One of the secrets of success for long-term, sustainable weight loss is replacing bad old habits with new slim habits and behaviours. Welcome to the ninth Fat Chance! weight loss blog.
Habits are regular or routine behaviours that are so long established we are simply not aware of them, or are aware of them but seem powerless to change them. While women are more likely to struggle with emotional eating (see my previous blog), it is men who tend to be captives of bad eating habits, often because they are unaware of them or are not aware of healthier alternatives. But once identified, men can be good at replacing them, being the practical creatures they are.
We can choose to adopt new behaviours but it has to be very deliberate and planned at first, and involves a number of steps starting with identifying the old habits you want to replace. As Dr Phil says, “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.”
Many bad eating habits that keep you overweight probably originated in childhood and were absorbed from your home environment. Were you taught to finish everything on your plate? To not waste food? To eat quickly? Were you rewarded with sweets or comforted with food as a child?
What bad habits do you struggle with? What habits undermine your weight loss efforts? It may help to ask someone who lives with you what your bad eating habits are. They will know if you come home from work and head straight to the fridge, for example, not because you are hungry but out of sheer habit. Many times that bad habit has a trigger, so you should also identify the triggers in your daily routine or environment. What are they? How can you avoid or manage them?
Research shows that it takes at least three weeks to change an old habit and it can only be done successfully by replacing it with a new habit. Biscuits can be replaced with fruit. Full-cream milk can be replaced by low-fat milk. Grazing for food can be replaced by taking a shower, or taking the dog for a walk.
So the next step is to identify alternatives that will work for you and strategies to help you put your new habits into place. This often involves modifying your environment, such as removing offending foods from your pantry. I stopped eating butter, for example, by not buying it at the supermarket (I have nothing against butter, but this worked for me).
It takes practise, time and discipline to embed new habits into your life until they become second nature. Try to adopt and embed just one or two new habits at a time and slowly build them up.
Here are several good slim habits I personally recommend:
I drink water instead of juices, sugary drinks or alcohol. I can honestly say I now really enjoy the taste of pure, fresh cold water. Palmerston North has the best tap water in New Zealand and I really appreciate that! I also ask myself if I am actually thirsty when I think I am hungry. We often confuse thirst with hunger.
I eat all my meals at home off a small plate (a ‘bread and butter’ plate – yes it’s true!). I have pretty ones that are mine and I have taught my family that my meals are to be served on these plates.
I’m good at asking for my serving at a restaurant to be wrapped to take home. I regularly find portion sizes too large for me these days (I often have just an entrée), so in a café I chose something that I know I can cut in half and I wrap half in a serviette to take home. I no longer feel I must finish what’s on my plate or I will miss out, because I can always eat it later when I am hungry again.
- I’m an enthusiastic label reader when shopping (always aiming for fat less than 10g per 100g and sugar less than 10-15g per 100g). I do not allow high-calorie foods into my shopping trolley. If they are not in my house I can’t eat them!
And if I have fresh seasonal produce in the fridge, so much the better. Very soon it will be time for the first strawberries and the first asparagus of the new season. I’m really looking forward to that!
Join me again next time!
Susan Maiava PhD is the author of Fat Chance! The no-going-back Weight Loss Workbook, available from Paper Plus, Whitcoulls, independent bookshops and Online at www.fatchance.co.nz (free delivery in NZ). RRP $39.99. Fat Chance! is ideal for groups. Professional enquiries also welcome.