6 Steps to Changing Bad Eating Habits
How to overcome unhealthy habits that are keeping you from losing weight and getting fit.
Most of us are creatures of habit. We buy the same foods from the same
grocery store, prepare the same recipes over and over, and live within our own
familiar routines. But if you're serious about eating healthier and losing weight, you need to shake it up, change those bad
eating habits, and start thinking differently about your diet and
The problem is that we get so comfortable in our ways that it's hard to give
up those old habits.
"Many people are skeptical about changing their diets because they have
grown accustomed to eating or drinking the same foods, and there is a fear of
the unknown or trying something new," says John Foreyt, PhD, director of
the Baylor College of Medicine Behavioral Medicine Research Center.
Even when you want to change, old habits die hard.
"Over time, habits become automatic, learned behaviors, and these are
stronger than new habits you are trying to incorporate into your life,"
Even those who manage to change their bad eating habits can easily fall back
on their old ways during times of stress. When you're feeling weak or vulnerable,
automatic responses often override good intentions.
"Everything can be going along just fine until you hit a rough patch and
feelings of boredom, loneliness, depression, or ... any kind of stress," says
Foreyt says tackling bad eating and exercise habits requires a three-pronged approach:
- Being aware of the bad habits you want to fix.
- Figuring out why these habits exist.
- Figuring out how you'll slowly change your bad eating and exercise habits
into healthier new ones.
Another expert notes that you're much more likely to be successful at
changing your habits if you take things one step at a time. "Try to
gradually incorporate new habits over time, and before you know it, you will be
eating more healthfully and losing weight," says Keri Gans, MS, RD,
American Dietetic Association spokesperson and a nutritionist in private
practice in New York.
Eating a healthier diet may be intimidating at first. But once you see for
yourself how good it makes you feel -- and how good healthy food can taste --
you have a better chance of succeeding. Over time, your preferences will change
and cravings for bad-for-you foods will fade away.
6 Steps to Fix Bad Eating Habits
Here are 6 steps to help you get rid of your old, unhealthy habits and
create healthier ones:
1. Take Baby Steps. Making small changes in your diet and lifestyle
can improve your health as well as trim your waistline. Some suggestions from
- Start each day with a nutritious breakfast.
- Get 8 hours of sleep each night, as fatigue can lead to overeating.
- Eat your meals seated at a table, without distractions.
- Eat more meals with your partner or family.
- Teach yourself to eat when you're really hungry and stop when you're
- Reduce your portion sizes by 20%, or give up second helpings.
- Try lower-fat dairy products.
- Make sandwiches with whole-grain bread and spread them with mustard instead
- Switch to cafe au lait, using strong coffee and hot skim milk instead of
- Eat a nutritious meal or snack every few hours.
- Use nonstick pans and cooking spray instead of oil to reduce the fat in
- Try different cooking methods, such as grilling, roasting, baking, or
- Drink more water and fewer sugary drinks.
- Eat smaller portions of calorie-dense foods (like casseroles and pizza) and
larger portions of water-rich foods (like broth-based soups, salads, and
- Flavor your foods with herbs, vinegars, mustards, or lemon instead of fatty
- Limit alcohol to 1-2 drinks per day.