How to Reboot Your Eating Habits
Small Shifts Can Drop Pounds and Gain Health
Our food habits are often just that—mindless, repetitious eating behaviors. Some serve us well; others, not so much. Natural Awakenings asked experts to serve up many doable small changes that can add up to big shifts.
According to Brian Wansink, Ph.D., the John S. Dyson professor of marketing at Cornell University and author of Mindless Eating, changing just one lifestyle habit can eliminate two or more pounds each week. By changing up to three habits, we may lose more weight. At a minimum, we will likely improve the quality of the food we eat overall.
Wansink advises that having the only food on our kitchen counter be fruit encourages healthy snacking. At work, he suggests lunching away from our desk to discourage mindless eating. At restaurants, order half-size entrees, and then add a maximum of two items, such as soup and bread, salad and side dish or an appetizer and dessert.
He recommends using a food shopping strategy to fill the cart with better food. With hunger sated first, chew on a natural gum while shopping; it discourages buying junk food. Secondly, habitually fill the front of the cart with produce. “We eat what we see,” he says.
Consider starting the day with a new coffee habit. Dave Asprey, of Los Angeles, author of The Bulletproof Diet, uses organic coffee, brews with filtered water and blends the hot coffee with a pat of unsalted, grass-fed butter, a fat high in vitamins and omega-3 essential fatty acids, and a small spoonful of a coconut oil that doesn’t congeal at room temperature. Unlike a drive-through latte with sugar and carbohydrates, he maintains that this type of coffee, “makes you feel energized, focused and full for hours.” Asprey takes a biohacker’s approach to natural biology-based ways to maximize physical and mental performance.
New York City writer Chris Gayomali tried Asprey’s recipe for two weeks. Although it didn’t curb his appetite, he says he felt more alert and “ready for life.”
Upgrading the foods we love is also possible, says David Wann, of Golden, Colorado, author of Simple Prosperity. “Too often, we economize on food when we should be buying the best quality, freshest organic food we can,” he says.
Rebecca Miller, who lives near Kansas City, Missouri, took Wann’s advice and cut costs in other ways instead. To her delight, she found that the fresher, better-tasting food prompted her to eat less, but eat better. “I lost seven pounds in two weeks,” she says, “and I didn’t feel like I was on a diet.”
Eating a big salad for lunch is a habit that author Victoria Moran, host of the award-winning Main Street Vegan online radio show, has adopted in her New York City home. She fills a big bowl with leafy greens, in-season vegetables, avocado and a light dressing. “This will set you up for the rest of the day,” says Moran.
Pam Anderson, a mainstream food blogger in Darien, Connecticut, agrees. Six years ago, she lost 50 pounds and credits having a big green salad for lunch—one of her many small food habit changes—with helping her maintain a healthy weight, despite frequently testing and sampling recipes.
Food Thought Habits
Doing too much for other people and not enough for ourselves can make our internal voice whisper, “I need comfort,” a thought that can generate overeating. In The Perfect Recipe for Losing Weight and Eating Great, Anderson suggests we ask ourselves what other triggers are prompting poor food habits. Upon reflection, we can prioritize emotional and physical health with planned, smaller, varied, healthy, delicious meals; it’s a habit that works for her.
Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., a psychologist in Lake Forest, Illinois, and bestselling author of Better Than Perfect, assures, “If we fall off the healthy eating wagon, it’s not failure, it’s data.” She believes reaching for the chocolate chip cookies in the vending machine after a stressful morning should be viewed from a scientific standpoint, not via our inner finger-pointing judge.
“What are the factors that influenced our decision: stress, hunger or a desire for distraction? That’s great information,” says Lombardo. She proposes that we can then prepare to counter a future snack attack with handy healthy bites, a mindfulness break, a quick walk outside or other naturally healthful stress-relievers.
Changing our food habits, one at a time, can help us live better going forward.
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Judith Fertig is the author of award-winning cookbooks and blogs at AlfrescoFoodAndLifestyle.blogspot.com from Overland Park, KS.