Five Bad Eating Habits and How to Break Them

| by Mitzi Dulan

Even the seemingly best eaters have at least a few bad habits that must be managed. There are no people who are naturally good eaters; everyone must learn how to control their desires while balancing this with the needs of their body. Here are the secrets to controlling your problem eating behaviors!

1.) Chain-Breaking: You need to break the link between a behavior and over consumption of food. Say, for example, that you always snack while watching TV; the link between television watching and snacking needs to be severed. The conscious recognition that these behaviors occur together will begin the disruption of the association. After some practice, you will be able to separate these two behaviors (watching television and eating) so they are mutually exclusive to each other.

2.) Stimulus Control: You need to alter your environment to rid it of temptations. On your walk into work, you always pass a bakery, and the luring smell of a doughnut is something you can’t ignore. Because you know the smell of the bakery is a weakness, you must change your pathway into work. By removing overly tempting stimuli, you will be able to stay strong in your healthy eating habits.

3.) Cognitive Restructuring: You need to dissociate food and emotions. When you learn that a bad day will not be remedied by a pint of chocolate ice cream, your eating habits will take a turn for the better. There are better ways to manage your emotions that will actually bring relief. Try calling a friend or cognitively reframing the situation to find a positive aspect.

4.) Contingency Management: You need to prepare yourself for situations you know will be a problem. If you know that you are going to your favorite restaurant, go ahead and order what you like. However, before you dive into your meal, put half in a to-go box. This will help you to not get carried away eating your meal without any stops to check your hunger level.

5.) Self-Monitoring: You need to track yourself and your eating patterns. It is critically important to understand what types of foods are eaten when, and the associated emotions, environment, etc. It may be beneficial to keep a food journal to see these relationships. In addition, self-monitoring includes weighing yourself once weekly, but do so with caution, because numbers on the scale can be deceiving. Generally, it is recommended that you don’t hold a single number as a “good weight”. Instead make a range of around 5 pounds. Because water weight and food in your system is variable, keeping your weight within a 5-pound range is more reasonable.

Using these principles, you will be able to find the patterns and behaviors that lead to poor eating. The most important thing to remember is that acknowledging the problem is only the first step to initiating a change.

Research Assistance by Kaylee O’Connell