Healthy Habit: Don’t diet! Change your behavior instead

In my last post, Making Dieting a Lifetime Habit, I made a point about how our irrational thoughts about food and eating may not be good for our health. I talked about how our thoughts guide our emotions and our actions. And how we convince ourselves to have that second helping or eat when we are not hungry.

Our thoughts or self-talk is very powerful indeed. Talking ourselves out of eating is not the point here. The point is about being rational about the choices we make regarding food

If you tried rationalizing with yourself whenever irrational thoughts about eating pops up in your head, you may have found that you are learning to take control of the food  rather than letting the food take control of you.

I have been rationalizing with myself about overspending for about ten years. And I have succeeded in developing new habits that work with me and not against me. I do not have any debts, loans, or overdrafts!

As I now approach my fiftieth year on Earth, I have begun to look more closely at my eating habits, and over the last four weeks I have observed and monitored my thinking about my eating habits. And I am now beginning to see some satisfactory changes.

Our behaviors follow our thoughts

The first time I had to dive into the sea I was terrified. I stood at the end of the pier looking down at the sea. It was only three feet jump. The others in the group were already in the sea and my instructor was encouraging me to jump. But I stood frozen. So I had to talk my way into encouraging and motivating myself to take that jump. The self-talk I had with me rationalized with me. I had done this before in the pool many times. I have gone down as deep as 12 feet before. There are three experienced divers in the group who knew first aid. I will be safe. And then I jumped and completed the dive.

So when you are taking the dive into a diet, that rational self-talk is very important.

Focusing on your behavior

Many of the food habits we have today probably came from the adults in our lives as we were growing up. So we have had years of practice to perfect these habits like eating everything on the plate, having second helpings, eating while watching TV or emailing or texting, and eating junk food.

Whatever the eating habits you have developed and perfected over the years, it does not mean that you cannot learn new habits.

Everyone has the capacity to learn something new, no matter how old they are. I know this as a fact as I have been a teacher for many years. Although I mostly worked with students from the ages of 6-26, I have taught adult courses, and the oldest student I had was 78..

We are all students of life, and everyday we learn something new. And as we learn something new, we replace our old ways of thinking to new ways of thinking, and so our behaviors change.

Some changes to your diet behavior you can make from today …

But before you begin, first do this – get rid of the bathroom scales or limit to weighing yourself every two weeks. 

If you are are obsessed with weighing yourself everyday then you are probably only looking for a quick-fix. So your mood for the day may depend on what you see on the scales.

If the scales show that you have dropped a couple of pounds, you will be happy and motivated to have a good day. This may encourage you to keep making healthy choices or it may convince you to have the chocolate cake as a reward – how is that helping you to stay on track?

If the scales give you a bad report showing you have either gained a couple of pounds or not shifted any pounds, you may get depressed and punish yourself . So you might and not eat and deprive your body of nutrients needed, or you may just eat for the sake of eating because you tell yourself the damage is done.

Do you see what I mean?

The changes to habits I have listed below are not new. You probably have come across them before, or may know of others. But these are the habits I have found works with me and my goals.

Shopping habits

  1. Shop for groceries only after eating. This may prevent you from buying food impulsively, especially food you do not need. I go shopping at the same time every week, if it is possible, which is Saturday morning after breakfast.
  2. Stick to the shopping list.  This is another strategy to prevent you from impulsively buying food you don’t need. This is a good thing, because you not only buy what you want and need, you also stick to your budget and not overspend.
  3. Buy wholesome, healthy nutritional food. Food lacking in nutrients will make you hungrier, thus making it harder for your to change your habits. If you are one of those people who say to yourself, “I have been good all week, so I will reward myself with this piece of chocolate pie,” ask yourself if this is rational thinking.  Would a person trying to give up alcohol buy a bottle of wine to celebrate being sober for a week? So why would a person trying to give up certain types of food celebrate with the food he or she is trying to give up in the first place?

Eating habits

  • Make eating your only activity. This is a hard habit to develop, but is absolutely essential. If you are focused on watching TV, checking your emails, texting, talking on the phone, or some other activity, you will not realize how much you are eating. If you are trying to work on portion control, then when you are eating, the only thing you should be doing is eating. This is important to you. So focus only on the meal.
  • Sit down to eat. If you eat while standing, walking, or moving  about, then you are doing some other activity, and not focusing on eating. Sitting focuses your attention on eating.
  • When at home, eat in the same room and sit at the same place. Again, the focus is on the activity of eating and doing nothing else. Hence, you take control of where you eat and how you eat. So the food does not dictate to you.
  • Leave one bite of food on the plate. This is also about you developing your power and control over the food you eat. You are showing yourself that food doesn’t control you, but you are controlling the food. If you are a member of the ‘clean plate club,’ then this may help you write your resignation from that group.
  • Learn to chew and eat slowly. Maybe when you were younger, you may have been told to chew your food 20 times before swallowing. Re-learn this. Take a bite of food, put down your utensils or put down the food, and chew. Ideally you should take 20 minutes to complete your meal. Apparently it takes 20 minutes for your brain to register fullness from the time you start eating. Check it out yourself here.
  • Take a break from eating. Eating is an activity, like swimming or running. It can be exhausting with all that chewing. So take a 3-minute break. Go to the bathroom or something.

Take action and live in the present

You may have images of you looking and feeling healthier and slimmer. But don’t put your life on hold until you achieve your ideal body weight. Live for the day. So if you have clothes that are too small for you, give them away. Keeping them will only remind you when those clothes once fitted you, and you will make unnecessary demands on yourself to be that person you used to be. So buy clothes that fit your shape now. Then you can look back and see how far you have come.

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Mauve Writer

Teacher, Learner, Writer

24 thoughts on “Healthy Habit: Don’t diet! Change your behavior instead

    1. You can break this habit in baby steps. Nothing is impossible – its only a battle and not a war.
      Take one day at a time. Would love to know if you succeed.

  1. These are all great tips I try to follow to stay healthy. Especially eating slowly and ONLY eating- not texting, emailing, etc. If I do that, I do not feel satisfied by what I ate because I don’t even remember it.

    1. The habit I struggled to break was eating watching TV or eating while reading facebook posts.
      It takes a while, but habits can be broken

  2. These are all such great tips. I have always been against dieting, but rather changing your behavior towards eating and making better decisions. That way you don’t bounce from diet to diet and instead change your lifestyle.

    1. I’ve tried diets, but then go off them. Changing one’s behavior is not so easy, but it is doable. Thank you for the comment.

  3. This has come at such a good time in my life. Lately I have been thinking about how I could change my behaviors to build on certain habits or get rid of some of them. Thank you for sharing,

  4. behavior change is very important.. If treat food as a “reward” or anything other than nourishment, it can be detrimental to your physical and mental health… Thank you for sharing!

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