Managing Food Cravings and Bad Eating Habits

It’s that time of year again when people make those New Year’s resolutions to keep fit and go on a diet. And, it’s usually not long before people fall back into bad habits. Why does this happen? After all, most of us know what we should and should not eat. There’s more than enough nutritional advice out there online… So, why DO most diets FAIL?

Bad eating habits are not just about the food we eat – it’s about the way we eat and the frequency. Do you know the real reason behind your problem eating?

1: When do you eat?

Do you find yourself snacking all day? Are you genuinely hungry or feeling bored? Do you comfort eat? Try keeping a food diary to record when you eat outside of mealtimes as this will give you a clearer picture of any bad eating habits. After a week, see if there are any patterns emerging; i.e. certain times of day or certain situations, etc. One of the things we encourage our clients to do is to also create a future food diary – if you could change your eating patterns, how would you like to eat?

2: How much do you eat?

Portion size is important; the more you eat, the more you will want to eat, and so on. There are plenty of guides online to help you choose healthy portion sizes for the main food groups – fat, protein and carbohydrates. However, have you asked yourself why you are eating larger portions? Are you comfort eating? If so, you may need to look at the root cause of your problem eating – there could be issues lurking behind your bad eating habits.

3: Do you drink enough water?

This is a very simple way to offset cravings. Most of us are dehydrated, especially if we are leading busy lifestyles. Keep a bottle of water on your desk at work and take regular sips. If we are dehydrated, we cannot think straight, which makes us more tired and more likely to comfort or binge eat. If you’re continually low on energy and you’re drinking plenty of water, you may be suffering from stress – such issues need tackling first before you can change your eating habits.

4: Do you eat when you’re worried about something?

If you’re had a bad day, do you reach for a chocolate bar? Comfort eating and binge eating often occur when someone is suffering from stress, worry, anxiety or depression. Studies have shown that foods rich in sugar, fat and salt can trigger the same reward and pleasure centres in the brain as addictive drugs. This means that unless you are effectively managing your problems, you are much more likely to return to the same foods to give you a pleasure boost. Once you deal with the root cause of your problems, you will be able to recognise the signs and create more positive eating patterns.

5: How do you feel about food?

“We met Mark at a mutual friend’s 40th birthday party… once we discovered what Mark did we rather rudely begged him to tell us how we could both lose weight. Mark asked us how we felt after we had overeaten and I said ‘tricked’. Mark asked me what I meant, and I said that when I begin to overeat it never feels like the wrong thing to do. Afterwards I always feel bad, so why do I do it? Because the food tricks me, I heard myself saying. We arranged a coaching session with Mark and this is when we came up with ‘The Trick’ activity. My husband and I take turns being the trickster and the one being tricked. It sounds crazy, but in the early days when we did the activity a lot, it was great fun. We learned a great deal about ourselves and how we had become easily duped into eating in harmful ways. That was the best party we ever went to.”

Support for problem eating
Our relationship with food is one of the most challenging obstacles we need to overcome when we try to eat more healthily. This is the reason why most diets fail. Changing your eating habits can feel like an enormous burden, especially if you are dealing with a difficult situation or suffering from stress. You don’t need to take these steps on your own; we have a range of options to help you on your journey including 1-2-1 therapy and coaching services, and we will shortly be running courses focused on managing mild to moderate eating problems. More information on this subject can be found on our Problem Eating page.

If you would like to have a more positive conversation about Managing Food Cravings and Bad Eating Habits, please get in touch