Food gives our bodies the energy we need to function. Food is also a part of traditions and culture. This can mean that eating has an emotional component as well. For many people, changing eating habits is very hard.
You may have had certain eating habits for so long that you do not realize they are unhealthy. Or, your habits have become part of your daily life, so you do not think much about them.
A food journal is a good tool to help you learn about your eating habits. Keep a food journal for 1 week.
Remember, small steps lead to more success in making long-term changes. Try not to overwhelm yourself with too many goals. It is a good idea to limit your focus to no more than 2 to 3 goals at one time.
Also, take a look at the healthy habits you have and be proud of yourself about them. Try not to judge your behaviors too harshly. It is easy to focus only on your poor habits. This can make you feel stressed or give you doubts about trying to change.
Taking on new, healthier habits may mean that you:
Think about what triggers or prompts may be causing some of your eating habits.
Look at your journal and circle any regular or repetitive triggers. Some of these might be:
Start by focusing on one or two triggers that occur most often during your week. Think about what you can do to avoid those triggers, such as:
Find healthy choices for snacks and plan ahead:
Control your portion sizes. It is hard to eat only a few chips or other tempting foods when there is a lot in front of you. Take only a small portion and put the rest away. Eat on a plate or in a bowl instead of straight out of a bag.
Eating too quickly leads to overeating when the food you have eaten has not yet reached your stomach and told your brain you are full. You will know you are eating too quickly if you feel stuffed about 20 minutes after you stop eating.
Eat only when you are hungry:
Make healthier, nutrient-rich choices:
Plan your meals:
Breakfast sets the tone for the day. A hearty, healthy breakfast will give your body the energy it needs to get you to lunch. If you are not hungry when you wake up, you could try a glass of milk or a small fruit and dairy-based smoothie.
Plan a good lunch that will satisfy you, and a healthy afternoon snack that will keep you from becoming too hungry before dinner time.
Avoid skipping meals. Missing a regular meal or snack often leads to overeating or making unhealthy choices later.
Once you have changed 1 or 2 old unhealthy habits, try changing 1 or 2 more.
It may take a while before you can turn your unhealthy habits into new, healthy ones. Remember, it took you a while to form your current habits. And it may take just as long to change them. Do not give up.
If you start an old habit again, think about why you went back to it. Try again to replace it with a new habit. One slip does not mean you are a failure. Keep trying!
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Parks EP, Shaikhkhalil A, Sainath NA, Mitchell JA, Brownell JN, Stallings VA. Feeding healthy infants, children, and adolescents. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 56.
Thompson M, Noel MB. Nutrition and family medicine. In: Rakel RE, Rakel DP, eds. Textbook of Family Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 37.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 6/8/2021
Reviewed By: Meagan Bridges, RD, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, VA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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