New Year’s resolutions usually include an effort to eat healthier and/or a desire to lose weight. Often the New Year’s resolutions are vague or not realistic. Vague goals don’t give us much guidance on how to achieve them and unrealistic goals leave us feeling discouraged.
My suggestion if you want to improve your eating habits is to know yourself. You need to know when, why and what you eat. Think about your diet. What are you doing well and where can you make some improvements? All of us have weak or problem areas. What is important is to know yourself and identify problems that prevent you from eating healthy and/or losing weight. Changing eating habits is difficult but focusing on a single habit will direct your energy.
Many of us have 1 or 2 specific foods that we have trouble controlling portion sizes. The food will vary from person to person. It is not a food group like starch but more specific such as bread or potatoes or white rice. Do you have a certain food that once you start eating you are likely to overeat? You do not need to avoid the food but rather eat it in a way you can control the portion size. If your problem food is ice cream, then occasionally buying a scoop at an ice cream shop is preferable to buying a ½ gallon and eating it in just 2-3 days. White rice can be a problem food for many; switching to brown rice may help or try a different type of starch such as beans. The key is to know where you are vulnerable. Don’t keep foods at home that you are likely to overeat and later beat yourself up because you over ate. Instead, know your options, which may include substituting another food or buying the food in a single portion.
Eating Throughout the Day
Are you a meal skipper or do you eat most of your calories at the end of the day? If yes, then focus on not skipping meals and spreading out your calories. Eat breakfast about an hour after getting up and then eat again every 4 to 5 hours. Don’t get so busy that you eat very little during the day and then overeat in the evening. If you need a reminder, set your cell phone alarm to ring at the mealtime you are likely to skip. Eating the majority of your calories at one meal, especially a few hours before going to bed, is an unhealthy habit. Your body will store the unused calories as fat. It is better to spread out your calories and eat at least 3 times a day.
Snacks help prevent us from getting overly hungry and a healthy snack provides nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Keep healthy snacks on hand instead of eating from a vending machine or drive thru. Remember sweets may give you a sugar rush but later may leave you feeling fatigue or with a headache. Keep any of these healthy and easy snacks nearby:
- Yogurt, Greek or light style
- Fresh fruit
- Low fat cheese sticks or mini rounds
- Nuts or dried fruit and nut mix
- Popcorn 94% fat-free mini bags
This year when you make your New Year’s resolution let it be a targeted one. Changing eating habits is intricate and you need time to build new habits. Give yourself 90 days to allow your new habits to feel routine. During those 90 days look at the big picture and examine your progress. Expect setbacks but don’t let them discourage you; instead move forward as you take steps to a healthier life.