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3 Tips For Breaking a Food Habit

Posted Oct 06 2012 9:07pm
You know the saying "Out of sight, out of mind"? It's completely true. Growing up, we always had sweets around. Little Debbie was a frequent house guest. I slowly changed my eating habits when I got to college. Some intentional, but mostly unintentional healthy changes I made almost without thinking as I began to learn more about our bodies and what we need to fuel them for life. So, in college I rarely ate sweets and desserts. It was definitely a " special occasion" thing- Just as it was meant to be. Since I rarely ate them, I rarely craved them. It is completely true that our bodies crave what they are used to eating. I know this from experience. 

I moved back home with my dad after college to finish my clinical rotations at nearby hospitals. My dad has a sweet tooth. Ok, that's an understatement; he's addicted! So we always have ice cream (Bluebell Vanilla--the best!), brownies, cakes and chocolate readily available. At first, I started with the ice cream. It had been a while since I had any Bluebell and I quickly decided it was delicious, especially at midnight when I got home from the late shift at the hospital. I was less than impressed with the ingredients but proceeded to have ice cream or some other kind of dessert each night for the next year. (Thank goodness I had already made exercise a habit so I didn't gain any weight!)

Two weeks ago I decided it was time to stop. I no longer wanted to crave sweets. At work, I am consistently reminding children and parents to eat desserts and added sugar sparingly. We don't need them on a daily, or even weekly basis. I realized that the more kids I counseled, the less I wanted to eat sweets myself.  For good reason, I'm a dietitian, there is no reason I should be craving sweets all the time, especially when they aren't even homemade! A rule I went by in college was if it wasn't a true, homemade dessert then I could skip it. I had no interest in boxed brownie mixes. I'm going back to that. I am on a "no sweets til Thanksgiving" kick. It takes roughly 2 weeks to break a habit...I'm counting on that and raising it 4 more! Six weeks, no sweets! Join me?

I was hesitant to blog about eating dessert because it makes me seem like I am an RD with bad eating habits, but that isn't the case. I don't want to lose weight either. I'm a good weight, I eat balanced meals and exercise daily. I just don't want to crave sweets anymore. I don't want to search for chocolate after dinner, and feel like until I eat cake, my dinner is incomplete. I decided to share this with you in hopes that if you are struggling with some kind of craving or "sweet addiction" or any kind of food habit that you will gather the will power to not be controlled by food. I also want readers to take away these tips that I often share in weight management counseling at work
  1. Get all foods that you should only eat occasionally out of the house! Don't buy them. This includes chips, desserts, and sugary drinks. Studies have proven that this works! Sometimes we just want desserts...If you get an ice cream craving, you should have to get up, get dressed and go get it. That gives you time to consider whether or not it is worth the trouble and also keeps you from downing a whole pint in front of the TV. 
  2. Our bodies crave what we consistently put into them. Chips are salty, the more you eat them the more your body wants them. Put them down. Our bodies get used to what we do, get your body (and taste buds) adjusted to more veggies and less junk food. I am living proof that eating habits can be changed! I worked at Jim N Nicks and my go-to meal at work was Buffalo Chicken tenders with Bleu Cheese and French Fries. That was freshman year of college. Six years later I tried the chicken tenders and fries (from the BF's plate) and can honestly say I do not like it. It tastes bland and salty. Get your body used to good food and you won't even miss the garbage! Remember, it takes about 2 weeks to truly break a habit, so keep going!
  3.  Exercising sucks if your fueling your body with junk. Exercise isn't fun all the time anyway, but exercising is even harder and more draining if you are loading your body with high calorie, low nutrient foods. Our bodies are race cars. Are you going to put garbage in your gas tank? Fuel up right with fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean proteins!
 What tips do you have for breaking a bad habit?
The first 3 days of no sweets were the days I felt most tempted. I even had to recommit a couple of times because in the beginning I was tempted with a lot of birthdays! Why is it that when we decide to do without something for a short time, we find that particular thing everywhere? A dietitian at work shared her trick for eating in moderation; if it's something she knows she doesn't need and isn't particularly hungry she tells herself "I will have it again someday, just not right now." Try it! It has worked for me a couple of times. See, even nutrition experts have to work at being healthy! I'll keep you posted on the next 6 weeks...there are 2 birthday celebrations, and a baby shower in my near future. Oh how I love birthday cake... 

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