Are you aware of your triggers and how they impact when and what you eat? Do any of the following sound familiar, or applicable to you:
• Stress eating
• Emotional eating
• Feeling out of control around certain foods
• Binge episodes
• Over indulgences on nights and weekends
Even the most disciplined among us will at times battle with one or more of these habits. And if I’m being completely honest, when it comes to diet and habit modification you will fail from time to time. This does not mean you cannot reach your goals. Rather than feeling bad or placing blame it is better to plan for these miscues. Having an actionable plan in place will provide direction and keep you from being stuck in the self-defeating cycle of dwelling on mistakes.
So how do you break the cycle, the frequency, and how you respond when it does happen?
1. Make sure you’re eating enough
This was intentionally listed first, as it is very often the best place to begin when addressing disordered eating and poor dietary habits. Living in a perpetual calorie deficit will lead to more binges, over indulgences, stress eating, and emotional eating.
Because you are depriving your body of much needed energy. In addition to the impact on your mood (neurotransmitters) and the fact that your willpower is consistently drained.
The first step is always to give your body what it needs.
2. Interrupt the pattern
Mindless eating is a thoroughly researched and documented pattern among humans. Consider how easily one could consume a large bucket of popcorn and 64 0z. soda while attending the movies without even realizing they have done so (until its gone). In a similar manner, most of these actions come from a place of mindless behavior or an immediate reaction to an emotion or situation.
There’s not much (if any) conscious thought involved. Especially if this behavior pattern has been repeated for years (or decades). Once the trigger happens, the behavior happens automatically.
An interrupt is needed to counteract these patterns.
What kind of interrupt?
Taking a moment before following through with the behavior. Yes, a simple pause can be extremely powerful and all that is required in bringing you to conscious choice. This can make a big difference in addressing what seems to be automatic behavior, for the opening example of the theater we will want to consider our next topic.
3. Change your environment
This pattern disruptor can be executed in a couple different ways.
First, you can change your environment in the moment. Like, when you’re about to engage in the behavior, you replace it with a different action. An example would be drinking a glass of water instead of reaching for the potato chip bag in the pantry.
Second, you can organize (proactively) your environment to avoid the mindless behavior.
For example, if your go-to behavior is to grab cookies when you’re stressed, you can simply move the cookies to a different place that’s more difficult to get to so you have to put in more effort and thought to execute the behavior. Or you could keep trigger foods and treats (cookies) out of the house altogether.
4. Stress management
Stress is a necessary component of adaptation, therefore you cannot eliminate it altogether but should rather seek to better manage it. As with eating enough, you need to make sure you are adequately recovered from day to day in order to optimize handling stress.
Embrace rest days, go for walks, meditate / pray, journal, get a massage, do things you enjoy, prioritize sleep.
If you consistently do these things it will go a long way towards you being fully recharged each day and come through in your mood and ability to handle the hurdles of life.
5. Give yourself some grace
Most of the time, it is not so much the behavior but rather how we perceive the behavior that is the problem. Instead of beating yourself up for being human, for being imperfect, view it as a learning opportunity. Accept that these behaviors will always exist and that you must understand how to live with, learn from, and improve from them.
Keep in mind that the road to success is paved with failure.