You Can Reprogram Yourself to Enjoy Making Better Choices and You Should
By Kristina Steinberg, RD
Life has a way of making us all feel negative sometimes, but we can choose to be happy. The same applies to the way we eat. When we overeat, we tend to feel bad about ourselves. But we can make the choice to eat properly by reprogramming ourselves about how we deal with food. Yes, it takes work to fight our natural tendency to overindulge. But, it’s possible to put ourselves into better balance. That sounds promising, but how do we do it? You can start to rewire your brain about food with these ten tools:
1. Motivation: Before deciding to make a change – regardless of what the change may be, whether it is to eat healthier, lose weight, start exercising, stop smoking or drinking, etc., the change has to start with the individual. Think about what your motivation is to lose weight. Is it to eat healthier which helps you to lose weight. Is it to be around to see or play with the grandkids, or to break the mold and reverse family history of medical issues, or to increase mortality, or to feel better? Motivation is the key to changing any behavior.
2. Knowledge: Expand your current knowledge of foods. Start by reading the nutrition label and ingredients in a product. Talk to a Registered Dietitian who can help you on an individualized basis make steps to healthier eating.
3. Realistic Goals: Sometimes when people decide to make a change, they are so motivated that they want to do too much too soon. They start off with a bang which can lead to discouragement and quitting before reaching the desired goal. No one can change their total diet overnight. Giving up high sugar foods and drinks is a good start in the right direction. Then, work on removing processed foods and incorporating whole foods into the diet. Take small steps to reach your goals.
4. Moderation: Instead of eating a large portion of something unhealthy, eat a smaller portion. Sometimes just a bite or two to satisfy your taste. Small changes do add up and remember, no one is perfect 100% of the time.
5. Step Outside Your Comfort Zone: Incorporate new foods into your diet. Pick a food from each category – meat, dairy, vegetable and fruit and try a new one every day, meal, week or whatever you feel comfortable doing. ‘Eat the rainbow’ – choose foods with different colors to create a variety of tastes, vitamins and minerals.
6. Choose Better Cooking Options: Grilled, baked, or broiled meats are healthier than fried. Look for new recipes to create the most tasty, healthier cuisine.
7. Switch to Healthier Food Options: Substitute high fat or high sugar foods for lower fat/sugar options. For instance, in the South, people like their sweet tea. A healthier alternative would be to: reduce the amount of sugar used to make the tea or use a non-calorie sweetener. Try eating cheese with less fat –part skim mozzarella versus gouda. Switch to whole wheat bread instead of refined white bread.
8. Avoid Temptation: Shop the perimeter of the grocery store for whole foods: produce, protein and dairy items. Avoid the middle isles which are full of unhealthy processed foods. Remember… out-of- sight, out-of-mind.
9. Track What You Eat and Drink: Before you know what you need to change, you need to know where you are. Tracking your intake is a great way to see where you can make changes to eat better. Tracking everything you put in your mouth will help you see how many calories, protein, carbs, fat, salt, sugar, etc. you are eating or drinking. Recently, I have started suggesting patients track what they are going to eat before they actually eat it and they may change their mind and go for healthier choices rather than what they originally thought about eating or drinking.
10. Be Patient: Realize it takes about 21 days to create a new habit. You are trying to change a lifetime of unhealthy eating habits and that takes time.
Put your plan into action. With the above suggestions, you will be on your way towards a healthier year of eating and new habits that can stick for years to come.