As we struggle with the fact that the majority of Americans are either overweight or obese, wouldn’t it be nice to hear some straightforward advice?
We hear enough about good diets to follow -- and we try to obey the rules. But how can we rid ourselves of behaviors that defeat our weight-loss purposes?
Recently I came across two articles by experts in healthy lifestyles, and their words zero in on the simple act of breaking bad eating habits. Here are a few good pieces of advice to share:
- Rather than thinking it all boils down to willpower, focus instead on changes in routine.
Why? Because our brains can’t tell the difference between a good habit and a bad habit, only that any habit leads to reward. The trick is to replace the old bad habit with a new good one, explained Kerri Anne Hawkins, a registered dietitian and clinical instructor at the Tufts School of Medicine in Boston.
Hawkins gave the illustration of a man who routinely eats too much at dinner, perhaps because of a desire to finish everything on his plate. Simple change: a smaller plate at dinner, every time.
- Identify the cues in your daily lifestyle that are contributing to a particular bad eating habit, then decide how to change the cues for a better result. Practice the good eating habit over and over, Hawkins said, and if there is a lapse, start fresh at the next meal.
In my case, I am trying to break the bad habit of eating something sweet with my morning caffeine. The new habit: sliced apple with a dollop of peanut butter, even when that chocolate chip cookie is calling my name.
- “Confront your fears.” “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.” “Announce your intentions.” “Find support.” “Break the pattern.”
These are just a few of the lively slogans that make up a graphic that accompanies a recent article by Dr. Mehmet Oz in TIME magazine. The graphic shows all the slogans encircling Oz’s well-known face, and it could well be a poster in everyone’s kitchen.
In an article called “Goal Power,” Oz, the man behind the popular “Dr. Oz Show” on television and a frequent contributor to TIME, discussed how people get stuck in bad habits, whether the concern is overeating, alcohol abuse, smoking or other matters.
Oz described a “transtheoretical model” by psychologist John Norcross that divides the road to change into stages of precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance.
Those who wrestle with being overweight or obese often find themselves stuck in the contemplation or preparation stages.
Further into the article, Oz cited studies that showed success in reaching healthier lifestyles through such things as working with a group toward a goal and having direct contact with someone who has achieved a goal.
It’s in the nature of humans to have a hard time making changes and breaking bad habits, Oz said.
“Doctors, however, like to look at things another way,” he wrote. “To us, life is never static. Everything is either growing or dying. When you delay your diet until tomorrow or wait to quit smoking until your next birthday, you are choosing, in a day-to-day way, to follow the route of the dying.”
I am a bit taken aback by the morbid nature of that quote, but maybe that’s the wake-up call that many of us need.
Hawkins, Kerri Anne. “How can I break bad eating habits?” TuftsNow. Web. 24 Sept. 2012.
Oz, Mehmet. “Goal Power.” Time.com. Web. 24 Sept. 2012.
Reviewed September 25, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith