Does everyone in your family sit together at the dining table for a meal? If your answer is ‘no’, that’s probably not the only bad eating habit you are indulging in. Do you love turning on the TV and sitting in front of it with a plate of snacks? Or just finish your dinner at your desk while getting some work done? Do you indulge in late night snacking? When you eat this way, your focus is less on the food and more on the other activity.
Other bad eating habits include binge eating junk food, skipping breakfast and ordering take-out frequently. According to NIH scientists, habits form through repetition. Many of us have these unhealthy habits that seem almost impossible to break. However, it’s not as difficult as it may seem because a strategic reversal routine can hardwire us to break our bad habits. To alter your eating habits, first, you need to identify the patterns of eating that need to be worked on.
Here is a guide for you and your family to improve your eating habits and change your body for good.
Eat, But Mindfully
Most of us are constantly in a rush and have gotten into the habit of disregarding breakfast altogether. Do not skip breakfast. According to experts, it is the most important meal of the day because it helps us burn more calories during the day. People who skip breakfast consume fewer calories, but their BMI tends to be higher than those who eat breakfast regularly. Moreover, skipping breakfast heightens your probability to binge on snacks later.
Eating should be a response to health and energy factors when the body needs fuel and not physiological hunger and cravings. However, many kids and youngsters these days have the habit of snacking in front of the television. The moment they get home, they toss their bags, grab a bunch of unhealthy snacks (chips, nachos, cookies, sodas, and other junk food), turn on the TV, and start munching. This sort of eating is called distracted eating and is unnecessary. You need to ask yourself, “Why am I eating?” Unless you are eating for a purpose like refueling your body, it’s not a healthy habit.
Fight The Triggers
When your eating habit is connected to other patterns, try to break association with what may be a possible trigger. According to Brian Wansink, author of ‘Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think’, “Habits become so automatic … our environment ends up facilitating a good habit, but it also ends up facilitating a bad habit.” Sometimes it is difficult to rely on willpower alone, so you can try to make your attempt to break habits easier by changing your environment and routine.
For example, walking around your snack filled kitchen can trigger your cravings. To curb your bad habit, you can try cleaning out your pantry and instead fill your kitchen with fruits and healthy foods. Fill your kitchen counter with healthy food, like a fruit bowl, so that even when you’re triggered, your consumption will be healthy.
Here is another scenario- eating while watching your favorite TV show on the laptop may be something you do on a regular basis. So, you can try a healthier alternative. Baumeister’s research shows that, when we lack willpower, keeping a food diary helps. You can also try other activities instead of giving in to your cravings such as going for a walk, reading a book, or meditating. These tasks can deviate you from pursuing actions that could trigger your cravings.
Find A Better Reward
Research findings have revealed that kids and adolescents are largely influenced by reward sensitivity when it comes to eating habits. Kids are usually conditioned to think of junk food as rewards. Reward your kids with healthier treats/activities instead. Give them some extra play time, go with them to the park, or get them new toys. When kids identify unhealthy habits as rewards from a young age, it will be difficult for them to break those habits as adults. So, condition them to see healthy habits as rewards during their developmental stage. Teach them that rewards can be enjoyable and healthy at the same time.
Make Family Rules
Do you have a family rule book? If not, consider creating one. Try a firm but gentle approach to your family rules. Consider these guidelines when making your family rulebook: dinner should be eaten only at the dinner table, breakfast at a specific time that fits your family’s routine, lights out by 10 p.m. (or earlier for young children), no snacking while watching TV, and no eating straight out of the box/packet.
When the rules are all-inclusive, it is easier to inculcate these healthy habits as a family. The rules are the same for everyone – from the eldest to the youngest. As adults, you can be good role models for your kids. When they see that even after a long day of work, you don’t indulge yourself in unhealthy habits of eating and, despite having a load of work, you close it all down to join the family at the table for a relaxing dinner, it sets an example for your kids to eat mindfully.
Don’t Give In To Cravings
Craving some ice cream at 12 a.m.? Well, you are not the only one. But it’s time you started fighting those cravings … smartly. Delete those food ordering apps, and keep maintaining your clean and healthy food filled kitchen.
To avoid feeling hungry at night, make sure you have a nutritious meal for dinner. If you still feel hungry in the middle of the night, plan your snack consciously. A bowl of fruits, some nuts, or a cup of herbal tea are some healthy options. When you have a healthy snack, you feel more satisfied and balanced, as opposed to the guilt of eating chocolates or ice cream late at night.
Break Bad Eating Habits!
These are a few ways to break free of poor eating habits and replace them with good habits. When it comes to hunger, we all tend to respond to our physiological cues as opposed to its primary purpose, which is refueling the body. Once you understand that, you’re on your way to a healthier lifestyle. Quit the bad habits and establish new and healthy patterns for everyone in the family. It’s easier to change your bad habits as a team, so what better way to do it than with your family?