Health Challenge Week 1: Identifying & Changing Unhealthy Eating Habits

A habit is a recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition. Brushing your teeth and tying your shoes are habits. You don’t have to think about the activity. The behavior is automatic.  Over the years we all develop both good and bad eating habits.
Unhealthy eating habits are common. We live in a fast-paced society and are often faced with eating on the run. Fast food and processed foods are easy and quick and usually not healthy. Hectic schedules, demands on your time and stress may all contribute to unhealthy eating habits.

Some Examples of Unhealthy Eating Habits

  • Using food to relieve stress: When you feel stressed out, find ways to relax other than using food. Consider exercising, talking with friends, meditating or reading.
  • Skipping meals: Remember that when you don’t regularly feed your body, your hunger increases and you may experience a drop in blood sugar.  As a result, you may eat larger meals later in the day. Be sure to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Keep healthy snacks around for eating between meals.
  • Eating too fast: Eating quickly makes it easy to eat more than you may intend. Take it slow. It takes time for your stomach to send the message to your brain that you are full.
  • Eating large portions: Many restaurants offer large portions as an enticement to eat there. Consider sharing an entrée.  Reduce portions at home and use a smaller plate to give your brain the message that you have a full plate. Don’t eat out of the box or bag as it is too easy to lose track of how much you are eating.
  • Late night snacking: Nighttime eating often consists of high caloric “comfort” foods which will increase your daily caloric intake. Stop and assess if you’re really hungry or eating out of habit. Consider non-eating activities like reading a book, a fun hobby, calling a friend or drinking water.
  • Drinking your calories: Soda and other flavored drinks can be packed with sugar and empty calories. Drink water or non-sugary, low-calorie drinks instead.

Healthy Eating Habits to Adopt

  • Drinking 80-100 ounces of water daily
  • Snacking on healthy foods during the day
  • Eating smaller meals five times per day
  • Eating fresh meats, cheese, and vegetables

How to Establishing the Right Habits

  • Start simple: Don’t try to completely change your bad eating habits in one day. When changes are too drastic, it is easy to become discouraged and abandon your efforts.
  • Make it daily: Consistency is very important. Behavior that is repeated over a period of time becomes a habit.
  • Commit to thirty days: Research indicates that it takes about four weeks for a behavior to become automatic. Once you make it through the initial conditioning period, the behavior becomes easier to sustain.
  • Treat yourself: When you are giving up a behavior, you may experience a sense of loss, or a strong desire for what you have given up. Reward yourself with non-food items for being consistent in your new behavior:
    • Buy yourself flowers
    • Do your favorite hobby
    • Make a plan with a friend
    • Buy yourself something new
    • Get a facial or massage
  • Remove temptation: Get rid of the foods that tempt you to cheat on your eating program.
  • Write your goals down: Write your goals down and post them in a place where you can see them daily. Writing about what you want to achieve is more powerful than just thinking about what you want. Seeing those written goals daily will help reinforce the behavior you want to achieve.

Healthy Habits Worksheet