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Taking Steps to Change Your Eating Habits

Posted Apr 24 2009 7:22am

The more you know about who you are as an individual and the better you identify your habits, the easier making those necessary changes and committing to a lifelong plan of healthier eating and living will be.

Making changes one step at a time

When you're clear about which aspects of your life actually need to be changed, you can begin taking real steps to enact those changes.

The best place to start is with a commitment to yourself. Promise yourself that you're never going to give up on yourself. Acknowledge now that cutting back on the amount of food you're used to eating won't be easy. At the same time, keep telling yourself you can do it! Be your own cheerleader. Promise yourself that you won't kick yourself when you fall off the food wagon. Successful dieters don't scold themselves or give up. They give themselves a pep talk and jump right back on.

Make small changes, one at a time, at your own pace, and allow yourself to get used to one change before moving on to the next. For example, your first change may be to switch from regular salad dressings to low-calorie dressings. Or, you may decide to steam vegetables instead of stir-frying them to save calories from added fat. If both of those changes appeal to you, make one change today and the other tomorrow.

When a person takes real-life steps to make permanent lifestyle changes, scientists call it behavior modification. The following examples of eating behavior modification techniques can help you start your low-cal lifestyle:

  • Eat before you go food shopping. When you're hungry, you're more likely to make impulse purchases of foods you don't really want to eat.
  • Make a shopping list when you go to the grocery store and stick to the list when you get there. Don't allow yourself to buy "indulgence" foods likes snacks and junk food that aren't on the list.
  • Don't buy "indulgence" foods or any calorie-laden foods. These foods can contribute to overeating when you're first starting a new diet.
  • Keep healthier foods on hand and ready to eat in your refrigerator and cupboards. Doing so gives you options other than junk food when you're looking for an easy snack or a quick meal.
  • Prepare strict single portions so you aren't tempted to overeat (and consume more calories) if you're cooking for yourself only, and not following a recipe. When you're cooking for yourself from a recipe that makes more than one serving, wrap up the additional servings and put them in the fridge or freezer as soon as possible so you're not tempted to go back for seconds.
  • Use smaller plates. Low-calorie meals tend to look lost on larger plates and may make you feel deprived.
  • Always sit down when you eat, even if you're just having a quick snack, so that you pay attention to how much you eat. You can easily forget about the calories you consume when you eat on the run.
  • Leave the table when you're finished eating what's on your plate. Doing so reduces the temptation to go back for more food.
  • Don't skip meals. If you do, you may overeat at your next meal or snack too much in between.

Knowing your diet limits

Some people can eat just one. No matter what they're offered, whether it's a tortilla chip or a chocolate chip cookie, they take a small sample and never go back for more. However, most people aren't like that. If you're watching your weight, you may need to avoid most convenience food stores, your supermarket's snack section, and all Mexican restaurants.

When you know you won't be satisfied with small portions of your favorite foods, stay away from them until you're feeling stronger. Never say "never," but definitely figure out how to say "not right now."

Even if you're an independent operator and you're used to making decisions on your own, don't be afraid to admit if you can't handle this one alone. You can find a diet buddy or an exercise buddy, join a gym, join a weight-loss program, or seek professional counseling. Whatever it takes for you to start and stick to your low-calorie lifestyle, do it.

Keeping your diet fresh

Initially, you have to make all sorts of changes in your diet and perhaps other areas of your life. Then what? In time, your new low-cal lifestyle will get old and you'll have to reevaluate your plan to keep it from getting stale.

Boredom is a common trigger for overeating. Sometimes, feelings of boredom are actually a habit of your mind. You're in the habit of telling yourself that you're bored, so you feel bored on a regular basis. If that's the case, you have to make a huge effort to push past those thoughts as soon as they enter your mind and find something interesting to do.

If you spend too many nights sitting around eating and can't think of anything else to do, sign up for an evening cooking class (preferably a healthy cooking or low-cal cooking class). With a class, you can still eat but you'll be spending most of your time learning about food and preparing food in a social setting. You may even discover something new that can help keep your diet interesting.

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