Grabbing a bagel on your way to work might be as routine as brushing your teeth. Changing eating habits you’ve developed over the years — even unconsciously — can feel as tough as trying to move a mountain. Yes, learned behaviors are hard to undo, but if you take it step-by-step, it's certainly possible. Try these behavior-changing approaches, and focus on the ones that speak to you.
Heading off problems before they develop is the crux of this approach. “A” stands for antecedent, “B” stands for behavior and “C” stands for consequence. Most behaviors have an antecedent — or cause. And causes lead to consequences. By addressing antecedents first, you can prevent unwanted consequences. For example, you might decide not to buy ice cream, because keeping it in the freezer leads to the behavior of eating most or all of it in one sitting, which has the consequence of disrupting your weight program.
This is a way to change unhealthy eating habits by focusing your attention on something else when food cravings start. To use this approach, when you feel a craving coming on, remind yourself that it will last for 20 minutes at most. Then do something — call a friend, read a book, revisit your goals, take a walk — anything that will distract you until the feeling passes.
This approach to behavior change requires that you confront yourself mentally about the negative impact of your behavior. For example: If you're craving cookies, think about the unnecessary calories and fat you'll be consuming — and how tired and sluggish you'll feel afterward. Remind yourself that this isn't what you want to do with your life.
Try changing your behavior gradually, one step at a time. Instead of eliminating evening snacks altogether, start with a rule of no snack one night a week. Increase that to two nights a week. Eventually you might be able to scale back to a snack one evening a week. As you succeed with step-by-step changes, you'll build confidence that will start fueling even more successes.
Big lifestyle changes take time, but keep at it. The mini successes you'll achieve along the way will be enough to keep you going, and the new habits that were challenging at first will start feeling more natural before you know it.