How to Develop and Maintain Healthy Eating Habits

Fresh food and healthy eating should be a way of life. Here at YCB we enjoy browsing the farmers market, using only fresh-picked ingredients and preparing meals with the freshest and simplest of foods: sweet potatoes, broccoli, spinach, chicken, avocado and fruits like mango and papaya.

Do you have the same attitude towards food or are you prone to overindulging ‒ snacking, comfort eating, or grazing when you’re not even hungry?

When you ask someone why they overeat, or snack, they hardly ever say it’s because they’re hungry. Louisa Downs, physiologist at AXA PPP healthcare, explains: “Many people overeat because they’re bored, lonely or upset. There’s often a tendency to eat to make ourselves feel better if we’re stressed or sad and use the food to satisfy our emotional needs, rather than actual hunger. And some snacking is done unconsciously or simply out of habit, for example, while standing at the fridge, watching television, or at our work desks.”

Sounds familiar?

Here are a few physician-approved strategies to regain control of your unhealthy eating habits:

Keep a food diary

Keeping a log of what you eat every day – meals, snacks and everything else! It will help you acknowledge what you’re eating – but be honest with yourself and don’t leave anything out. Writing down everything you eat is a good reality check. Often people genuinely don’t realise they are eating too much.

Find a positive mantra

Try telling yourself: ‘I want to be healthy’ or ‘I don’t need that right now, I’m not even hungry’ when you’re wavering by the biscuit tin. Louisa says: “To make it easier to stay away from unhealthy snacks it can be useful to have snacks at the ready already portioned out correctly. For example, a small Tupperware box of Greek yoghurt with mixed berries, or having fresh cut carrot sticks and a tablespoon of hummus. With snacks at the ready, you won’t feel like you are missing out.”

Set aside time to deal with stress

Sometimes it helps to externalise your worries and sources of stress by writing them down and allowing yourself 15 minutes a day to deal with them – this can help you stop reaching for food. We’re more likely to comfort eat when we are stressed. Some people find a ‘worry diary’ can help to mind dump their thoughts. Jotting down all your worries you, no matter how big or small they seem can help you take control and declutter a busy mind.

Drink enough water

Your body relies on water to live and work. Water helps metabolise nutrients and provides energy for your body to maintain a healthy and accurate weight. Every cell in your body needs water. Water helps your body eliminate toxins. A study shows that when you drink plenty of water, it will help you lose weight better

Use distraction techniques

If you’re snacking out of habit do something to distract your brain from food. Try a quick walk round the block, a glass of water, phoning a friend or listening to music. If you’re worried that you’re constantly thinking about food and when you’ll next eat, it’s difficult to suddenly try and stop thinking about it. Rather than dwelling on the thoughts as a bad thing, perhaps turn it into something positive. Food is important – so use your thoughts to plan a healthy meal and enjoy your food rather than feeling guilty or going without.

Savour the taste and flavour 

You can focus on the taste of food, rather than the quantity to help reduce portion size. If you’re still hungry or want to add more to your plate, add extra veg. Eating mindfully can be a great way to help you enjoy your food more and take note of the flavours. We often eat in front of the television or at our desks and don’t take note of what and how much we are eating. Take your time, use your senses and enjoy your food!

Having a deep sleep

Sleep is the element in life that is easily forgotten. Often, people underestimate that. Sleep is especially useful when you are learning something new, like a new language for example, including a new physical activity. It helps you maintain your health, strengthen skills when you are acquainted with a new sport. “Something happens while you sleep that makes you learn it better.” Said by Dr. Rapoport, the associate professor at NYU Langone Medical Center.

Work out regularly

As well as sleep and water, you need to maintain the body fit with a toned physique to keep the metabolism in the body at the highest level. Training your body is also changing your environment. You will have the opportunity to step outside your house and get to know new people. They are people who also want to have a healthy body like you. These relationships will play a crucial role in encouraging and supporting you to achieve a healthy body.

Enjoy a surge of positive emotions when you resist temptation or start seeing results 

Make short term goals so you can congratulate yourself and celebrate your successes on a regular basis – building up your self-esteem as you achieve each one. Louisa says: “Have a day of the week where you enjoy a slice of cake or order your favourite takeaway. This can help you to turn away unhealthy treats on a daily basis. We tend to enjoy a treat more when we have it less!”

Ask yourself how you’ll feel after you’ve eaten an unhealthy food or huge portion

Often it’s just stopping to think before you eat which can put the brakes on making a bad choice. When you realise that you’ll only enjoy a few minutes of pleasure, then spend all day regretting it because you feel you’ve failed or you feel bloated or uncomfortable, it might stop you diving into the fridge. Write your goals up on some paper and pin it to the fridge. This can be a great way to remind yourself of what you’re working towards!

Don’t ban any food

If you do, it seems to become more appealing, you obsess about it and it’s not sustainable in the long term. Louisa says: “If you want chocolate don’t deny yourself totally, but limit yourself to a few squares. Remember, it’s all about balance.”

Be patient

If you’re aiming to lose some weight, the slower the weight comes off the longer it will stay off, so try not to get too fixated about achieving dramatic weight loss in a short space of time – be consistent and persistent, looking to the longer term. Louisa says: “It can be useful to make sure you review your goals, set a long term goal but also set short term goals to keep yourself motivated and on track”.

Think small changes 

It’s all the small changes that add up. Try eating smaller portions, using a smaller plate or look for calorie saving swaps. Some easy swaps to try could be; swap chocolate to fruit, have wholegrain instead of white bread or even some evenings swap pasta/rice for extra fresh vegetables. These changes really mount up and can help towards boosting your energy levels and weight loss goals.

Wassana Lampech

Wassana Lampech is a medical technology graduate and a freelance writer. She has been writing since her college days, and has been a freelance writer for the past 4 years. You can follow her on Twitter here: @wassmam