Before we go into how we can change our eating habits, let’s look at why we have certain ones that we hold on to for dear life.
Habit is, by definition, “a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.”
An eating habit is no different, and in some ways, even harder to give up compared to other habits. This is because food has so many triggers for us. For lots of people, settling into a certain eating patterns is very comforting, physically and emotionally. The more we repeat them, the more comfortable we get, the harder it is to change.
Physical and emotional comfort signals safety to the human brain.
For a lot of us, there’s an internal fight between two opposing sides: one side wants to change, and the other doesn’t.
How can you overcome this internal struggle so that you can make a change that you know will benefit you in the long run?
One way to help end the internal fight is to look for an external reason to change. The external reason can be health related, event related, or people related. It’s usually an important external reason that you care about that will help you make a successful habit change.
Here’s what important to remember: even with an external reason to change, you still have to make that decision to change. Change requires the change maker take action.
Once you have an external reason to change, you must decide to change, and then take the action to change.
The best way to change an eating habit, once you have made the decision to change, is to create a realistic plan for this change. The plan must push you to the edge of comfort zone. This is important because if you are still in the comfort range, there will be no change. But too far into the discomfort zone will result in no action or short term change (too uncomfortable).
An example of this would be changing a sweet-something-after-a-meal habit (speaking for myself here).
Once I decide that I no longer need something sweet after a meal, I must create a realistic plan on what I will do instead. I know the urge for something sweet will come up, so I expect that.
Planning on being the edge of comfort zone may look like having half of a dessert or replacing dessert with fruit. Doing this consistently until it becomes a new habit will allow me to create a new plan (if needed) that takes it a little further (if wanted).
To summarize, to change an eating habit sustainably, follow these steps:
- Find an external reason to change
- Make the decision to change
- Create a realistic plan that pushes your comfort zone
- Execute the plan
What eating habits might you want to change first?
Pick something that is relatively easy and give this 5-step plan a try. You will see that old habits can be easy to change.