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  • Health and Wellness

    How To Break Your Bad Eating Habits, On Your Own

    bad eating habits

    Hunger pangs…. or is it hunger pains?! Regardless…have you experienced them recently? I mean, really experienced them; to the point where your head is throbbing, your stomach is gnawing, and the closest piece of food- even a bland, cold, unseasoned broiled chicken breast- makes your mouth saturate with drool. I hadn’t felt these types of hunger pains at all over the holiday season. With the start of the New Year, I decided to reboot my health goals and wanted my hunger back. Why? Because hunger pains = weight loss gains! And surprisingly, it’s not that challenging to break these bad eating habits on your own.

     

    The feeling of hunger pains has always been an unsettling feeling for me (How to Survive the Excruciating Fear of Hunger Pangs). I’m so used to not feeling hunger pains because I tend to graze on snacks throughout the day. Therefore, when they do rear their head, my brain starts to panic.

    hunger pain

    Hunger hormones? Scarcity of food? Get me to food, STAT!

    That’s how discombobulated my body-brain connection has recently been.

     

    Obviously, I’m aware that food is not scarce. We all know that the major issue in the US these days is overabundance of-and overindulgence in- food. However, I’ve come to realize that one of my biggest struggles with my health goals is:

     Ignoring the instinct to immediately react to hunger pains and reach for food.

    Our brains are brilliant. They knows that food is all around us, all the time.
    I mean, let’s be honest… it’s used to it! We eat all the time when we’re not hungry; late at night, when we’re bored, when we’re socializing, tired, thirsty etc. Our brains react fairly quickly when our grazing lifestyles take a brief hiatus:

    Brain:               It’s been 2 hours without a snack?!

    Cue:                  Twinge of hunger pain

    Reaction:         Immediately dig around for a snack.

     

    For me, I understand that I struggle with impulse control.

     

    I react to the slightest twinge of hunger pain. I mean, food just tastes SO GOOD. Come on…right??

    Once I’d give in and finish eating, however, I would emotionally start to derail:

    • Did I really need to grab a snack while prepping my dinner, knowing my meal would be ready in less than an hour?
    • Did I really need to eat that second helping of chips, or dessert, or “x/y/z” at 10pm?

    The psychological cascade would follow as well:

    • Why don’t I have self-control?
    • Why do I allow food to run my life?
    • How hard is it, really, to resist a small sensation of hunger?
    • Am I weak? Am I addicted to food?

    ….and so on, and so on, and so on…

     


    After recognizing my struggles, I set to replace my mental instinct to indulge in food with a different approach:

     

    I took away the mental debate about eating.

     

    Signal:                         Hunger pain?

    Mental debate:             Eat?

    Immediate response:    No.

    Alternative behavior:   [water/black coffee/mint flavor/walk away]

     

    Signal:                         Hunger pain?

    Mental debate:             Eat?

    Immediate response:    No.

    Alternative behavior:   [water/black coffee/mint flavor/walk away]

     

    Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

    This was not easy to start doing.

    But this was exactly where I needed to man-up with myself.

    No one was going to fight and win this battle but me.

    And no one else knows me better than me. I know that if I even start the debate over eating with:

    “well…I won’t eat that much”

    “just something light…”

    “only raw veggies”

    “one bite”

    …. x/y/z…

    I was reinforcing the instinct to indulge, instead of strengthening the mental muscle to resist.

     

    Over the past 3 weeks, I have really worked hard to employ this new change in mindset. One of my hardest habits to break has been snacking late at night. I used to allow the slightest twinge of hunger pain late at night to give myself permission to indulge. I’d snoop in the cabinets for popcorn (give me that salt!), then dig around for some dried mangos (give me that sweet!), then allow myself to munch on anything else I wanted, because well, what the heck? At this point I’m off the bandwagon, so what’s it matter?!

     

    I decided I wanted to change by not eat anything after 8pm.

    Pretty predictable, my body caught on from the onset and wasn’t ready to go without a fight. It knew food was around, and it wanted to remind me of my old eating behaviors.

     

    Cue:                 Twinge of hunger pain

    Brain:              “Yes! Popcorn time!”

    Intentional change in mindset:             “No. PERIOD.”

    Intentional change in behavior:            Water / black coffee/ mint flavor / walk away

     

    Cue:                 Twinge of hunger pain

    Brain:              “No salt? Fine. Chocolate!”

    Intentional change in mindset:             “No.”

    Intentional change in behavior:            Water / black coffee/ mint flavor / walk away

    Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

     

    I’m going to be honest. Day #1, it was TOUGH. I’m talking…4+ rounds of mental gymnastics trying to shut my strongly programmed, nocturnal-binging-mindset, off.

    hunger pain, binging

    But something amazing started happening.

     

    I woke up on Day #2+3 and appreciated the feeling of hunger! I was pumped to make a delicious and nutritious breakfast that I had earned!

     

    I’m now at Day #21. The decision to stop eating after 8pm is still strong, but slightly weaker than when I started. My body and brain are slowly catching on, and the mental mind games aren’t as exhausting as they were in the beginning. What keeps me motivated is waking up hungry to enjoy breakfast. I truly love the feeling. And it also helps that my stomach feels flatter and I feel lighter right off the bat first thing in the morning.

     

    It’s not easy committing to breaking strong, ingrained habits that are holding you back from your health goals. Being honest with yourself can be challenging; it’s easier to play the defensive or denial card when you really have to sit down and look at yourself. But only you know you. And only you can change you. You’ve got to be tough on yourself! You have to be your own coach. When it comes to breaking a habit, get rid of the conversational debate. Be disciplined and understand that it will get easier! Stick with it and stay consistent. You can do it!

     


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