Many diets fail because they focus on food and not on the eating habits that make us overweight. Often, when the diet is over, our weight starts to creep upwards again. To achieve a more permanent approach to weight management we have to develop healthy eating habits.
Below are a number of techniques that are quite easy to learn and can help you eat as you should. The methods are based on ideas of how people learn to change their habits.
If you have a momentary lapse
Don’t look at it too negatively. Everyone strays from eating well occasionally. One hiccup won’t affect long term weight loss. The important thing to do is to decide what it is you would like, eat it, enjoy it and don’t feel guilty! If you try to deny a craving it is quite possible that you will end up eating twice as many calories in other foods. I am very much a believer in the 80/20 rule. If you eating healthily 80% of the time, what you do the other 20% of the time is not going to make a massive difference long term.
When and where to eat
Eat your meals at regular times of the day if you can.
Don’t do anything else (e.g. read, watch TV) while you are eating. This can be really difficult if you live alone or eat on your own a lot. If this is the case and it feels really strange to not do something, limit whatever else you are doing and try not doing anything else for at least part of the meal.
Even if you are having a snack always sit down to eat.
Work out your danger times, for example - when you are cooking meals, are in company, bored, anxious etc., so that you can be more prepared to deal with temptation. For example, if you are tempted to nibble while making the family’s meal, keep a low-calorie drink beside you to sip instead. If you need to taste food during its preparation, use a small spoon!
If you’re tempted to eat, start an activity which makes it difficult for you to eat at the same time (e.g. a simple exercise you can do at home – a few squats or lunges, wash the floor, phone a friend, go for a walk). This is not fool-proof but certainly helps.
Don’t leave food lying about within easy reach. Store all food in the kitchen and put all extra food away, especially if you are someone triggered by visual responses.
Don’t buy the ‘wrong’ sort of foods. Always make out a shopping list. Don’t go shopping when you are hungry or tired. Avoid certain aisles so you do not see food which you may be tempted by.
If you can, prepare the next meal at a time when you are not hungry
Make sure you don’t feel hungry if you are going into a situation where you may be offered the ‘wrong foods’ (eat a healthy snack or meal beforehand)
Food is often used as a reward. Could this reward be some other activity e.g. when the children get on your nerves or you’ve had a particularly stressful day at work, is chocolate the only answer, or would a soak in the bath or a walk be as good, or a chat with a friend?
Find what works for you and keep practising!