchup to a turkey burger on a whole grain bun with mustard. You’re still having a burger, but you have just removed a large percentage of unhealthy fat and sugar you normally would have eaten.

Another road you can take is meal replacement, which entails eating high-protein shakes, bars and other prepared items instead of traditional meals. This works well for people who have a hard time identifying unhealthy foods and want the simplicity of a structured, complete nutrition plan. Meal replacement has been proven to effectively address food addiction issues and facilitate weight loss. However, the meal replacement approach is only a short-term solution. To be effective in the long-term, it must be accompanied by behavioral counseling, which teaches the skills in choosing healthy food options as well as other proven weight management techniques.

Preparation is key

Regardless of which approach you choose, you need to make sure your environment is as clear from temptation as it can be. If you choose the healthy alternative approach, make sure your kitchen is stocked with those alternatives. If you go out to a restaurant, check the menu ahead of time to identify where you can make adjustments.

If you choose the meal replacement approach, always have some items on you at all times. While you should not consume more meal replacement items than your plan allows per day, you may encounter a situation where you might need to lean on them for support. For instance, if there is a birthday celebration in your office and the usual ice cream cake appears, grab your shake or bar if you really need to eat something to fight the temptation. Always be prepared and don’t leave anything to chance!

Visualization helps for the long term

Choosing healthy foods isn’t only about your physical sphere. Your mind plays an enormous role in your long-term quality of life. A very effective technique for success, even used by elite athletes, is called visualization. This is the practice of seeing your goals in your mind. It requires focusing on every tiny detail of what it is you want to achieve, over and over again. If your goal is to have a strong, fit, energetic body, then visualize yourself that way. Literally watch yourself move and feel what it would be like to live each and every day with that kind of vitality. Visualization should provide you with plenty of motivation to choose healthy food options for as long as you continue to pursue that goal.

We hope this gives you some good ideas on how to go about starting your journey back to feeling joyful about food. You still have that happy little baby inside you, but, we promise, the wisdom of making wise food choices will make your life even sweeter than chocolate.

 

 

 

 

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