So much of our daily life is the result of habits, and we don’t even realize it until we step aside and observe our actions. Eating, too, becomes habitual. Just take a moment and think about how, when, what and where you ate this past week. Then, read on.
Past experiences inform our relationship to food which enable many of our food choices to become thoughtless habits, and rightly so, freeing our minds for other things. However, not all habits are good ones.
Most people seldom think twice about their food until a medical diagnosis makes them realize there’s a need to shake up something that never really got much attention. It’s only then that it becomes evident that food is our medicine, but can also be our poison.
We’re a society riddled with obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases that have become painfully commonplace during the past 40 years. Yet with all this illness, most people simply don’t have the time to focus on what they’re actually eating and often don’t understand the real need to do so.
If the pandemic made us realize that we have to eat better, then what will make us implement that? I meet with people who are suffering daily with symptoms of inflammation and digestive distress. They know they need to make some dietary changes, yet commitment is difficult and breaking habits even more so.
Unfortunately, living with discomfort is the norm and it’s not well understood that our bodies are meant to function without daily discomfort. Symptoms are signals, no matter how minor, that a change is needed. They’re like maintenance symbols lighting up on your car dashboard to tell you something needs to be checked and fixed. Sadly, sometimes we take better care of our cars than we do of ourselves.
As you get older, you need to start integrating small changes to break long habits before you’re forced to. This is especially important if you’re feeling weak and fatigued, suffer from inflammation or chronic pain or have difficulty with digestion.
Maybe you’re struggling to lose those extra pounds and diets aren’t working. Perhaps you’re eating when you’re not even hungry or eating more than you really need to and then feeling awful after. And, surely, if your daily eating consists of mostly food “products,” that is, highly processed packaged foods, now is the perfect time to start new habits with whole food.
The US CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) devised a three ‘R’ approach to improving poor eating habits by recommending to reflect, replace, and reinforce.
Reflection to acknowledge the eating habits you have. Replacement to rid your unhealthy habits with new healthier ones, and reinforcement to make sure the new habits last. It’s a helpful framework that lays out a realistic plan for success. It just needs implementation.
You can start by getting back to the how, when, what, and where you ate. What did you discover? When you answer these questions and then contemplate why you ate this way, you can begin to devise ways to change some habits around food. We often just need to take time to notice.
Sometimes ease, cost and time are factors that influence our habits, and these are all very valid causes, but there are often alternative options that are equally easy, cost effective and time saving. Sometimes we just need to give our creative selves the time to find them.
Plan ahead. Weekly meal planning and shopping can sometimes eliminate the need to grab that quick “go to” when time is short.
Keep some cleaned, chopped vegetables and fruit, hard boiled eggs, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds on your counter or in your fridge, this makes better alternatives easier to access.
You can make great meals with a few simple ingredients and herbs (rich in flavor and nutrients) and get mouthwatering results without complicated hours of cooking. Stay in budget without the need for packaged meals or fast food take out. Simple can be delicious.
No matter how you choose to shift your outlook on food, give yourself some slack. Changing habits is hard and you need to be patient with yourself. Small steps are always better than large ones, and they tend to actually last, which makes all the difference.
Are your eating habits leading to healthy aging results, or do they lead you to chronic inflammation? Have you tried changing your habits? What strategy have you used and did it work?
Tags Healthy Eating