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How to break bad eating habits: overcoming unhealthy patterns

August 11, 2023
5 minutes
Healthy Eating
Healthy habits

If you’re looking for better health, one of the first places to look is in your eating habits. Yet learning how to break bad eating habits isn’t always easy. These deeply ingrained patterns can be difficult to break.

You can make changes if you put your mind to it, and tools like Evidation can make it easier. Here’s a closer look at common eating patterns people have and what you can do to find success in changing them. With these strategies, you can learn how to change eating habits permanently.

Evaluate your existing eating patterns

Before changing your eating habits, you should know your current eating patterns. Take a few days to evaluate when and what you eat. Pay attention to:

  • What makes you want to eat?
  • Do you feel hungry, or are you eating for another reason?
  • How quickly do you eat?
  • Do you enjoy your food when you eat?
  • What times of day do you feel like eating most often?

A great way to evaluate these eating habits is with a food diary. Keep one for a few days, then use it to evaluate. Consider not just journaling what you eat, but also what’s going on around you when you choose to eat.

Examples of eating habits that harm

As you evaluate your eating habits, you’re going to notice patterns. Some of these may be healthy, and some may be harmful. You’ll want to identify the harmful eating habits so you can make appropriate changes.

Here are some examples of harmful eating habits according to the CDC:

Eating too fast

It takes time for your stomach to signal to your brain that you’re full when you’ve eaten enough. If you eat too fast, you might overeat. The common rule of thumb is it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the signal that you’re full.

Eating because it’s “time to eat”

Many people eat because it’s time to eat, not because they're hungry. This could cause you to eat food you don’t actually need. While it’s good to plan a tentative eating schedule, if you’re not actually hungry, consider waiting until later.

Cleaning your plate

You don't have to eat everything that’s on your plate. Remember, food’s wasted whether it turns into fat in your body or goes in the garbage in your kitchen.

Skipping meals

Skipping meals can actually cause you to overeat when it’s time to eat. If you reach a mealtime and don’t have time to sit down for a full meal, consider a healthy snack instead, especially if you’re hungry.

Snacking at night

Do you find yourself going to the fridge to see what’s there every single night? Take inventory of what’s going on when you do. Are you hungry or just bored? Are you stressed or truly in need of nourishment? Not only is this usually food you don’t need, but many studies have shown that nighttime snacking leads to weight gain.  

Eating dessert with every meal

There’s nothing wrong with dessert in moderation, but if you’re in the habit of rewarding yourself with dessert every time you eat, or every single day, you might notice some health concerns. Too much desert increases your risk of weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease. Enjoy it occasionally, but consider training yourself so you don’t have to have it every day.

Look over your list of patterns, and highlight any of these unhealthy eating habits that you regularly employ. This will give you a good starting point to change.

Relearn Healthy Eating Habits

Now that you’ve got an idea of what you’re doing that may not be helping your health goals, you’re ready to start making some changes. Changing bad eating habits isn’t a fast process, but it’s one worth taking on. Here are some tips to help you relearn healthy eating habits.

1. Start the day right

A healthy, nutrient-rich breakfast can set the stage for healthy eating throughout the day. It may also reduce your cravings for less healthy foods. Aim for protein and produce with some whole grains. Check out these easy and healthy breakfast ideas to get you started.

2. Eat when you’re hungry

Start learning to eat when you feel real hunger. Eat slowly, and stop when you feel full.

3. Take smaller portions

Some of us are used to heaping our plates with food. This, combined with the desire to clear our plates, makes us prone to over-eating. Reduce this temptation by reducing your portion size by about 20%. If you feel full, then you’ve found the right amount to eat.

4. Eat mindfully

Learn to eat with your mind as well as your mouth. Think about the foods you’re putting in your body. Look at ingredient lists for healthy, whole-food ingredients. The more mindful you become about what you’re eating, the healthier your choices will likely become.

5. Make healthy swaps

Do you like to have a snack after school or work? Consider swapping out the crackers or chips with a piece of fruit or a veggie plate. These small swaps will add up to big changes over time, and you’re less likely to feel deprived when you’re eating at times you normally eat.

6. Up your water intake

Drinking enough water may actually reduce food cravings and help you feel full faster. Swap other drinks for water, and ensure you’re getting enough water for your body size every day to improve your overall eating choices and health.

7. Eat (the right) carbs

Carbs get a bad reputation among health enthusiasts, but they aren’t necessarily all bad. Complex carbs, such as whole grains, beans, and vegetables, may actually help with your healthy eating goals. Simple carbs, which are sugary and refined foods, are less healthy. The key is to balance your intake of protein, carbs, and fat and choose complex over simple carbs.

8. Plan for health

One of the easiest ways to go back to your unhealthy eating habits is to fail to plan. Make a meal plan, and cook ahead if it will help you eat healthy meals. Be specific when you plan so you will know what you’re trying to achieve.

Use technology to help with changing your eating habits

Another way to improve your eating habits is with the help of technology. You can use apps to track your food and water intake. Then, use a fitness tracker to see how many calories you burn through movement.

This combination will help you take more control over your eating habits. Evidation connects with several apps and tracking devices to put all of your health information in one place. By using tools like these, you can have a clear picture of what you're doing, what’s working, and where you could improve.

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