How to solve your 3 worst eating habits

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You don’t have to change all your eating habits. That would be overwhelming, and habit change requires simplicity and focus

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Three is the magic number. Laura Lloyd 2016

Now you know a little bit about habit change via building an exercise habit.

If you haven’t done that yet, then read this how-to page on exercising 3 times a week.

You know that changing a habit requires a huge push of single-mindedness, simply to create the consistency that’s required for a habit to stick.

So if I were to ask you how you planned to solve your three habits that are most detrimental  to weight loss, I hope your answer would be a resounding chorus of “one at a time”.

Yes, friends. If you want to succeed at habits, take them slowly and take them individually.

Focused, yes. But it needn’t be painstaking

You might be pleasantly surprised at how meltingly they change, now that you’re ready, now that you’ve lain the foundation. Now that you’ve arrived at the point of insight that illuminates that these tiny habits are buggering up your attempts to lose the weight you’re carrying, you’re already in a place where your wisdom can tell you exactly what you need to do. Clever you. Trust me on this. No, trust yourself.

With insight, you can distance yourself from your urge to do your unwanted habits

The reading from this month is from Dr Amy Johnson’s Small Book of Big Change.

If you haven’t read the recommended chapter, then now’s the time.

As Dr Amy Johnson says: Your habit is like a stray cat. It comes back because you fed it. You only have to ride out the caterwauling a few times when you decide not to act on the impulse to feed it, and it’ll stop coming by.

You don’t need to be strong, or disciplined, or resistant.

You don’t have to get all constricted fighting your urge. You just have to realise that the urge is coming from your primitive reptilian brain. Accidentally, you taught this part of your head that you needed to do that habit for your sheer survival, and when it sends up the urge to do your habit, it makes it sound pretty frickin urgent: like you REALLY need to do your habit or you’ll explode, perish, or the urge just won’t leave you alone.

We may have reasons and cues and triggers, but ultimately, we do our habit just to quiet the big noise of that urge.

You have to understand this: That urge is just noise from your reptilian brain. It’s not you (YOU are your evolved higher brain, your neocortex, the part of you that has awareness and consciousness and the part that decides whether to take any action).

Yes, the screaming urge fades if you act on your habit. But if you don’t act on your habit, it will also shush, in time, you just have never really given yourself the chance to experience that before. Now you can. Try it.

Some tricks that really help with softly dissolving a bad habit are:

Know your triggers. Emotional state, time, something that happens directly before it, other people, location. When I was in the throes of an icecream addiction, it made sense to walk a different street to avoid passing the deluxe ice shop.

Replacement. If necessary, replace the unwanted habit with something new that’s desirable. When I wanted to stop biting my nails, I started stationing hand cream everywhere to rub in instead. If you always eat crisps before dinner, cut crudite you like.

Change the ‘supporting things’ that happen around your habit. For example, if you always have tea and biscuits at 4pm, and you want to lose the biscuits, maybe you need to lose the tea too. Have a glass of fizzy water for a change.

Breathe through urges. They will pass. And they will come back less strongly. Breathe. Put your hand on your heart, and just let it be that the urge is surging right now. Don’t act on it, don’t fight it, be with it.

Laugh at your urges. Listen to all the crap they tell you to convince you to do them. Maintain your distance psychologically. Just watch that stuff come into your head. It has no power. The only thing you need to do, is not act on your urge.

Do whatever you want. You don’t need to always run, or always distract, or always work through, or always phone a friend when you get the urge. You can wrap yourself in a blanket and stare out the window if you want. You can weep and you can meditate and you can go for a walk. Do anything that helps, that’s not acting on the urge.

Try not to form new habits too much. My friend, who is also an eating psychology coach like me, said: if you eat a cupcake at a party at 4pm one day, your body will create an expectation for cake at 4pm the next 4 days in a row. That’s your chance to mix it up.

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So how is this working? This is a big topic, so I’m curious to hear how you’re approaching it. Get involved in the comment thread below!