40-45% of what we do every single day is out of habit.
Developing good habits can change your life in a very short period of time.
But your bad habits can keep you stuck exactly where you are.
Or, even worse, your bad habits could be creating a problem you aren’t aware of until, well... it becomes a problem!
Bad habits are tricky because they can be almost invisible to you. By their very definition, habits, “a settled or regular tendency or practice”, are things we do without much thought. So, day after day, you can be repeating actions that take you away from reaching your full potential. In fact, they can make it nearly impossible to reach your goals.
Your health is determined by what you do most of the time, not just on occasion. Take control of the habits you engage in regularly and you are on your way to success. The first step is recognizing the bad habits that are in your way.
Do you recognize any of these 7 Super Common Eating Habits in your life?
1) Eating Out of the Container
Doesn’t matter if it’s a box, a bag or a carton, it’s never a good idea to eat directly out of the package, if you can avoid it. A packaged food is rarely one serving and, even if it is, it may be more than you really want or need at that given time. Plus, when you eat out of the container it makes it very hard to see all you are eating.
What to do instead: Decide how much you want to eat and serve it into an appropriately-sized plate, bowl or cup. Seeing what you eat before eating it helps you pay attention to what you are eating and make more conscious choices. (Limiting packaged foods in general helps too!)
2) Eating in front of the TV or computer
It’s no wonder that big TV events are correlated with a massive uptick in caloric consumption. Case in point: The Super Bowl. This is the epitome of distracted eating. Eating while working (or playing) on your computer has the same effect. One study found that those who ate in front of the computer ate twice as much dessert later than those who ate while undistracted.
What to do instead: In this era of DVRs and YouTube, you can always watch whatever it is a little later. So push pause, take your time and eat your meal or snack first, or take a break from watching to eat something. This will make it more enjoyable -- and memorable -- so both your mind and stomach will remember that you ate. As a bonus, this may also make you less susceptible to food advertising!
3) Eating After Dinner
Often done in tandem with eating in front of a screen, eating after dinner can be a habit that unnecessarily tacks on calories when you need them the least -- before you lay down and go to bed! If you finish dinner 3 hours or less before bedtime, it’s best to not eat again, to give your body a chance to digest your dinner while you are still upright. This also allows your body to repair and detoxify while you are asleep.
What to do instead: Take a moment to see if your nighttime snacking is really about something else. (I discuss how to do this here.) If you are often truly hungry after dinner, you can add more plant-based, fiber-rich foods to your meal to sustain the feeling of being full for longer. You can also try eating more calories earlier in the day, especially if you are in the habit of skipping breakfast.
4) Drinking Your Calories
Whether it’s a daily grande chai latte, an afternoon energy drink or an evening glass of wine, Americans are drinking more calories than ever. Unfortunately these imbibed calories don’t necessarily mean we will eat less calories as a result. In fact, some evidence suggests alcoholic beverages and sugary drinks can lead to eating more, not less.
What to do instead: Just cutting out liquid calories can lead to weight loss. Focus on drinking as a means of hydrating your body and find some calorie-free drinks you enjoy. (This doesn’t mean artificially flavored or sweetened though. Diet sodas can actually lead to an increase in caloric consumption too!) There’s this drink called water that’s pretty darn good, but for variety you can also try infused waters, seltzer and herbal teas, either hot or cold.
5) Always Reaching for Seconds
If something tastes good, it’s almost a reflex to reach for more of it. When you serve meals “family style” and everyone serves themselves at the table, those serving bowls and plates right in front of you can be too easy to reach and too tempting to pass up for a second round. This is why people tend to overeat at buffets. You certainly don't want to eat at a buffet every night!
What to do instead: Serve food on plates or bowls away from the table and just bring the plates to the table. There’s nothing wrong with everyone helping themselves, but creating the need to get up and serve yourself seconds can give you just enough time to reconsider if it is really necessary or if you are, in fact, full. (In my house, the kitchen table is pretty small, so there’s only room for four place settings, a salad bowl and condiments, if needed. So I came to discover this by necessity!)
6) Eating Because of Stress
It’s been a crappy day, but there are some cookies in the pantry which seem like an easy, no fail way to feel better, at least for a few minutes. Or there’s leftover pasta in the fridge. Or chips in the vending machine at the office. Whatever is fast, easy and comforting can be tempting to reach for when your stress level reaches its limit. What we are actually doing is responding to our bodies’ raised cortisol levels.
What to do instead: Stress happens, and just like flight attendants have passengers practice for the “unlikely event of an emergency”, you should do the same for the very likely event your life will get stressful. Decide today a few possible ways you can care for yourself when the stress creeps up or comes out of nowhere. While we all have to eat, it’s best to find non-caloric ways to soothe yourself. There are ways of lowering your cortisol levels without eating. Make yourself a cup of tea, exercise, walk around the block, go swing on the kids’ swing set, pet your dog or cat, meditate, or call a friend.
7) Eating Too Fast
You’ve got five minutes to eat breakfast before you head out the door, you squeeze in a quick lunch between meetings or eat in the car while chauffeuring the kids around. There doesn’t seem much time to eat, so you eat when you can! Before you know it eating quickly becomes a habit every time you eat.
What to do instead: Take a moment to plate your food and sit down to eat. Then chew each bite and enjoy the flavors! It’s amazing how much more satisfying and enjoyable meals can be when you do this. Again, this also makes you less likely to overeat and more likely to remember what you’ve eaten.
As always, I’m a big fan of the value of small steps. So if you recognize many of these habits as being common in your life, choose just one to change first. (And it’s more than fine to start with whatever one seems easiest to tackle!)
Then when you find success with that, move on to the next one.
If you recognize that you’d be a whole lot more successful, more quickly, with some super personalized support, sign up for a free call with me to find out exactly how I can help you look, feel and live your best life now.
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