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6 Steps to Changing Bad Eating Habits

How to overcome unhealthy habits that are keeping you from losing weight and getting fit.

6 Steps to Fix Bad Eating Habits continued...

2.  Become More Mindful. One of the first steps toward conquering bad eating habits is paying more attention to what you're eating and drinking. "Read food labels, become familiar with lists of ingredients, and start to take notice of everything you put into your mouth," says Gans. Once you become more aware of what you're eating, you'll start to realize how you need to improve your diet. Some people benefit by keeping food diaries.

3.  Make a Plan; Be Specific. How are you going to start eating more fruit, having breakfast every day, or getting to the gym more often?  Spell out your options. For example: Plan to take a piece of fruit to work every day for snacks, stock up on cereal and fruit for quick breakfasts, and go to the gym on the way to work three times a week. "To say 'I am going to work out more,' won't help you," says Gans. "What will help is thinking about when and how you can fit it into your lifestyle."

4. Tackle a New Mini-Goal Each Week. These mini-steps will eventually add up to major change. For example, if your goal is to eat more vegetables, tell yourself you'll try one new veggie each week until you find some you really enjoy. Or look for easy ways to add one more serving of vegetables to your diet each week until you reach your goal. Try topping your lunch sandwich with slices of cucumbers; adding shredded carrots to the muffins you have for breakfast; or topping your dinnertime pizza with sun-dried tomatoes and mushrooms.

5.  Be Realistic.  Don't expect too much from yourself too soon. It takes about a month for any new action to become habit. Slow and steady wins the race -- along with a dose of vigilance.

6.  Practice Stress Management. "Focus on dealing with stress through exercise, relaxation, meditation, or whatever works for you, so you don't fall back into those bad habits during periods of stress or use food to help you cope with the situation," advises Foreyt.

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Reviewed on February 21, 2008

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