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Changing Eating Habits for Life

Old habits die hard – it’s easier/quicker to eat what you know and use what you have in your cupboards already than it is to try new recipes with a host of unusual herbs and spices to buy and an unknown amount of time to prepare, setting you up for failure! If you are really determined to lose weight and keep it off, take your mind away from any ‘2 week cabbage soup diet’ mentalities and commit over the next 8 weeks to try 8 different eating habits, and by the end of the 8 weeks you’ll have radically changed your lifelong habits without feeling like you’ve had to try too hard to fix everything at once. During times of stress or vulnerability, you are likely to fall straight back in to old habits despite good intentions, so if you’ve attempted changing your entire eating routine at once, you are doomed to fail; another reason to implement the changes in your eating habits one by one over a period of weeks. For the first couple of weeks, it’ll only be one habit you’re trying to change, so this is quite achievable! After 4 weeks you’ll be half way there and feel a real sense of achievement, with the habits implemented in the first week or 2 already becoming the new ‘norm’ for your routine. After 8 weeks, the habits formed in weeks 1 to 5 will be so easy to maintain, you’ll only really have to encourage yourself for the more recent additions to your routine. They say, ‘slow and steady wins the race’, and that’s especially true with changing your eating habits for life and the benefits will be worth it in the long run. Imagine next Christmas feeling like you don’t have to panic about which dress to get into because your whole year has been spent that bit more healthily. And if you start now, there’s still time to get 3 or 4 top changes in place before Christmas, which will help you look and feel better not only for those end of year party outfits, but also manage your digestion over the ‘week of eating’ so that you don’t feel so sluggish and don’t have such a mountain to climb at the beginning of January. So why is it so important to change our eating habits? For any of us who aren’t as slender or as fit as we used to be, or for those of us who have never been as healthy as we would have liked, it goes without saying that what you eat (and drink!) and how much you exercise are key factors affecting our weight, fitness, and levels of health. This is all widely known, and yet so many of us still struggle to be as fit or as thin or as healthy as we’d like. But how many of us have really tried to change our long term lifestyles, which requires committing to different routines, different choice of expenditure, and different attitudes to luxuries like alcohol, fast food, and over snacking? This isn’t to say that you must never indulge! The point of this plan is that by changing your daily eating habits, your body will be better able to process ‘luxury items’ when it is (less frequently) faced with them, but that also your body will start to go off some foods such as take away pizza or overly greasy fried chicken etc. It won’t be a case of ‘starving yourself’ or abstaining from everything you fancy, rather it will first be replacing these items with healthier alternatives on occasion, and gradually as your body becomes used to the healthier options, increasing the frequency.


Obviously no one will be struggling with exactly the same issues – you may eat takeaway a couple of times a week, or the idea of a takeaway to people who’ve been ‘dieting’ on and off for years may be absurd. But either way, wherever you are in your routine, there are always improvements that can be made for long term benefit, and part of the solution will be to be honest with yourself about: 1) Your Current Situation How often are you eating fast food, or drinking over the recommended daily intake for alcohol, or having those extra 500 calorie snacks during work. Also, how much money are you spending on your current luxuries? Many people think they can’t afford to eat healthily as it is true that fresh fish, meat, vegetables etc can be more expensive than less healthy alternatives. If you seriously assess what you are spending, and what you’d need to spend to implement change, you could perhaps work out that 2 bottles of wine, or 1 takeout, or 3 chocolate brownies each week, if curbed, could afford you the introduction of one of your ‘new habits’ each week. 2) How are you going to implement change? What you need is forward planning, e.g. making sure to go to the supermarket at the beginning of each week to plan your food: combining vegetable purchases for different meals to minimise wastage or extra expenditure; and buying healthy alternative snack items, such as cereal bars, low calorie chocolate bars, carrot sticks or fruit so that you can take them with you to work – there’s nothing worse than getting to 10.45 and being hungry and realising the only local options for a quick fix are the vending machine for chocolate and crisps. Also bear in mind your routine. Allow for dinners which can be prepared quickly enough on days that you get home later – there’s nothing like the temptation to get a takeaway on a day you get home tired and hungry and can’t be bothered to wait for an hour for dinner. It’s ok every now and again to get a takeaway after a bad day (you don’t hear other diet plans say that do you!) – but the point is to change your routine and plans accordingly that this doesn’t mess up your eating routine and habit forming on multiple occasions. Think about your levels of will power and determination. Although I’ve recommended you to do your shop for the week in one go – don’t buy the wine or chocolate or ingredients for the weekend’s dinner party the Sunday before! The bottle of wine or the tiramisu will be looking at you each night after you’ve made your healthy dinner! I know a bottle of wine never lasts unopened in my house for more than 2 nights, however determined I am when I go shopping. What are the 8 top tips? As mentioned above, everyone will have different circumstances, but there are always things everyone, however healthy you may think you are can improve upon. So pick some of the areas you know you’re worst at, and use the techniques above to implement a change in your eating habits one by one over the next 8 weeks. 1. Alcohol – do you need to reassess how much alcohol you’re drinking? Even if you can’t completely cut out the weekend’s binge drinking, can you reduce the amount you drink on a heavy night? Can you reduce how much you have during the week, by not having any in the house, and if you’re going for a drink socially, have a half or a small glass of wine instead of a pint or a bottle.


2. Sleep – having enough sleep, although not an ‘eating habit’, is imperative to being able to stick to your habits. Being exhausted will lead to snacking, drinking too much coffee and energy or sugary fizzy drinks. Get enough sleep that you can manage to get up in the morning without feeling like death, and you’ll stick to your new routine better! 3. Sugary drinks – if you drink sugary drinks on a daily basis, this is too much! Try to swap either for a diet alternative (although these too have their health implications often), reduce the number you have each day/week, or swap for a real fruit juice once a day, so that you’re at least getting some goodness from your sugar intake (and also get your body used to not the new regime of less sugary drinks). Drink more water, you should be aiming to consume 1.5 - 2 litres of water per day. 4. Drink green tea – either as your first hot drink of the day, or at some point during the morning, drink a cup of green tea and not only will it help you with hydration levels, it will work to digest your food throughout the day. 5. Have a healthy breakfast – if you have time to make porridge or eat nutritious cereals for breakfast, or have fat free natural yogurt with fruit, not only will you be avoiding white bread or bread altogether for a meal, which will be beneficial, you’ll also be putting food in you which will help you feel fuller and satisfied for longer, meaning less snacking, and the ability to leave lunch that little bit later which will also help you break up the day and cut out the 3 o’clock ‘need’ for something sweet to get you through the last stretch of the day! 6. Decrease portion size – with main meals, decrease your portion size by 20%, or cut out second helpings. Take note of only eating until you’re full and try not to eat more than that. Taking your time to eat your dinner will make the satisfaction last that bit longer, and also help you to be more in tune with when your body is full, and so avoid over-eating. 7. Eat healthy snacks between meals – instead of snacking on crisps and chocolate or other fatty tasty treats; why not opt for healthy alternatives, including a small amount of nuts, cereal bars, fruit or even a low fat yogurt. This will be better than bad snacks, and also as it will mean you make it through to the next meal without feeling too hungry, you’ll be able to not eat rushed unhealthy dinners, and also not eat too quickly and so not end up eating far too much. 8. Improve your main meals – whether this means adding more vegetables to your dinner, cooking less oven pizza etc and opting for fresh fish or meat, or whether it means using the same ingredients but frying less often and instead boiling/poaching/grilling, or whether it means cutting out some of your weekly fast food and replacing it with home cooked alternatives, make your changes one by one and try to stick to them to improve your diet long term! A final note! Although exercise is often not as easy to achieve as we’d like, due to lack of time, lack of money, lack of knowledge about where to start – one of the biggest factors if not THE biggest factor to change health levels will be exercise. If you’re not already exercising, do what you can to change your routine for example, take the stairs instead of the lift, or walk to the shops instead of drive. If you are able to, add weekly exercise, whether through a gym, or going for walks, runs or a bike ride around where you live a few times a week. If you have access to classes, try an aerobics or zumba class, where you’ll find people to guide you and keep you motivated. As with the eating habits – the best thing you can do is to see what you’d like to achieve and plan realistic ways to


change your habits, slowly but surely. For more ideas look up weight loss case studies online for tips and suggestions.

Bio: Karen loves walking her dogs and going for runs, and enjoys eating healthily, yet isn’t immune to wanting to improve her habits long term. For professional advice she consults with her personal trainer in Bedford at the Double Vision Conditioning Centre.


Changing Eating Habits for Life