It's time for bed, but you get that slightly unsettled feeling that you just need a quick couple bites of ice cream, cookie or even a sandwich. You know this definitely isn't the healthiest idea, but it's almost an automatic reaction. No matter how hard you try, it ends up being the evening ritual almost every day. This is a food habit.
It may feel impossible to break free of these impulses Fortunately, there several proven ways to break these eating habits that you may not know, some time-tested and other newly discovered after the surprising findings in research studies.
Tips for Breaking Bad Eating Habits
1) Out of Sight Out of Mind
Keeping food hidden from sight, in particular the ones that cause the biggest cravings, is actually an effective approach. Use a visual barrier, such as not putting those cookies in clear containers like plastic wrap or tupperware. Go a step further and move them from the counter to the pantry.
It may sound like it's not a big enough change to make a difference, but studies have shown otherwise. Researchers from Cornell University found that what you see is what you eat. Women who kept fresh fruit out in the open tended to have a normal weight compared to peers. Those who kept snacks, sodas and cereals weight 24 pounds more than those who kept them stashed.
Read the Cornell Food and Brand Lab study here, and watch below.
Break the Eating Rules You Learned as a Kid
Since the moment you were handed your first eating utensil, well-meaning parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, babysitters and others have been feeding you food rules. Unfortunately, many of those rules were based on misinformation or outdated ideas. Perhaps even worse, some of the misguided rules they planted when you were young eventually grew into habits you still have today; habits that make it difficult to achieve or maintain your ideal weight.
2) Portion Control and Leaving Some on the Plate
"You Have To Stay At The Table Until You Finish Everything On Your Plate"
Joining the Clean Plate Club probably wasn’t your idea. Countless dinner time squabbles have begun with that outdated rule and have escalated to frustration and tears. Enforcing this rule often involved telling you about the starving children in a faraway land as if your clean plate was going to make them feel any less hungry. Once you started following this rule, it quickly became a habit. In these days of bigger plates and huge restaurant portions, this habit can be hazardous to your waistline.
Breaking this habit takes willpower and ingenuity. Begin by leaving a little something on your plate at every meal. If you start the meal knowing that you are not going to finish everything in front of you, you’ll be in better shape to monitor how you are feeling during the meal and get a better sense of when you are full. If you discover that you are not comfortable leaving food on your plate, switch to a smaller plate. If you trade in your 12 inch plate for one that is about 8 to 10 inches you’ll consume about 22% fewer calories and odds are good that you’ll still walk away from the table satisfied.
3) Slow Down the Pace
"Eat Faster, You’re Going To Be Late!"
Whether it was gobbling down breakfast before catching the school bus or rushing through lunch to make it to class, you always seemed to be eating on the run when you were young; perhaps you still are. This approach can contribute to problems managing weight. Research indicates speedy eating disrupts the chemical signals of fullness which, of course, leads to overeating.
The first step to breaking this habit is paying attention to your eating speed. Learn to chew slower and more often to give your digestive tract a break. Put your utensils down between bites so you are not tempted to reload the fork to have the next bite ready to go before you’ve finished chewing the one you’ve just consumed.
4) Whatever you do, DON'T completely give up snacking
"Snacking Will Ruin Your Appetite"
If you aren't already snacking in moderation and try to give up for, say a month, it will be even harder to moderate later. It's better to make small changes, like only having dessert 2-3 times a week, or reducing how much sugar you add to coffee.
Also consider swapping some of your snack choices. If a “snack” is half a large bag of potato chips or half dozen cookies, it will definitely dent your appetite. Too many of these “snacks” will ruin your healthy eating plan.
That said, healthy snacks are actually important tools to help you lose weight and maintain that weight loss. They help keep your blood sugar stable and keep you from getting so hungry that you overindulge at your next meal. Of course, not every snack is a good choice. High protein, low calorie snack bars, nuts, fruit and yogurt can be your friends; don’t neglect them.
At Diet Direct, we specialize in the types of snacks that balance calories, nutrition, and hunger-satisfying protein without sacrificing flavor. Browse our store to find everything from protein bars to puddings, cookies to cheesecake, pretzels to beef jerky, and more.
Nutritionist's Tips for Breaking Bad Eating Habits
Author and weight loss expert Georgie Fear, RD suggests several strategies she thinks are rock solid to get control back of your eating. Here are a few:
5) Line the Path Towards Cravings With Obstacles
The more difficult you make it to get to your trigger foods, the less likely you are to go after it. Do this by putting something simple between you and the food. For example, she says "If you want potato chips, tell yourself that you have to go to the store and get a single-serving bag. Now you have to really want them bad enough to get in the car and go for a trip."
Even small efforts, like stashing your snacks on the other side of the office, can be effective. You can also foil bad vending machine habits by leaving cash and change at home.
Research has confirmed this method to be highly effective. A study in an office environment found that simply adding the need to get up and walk a short distance versus having food immediately available. The participants who had candy visibly near them ate more than twice as many as those who had to walk six feet away.
View the study results here.
6) Don't Beat Yourself Up if You Slip
Confidence is the key. You'll undermine yourself if you go with your initial reaction if you go back to a bad habit. Dr. Fear explains "When you slip up, acknowledge that you tried, that you can do better, and that tomorrow—or at the next meal—you'll try again."
Also, start out with realistic expectations from the get-go. If you expect there will be a few bumps along the way, it won't be as disappointing or frustrating when they happen.
You can read more of Dr. Fear's tips like these here at Prevention.com.
Try these tips that hopefully give you a few new tools in your arsenal to break bad eating habits. Remember, however, that many of these habits have been formed since childhood, so stick with it and stay positive.