When it comes to eating, we have strong habits. Some are good ("I always eat breakfast"), and some are not so good ("I always clean my plate"). Although many of our eating habits were established during childhood, it doesn't mean it's too late to change them.
Making sudden, radical changes to eating habits such as eating nothing but cabbage soup can lead to short-term weight loss. However, such radical changes are neither healthy nor a good idea, and won't be successful in the long run. Permanently improving your eating habits requires a thoughtful approach in which you Reflect, Replace, and Reinforce.
REFLECT on all of your specific eating habits, both bad and good; and, your common triggers for unhealthy eating.
REPLACE your unhealthy eating habits with healthier ones.
REINFORCE your new, healthier eating habits.
Reflect, Replace, Reinforce — A process for improving your eating habits:
- Create a list of your eating habits. Record what you eat and the time of day you eat it to help you uncover your habits.
- Highlight habits on your list that may be leading you to overeat.
- Look at the unhealthy eating habits you've highlighted. Identify a few you'd like to work on improving first. Don't forget to pat yourself on the back for the things you're doing right!
- Create a list of "cues" by reviewing the list of foods you eat to become more aware of when and where you're "triggered" to eat for reasons other than hunger. Note how you are typically feeling at those times. Often an environmental "cue", or a particular emotional state, is what encourages eating for non-hunger reasons.
- Circle the "cues" on your list that you face on a daily or weekly basis
- Ask yourself these questions for each "cue" you've circled:
- Is there anything I can do to avoid the cue or situation?
- For things I can't avoid, can I do something differently that would be healthier?
- Replace unhealthy habits with new, healthy ones. Here are some ideas to help you replace unhealthy habits:
- Eat more slowly.
- Eat only when you're truly hungry instead of when you are tired, anxious, or feeling an emotion besides hunger.
- Plan meals ahead of time to ensure that you eat a healthy well-balanced meal.
- Reinforce your new, healthy habits and be patient with yourself. Habits take time to develop. It doesn't happen overnight. Be careful not to berate yourself or think that one mistake "blows" a whole day's worth of healthy habits. You can do it!
Your FAA Worklife Program offers resources through Magellan & Cafewell to help you live a healthy lifestyle. Call your Employee Assistance/WorkLife Program at 1-800-234-1327, TTY Users: 1-800-456-4006, or log on to http://www.MagellanHealth.com/Member (program number (800) 234-1327) and begin accessing these services today.
Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention.