How to Break Away From Unhealthy Eating Habits
Do you find yourself dining out or ordering take-out more than 3 times a week? Sometimes even twice a day? Perhaps, you ran out of time or energy to fix a meal for dinner or you’re running late to a meeting and Dunkin’ Donuts was a convenient way to satiate your hunger. We’ve all been guilty of this in one way or another.
Now, you may be wondering, how is this problematic?
Now, if you are one of those individuals who only purchase take-out or dine-in once in a while or rarely, then you are safe. However, if you fall on the other end of the spectrum, that is, you go out to eat more than three times a week or almost every single day of the week, then this type of lifestyle can quickly become a habit or worse–an addiction.
Now, you may be skeptical: How can one become addicted to food or “going out to eat”?
The same way one becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol. The more you do it, the more you want it, and the more you crave it to the point where it begins to consume you, your thoughts, and your life. Unfortunately, these types of habit-forming addictions start to occupy our mind more times than we would like to admit. Believe me, there is research that proves eating out is addicting. I would include them in here for credentials, but I am not here to bore you with overwhelming statistics. Instead, I would like to share what I learned in the past from personal experience, research, and through trial/error.
Sometimes, it is the atmosphere of a particular restaurant that draws you in every time that maybe the comfort of your own home falls short of providing you with. Sometimes, it is the laziness, lack of time, energy, and creativity to create tasty, delicious, and nutritious meals after an exhausting day at work or school. Often times, it is the idea of conveniency and a quick, cheap meal that wins us over and you have no idea how to cook besides making ramen noodles or mac-n-cheese. I’ve been there, done that. As a matter of fact, I still succumb to this excuse myself from time to time, but is it really cheaper or is that just an illusion and excuse we like to use when we’re constantly rushing? Take a look at this shocking photo below:
Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “A few cents is not much of a difference.” While that may be true, the difference lies in what you are putting into your body not how much. Quality over quantity. Are you feeding it the right nutrients it needs to survive or fried, greasy, toxic chemicals that are detrimental to your health in the long run? The food may give off false signals to your brain that release endorphins such as spicy foods that make you feel good or happy, but in reality it is harmful to your body. Remember, your body has to work twice as hard to get rid of these processed foods because despite how it makes you feel temporarily, notice how you feel abnormally bloated, tired, or sick after…these are the toxins trying to find a way out.
The ways in which your eating habits may become an addiction, is if you let them get out of control. Do you spend more than half of your paychecks on food, not including groceries? Do you start to feel sick and consumed by certain foods from fast food places when you give yourself a few days break or week off from them, that you have to buy it because the cravings are overpowering and unbearable? Do you fall short of paying your bills because the vast majority is spent all on fast food? If you’ve answered yes to the majority of these questions, you are almost there.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with enjoying an aged-to-perfection steak with a glass of wine at your favorite restaurant with your significant other over the weekend or celebrating a special occasion with family over dinner or even a recent promotion with your co-workers during the week, etc. This is normal and much needed at times.
I am talking about this kind of behavior or purchases becoming a daily habit, where going out to eat even three times a day is considered the norm for you. I’d like to share some relatively simple ways I helped myself fall out of this trap with recent fluctuations in my excessive weight gain (10+ lbs.) over the past few years.
If you think you are getting addicted or have a hard time eating more at home, are struggling with losing weight, unsuccessful with diets, lack time/motivation for the gym try to follow or at least consider these steps to a better you:
- As with any addiction identifying there is a problem is the foremost and critical key to administering a solution.
- Identify where those problem areas are: Is it the environment(s) that are most appealing? The type of food you are purchasing? (ex. McDonald’s/Wendy’s vs. Panera Bread/Chipotle) or The amount of money you are spending on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis?
- Start with small baby steps or you will quickly learn that you’re only setting yourself up for failure. Make a small list or detail a manageable action plan of how you can reduce any unnecessary spending or unhealthy meals to a minimum.
- This is the hardest part. Try to follow through with your devised plan. My personal example: Week 1- Allow yourself to go out to eat only 3 times. Week 2- Allow yourself to buy take-out or go out to eat twice. Week 3-Allow yourself to go out to eat once this week. Week 4- Try not to go out to eat at all this week.
- Evaluate the success or failure of how your plan went. Did you follow through with your plan? Why or why not? What can you do the second time around to ensure it goes more smoothly?
- Try to create healthier versions or alternatives of the foods you currently like to eat. For example, if you have a sweet-tooth grab a fruity protein bar or piece of fruit instead of a cookie. If you are like me and love salty/spicy things such as chips, try multi-grain tortilla chips or red quinoa chips with guacamole instead of hot chips that are loaded with sodium.
- For those of you who are inexperienced or amateur cooks (I don’t expect college students to be) it is never too late to learn! Besides, what better time to experiment than while you are still living at home or away at school before going completely on your own? There are plenty of apps sitting at our disposal that help every individual brush up on their cooking skills whether you are just a beginner, intermediate, or expert such as Tasty, SideChef, Yummly, or even Pinterest.
- If you are active on social media, follow health catalogs, food networks, and create Pinterest boards that are loaded with innovative ideas so you never get bored with the same, old foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- If none of these ideas seem fascinating or manageable for you, then you can choose an even easier, but more expensive alternative; place a mail-order from a healthy, food catalog that delivers meal preps straight to your home! I’ve heard great things about HelloFresh, Blue Apron, or Green Chef.
- This one may be the least appealing solution (as it was for me in the beginning), start meal-prepping yourself! Take 1-3 hours of the least busiest day of the week for you either Sunday or Monday to purchase all your groceries and allot at least 1 1/2 to 2 hours to cook it (depending on what it is) to eat for the entire week for lunch or dinner. Try to use different seasonings/sauces for each day or 2 out of the 4 or 5 days, so you don’t get sick of the flavor quickly or prep different meals for the first half of the week versus the second half.
These are only some of my proposed solutions to a healthier, transformed you that worked for me. I’m sure you have all heard it before that 70% of our weight-loss results all come from diet. “Abs are made in the kitchen.” Hence the reason why you should spend most of your time there! (Not eating everything, of course!) Another positive aspect of cooking your own meals is that you know exactly what kind of ingredients, in what amounts, and how it is prepared. I must admit switching to this type of lifestyle was not easy. As a matter of fact it was incredibly difficult especially in the very beginning to find the motivation, time, and most importantly–dedication and consistency to clean up my diet, but it is NOT impossible.
Give it at least a month, before you give up on “eating better” altogether. I’m not telling you to cut out every single thing you absolutely enjoy eating because that is nearly impossible. I’m advising you to try something different for once. After all, you cannot expect to achieve different results if you keep doing or in this case, eating the same things. Trust me, once you start eating better you start to feel much better. Although it may not appear so from the outside, inside your body is working twice as hard to remove all those toxins and processed foods you got it accustomed to. Unfortunately, these changes will not happen overnight, but this is not a quick fix or shortcut to your weight-loss journey or another fad diet. This is supposed to be a lifestyle change. If you cannot live without a certain food group in your life, then you should not cut it out from your recent “diet” either such as carbs. I mean, who doesn’t love pizza or flatbread (as a healthier alternative)?!
You may notice even after a week or two that you are not as sluggish anymore, you feel more energetic, you’re experiencing less heart-burns/acid reflux/indigestion issues, lower cholesterol and blood-sugar levels–the list is endless!
Health truly is wealth, choose wisely.