How To Change Your Eating Habits For Life: 5 Expert Secrets
Have you ever tried to kick an eating habit, only to find that the harder you try, the worse it gets? I know I have.
For me, it was always the same: after a long day at work, I’d walk into the kitchen, and as if by magic, a chocolate chip cookie would materialize in my hand.
So I’d be standing there with a cookie, and then all of a sudden, it’d be gone. But then another would appear! And before I knew it, the whole bag was empty, and I’d feel terrible about myself for the rest of the day.
Have you ever felt that way? And have you ever wanted to change the way you eat but couldn’t?
So many of us have tried to change our eating habits only to end up right back where we started. But, today, all of that is going to change.
If you follow these 5 steps, you’ll be on your way to changing your eating habits—for life!
Step 1: Identify the Habit You Want to Change
We’ve all been there: you’re trying to change a habit or do something new, and you think, “I need to change EVERYTHING about my life.”
But, do you know what’s overwhelming? Doing too much at once.
We’ve all heard the saying, “There is only one way to eat an elephant; one bite at a time.” And when you have a big job to do, it seems obvious that you should break it up into smaller parts. But what’s common sense isn’t always common practice.
We often think that MORE is BETTER, so more change must be better, right? But taking an all-or-nothing approach to changing your eating habits is way too overwhelming. You’ll burn out, and ultimately, you’ll give up!
When it comes to change, LESS is MORE. So take an inventory of all the eating habits you’d like to change, pick just one thing from your list (maybe even a small thing), and focus on that until it’s done.
Expert Secret #1: Small actions are more effective than big, sweeping ones because they allow us to see progress quickly and build momentum towards our goal. It’s the “snowball effect.” The idea is to change one habit and build on that success to change the next one.
Step 2: Identify What Triggers You to Eat
When we talk about “eating triggers,” we’re talking about the things that make you want to eat.
An “eating trigger” is the first domino that sets an entire chain of events into motion.
Some people’s triggers are just things they do out of habit. They eat at the same time every day, and if they see their favorite snack, it sends them into a craving frenzy. Some people’s triggers are more emotional; like when they’re stressed or depressed, they often turn to food for comfort or as a reward.
Whatever the reason, the point is that a habit starts with an event—the trigger. And those triggers can make us overeat without even realizing it until later.
The key to changing your eating habits is to figure out why you do what you do. Because once you know what makes you eat, you won’t be surprised by it anymore, and you can start to change it.
If you think back on your day, what was going on right before you ate?
Maybe it was boredom. Maybe it was stress. Maybe it’s because you’re tired of feeling like you can’t control yourself when it comes to food. Or maybe it’s because you don’t even want to think about cooking (I’ve been there!)
So now, write down all the times you ate something that wasn’t planned or expected. It doesn’t matter how small or insignificant the snack was. And once this list is complete, look for patterns in your behavior and ask:
Which domino caused all the others to fall over?
Expert Secret #2: The next time you reach for a snack and think, “I’m hungry,” ask yourself, “What else could be happening here?” Maybe this isn’t about hunger at all—maybe it’s about dealing with an emotion you’d rather avoid. So instead of eating first, focus on dealing with that emotion and see where it takes you!
Step 3: Understand Why Eating is Actually Helpful
Everyone has a thousand reasons to kick a habit, but how many people have considered how that habit is actually helping them?
If you are like most people, your eating habits have developed over time. And they’re probably there because they make you feel better in some way—whether it’s relieving stress or boredom, helping you deal with sadness or anger, or just giving you a moment of comfort during a difficult time.
Think about how, when you’re stressed at work, you might go home and eat an entire bag of chips. Or when you’re depressed and lonely, you order a pizza because it feels like something good is happening for once.
In those moments, food is what helps us deal with our feelings.
Realize that food is a way to deal with emotions. And not only that, it’s a highly effective way to do it! That’s why so many of us use it.
Food is like a magic potion—you can’t really describe how it works, but you know it does, and that’s all that matters. And even though it makes you feel better, it’s not actually doing anything to solve the problem.
Because when the next day rolls around, the chips are gone, and there’s no more pizza…
We have to deal with whatever was making us sad, stressed out, or depressed all over again—but now we have to deal with them on top of feeling guilty about all that extra weight we’ve put on.
So what am I getting at? Food is an effective way to deal with situations, but it’s not a long-term solution.
When people say they need to change their relationship with food, what they really mean is that they need to find a better way to deal with those emotions.
Expert Secret #3: It’s time for us all to deal with our inner discomfort instead of numbing it with food. Food is just one of many ways we deal with stress and anxiety. The key is learning how to identify when you’re using food to avoid emotions and then finding a healthier way to deal with them.
Step 4: Your Moment of Choice
Have you ever tried to fight a wave? It’s impossible. No matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to stop it. You’ll just get knocked over, and that’s that.
You can’t control the waves, and you can’t stop them from coming.
But here’s the thing: waves aren’t all that bad! You can surf on them or go boogie-boarding down one, and if you learn to ride them (instead of fighting them), they’re actually fun!
So why am I telling you this?
Because when you try to change an eating habit, your cravings come on like a strong wave—and it’s up to you whether you want to fight it or ride it.
This is your moment of choice. This is your moment to pause and decide what you would like to do.
Expert Secret #4: You are not your feelings, and you are not your cravings. Instead, you are the one who decides how to respond when those feelings and cravings show up. Will you fight it? Will you give in? Or will you learn to feel them and let them pass?
Step 5: Choose Your Action
What’s the most important thing you need to do to change the way you eat?
Take action, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. It doesn’t matter if you choose to:
- Allow yourself to ride the waves until they pass and crash on the shore,
- Walk into another room to put distance between you and the food, or
- Experience the craving for a minute or two to learn what it feels like, and if you still want to, then eat.
There is no right or wrong answer; what works for me may not work for you and vice versa.
But one thing is sure; the most important part of change is that you recognize you are in a pattern, pause, and consciously choose to do something new. We form new habits by taking small actions over and over again until they become second nature.
Expert Secret #5: It’s easier to replace a habit than to quit one. If you’re craving chocolate cake after dinner, you choose to not eat it. But the problem is that doing nothing creates a void that’s begging to be filled. Instead, you could go for a walk, brush your teeth, or take five minutes to catch up with MyBodyTutor on Instagram. This will help break the pattern and create a new one that is better for your health.
It’s easy to see why changing eating habits is such a common problem. It’s easy to turn to food when you feel stressed or bored, and it can be hard to break that cycle. But with these five tips, you can start to make changes that will change your eating habits for life.