Different strokes for different folks.It’s a mantra that still rings true in the world of eating healthy. Once you reach a milestone, say a certain number of months or a weight goal, you may feel the urge to nix your restrictive diet and go back to your old lifestyle. But this may be because you haven't launched a two-front offensive.
In addition to learning and creating healthy eating habits, you have to challenge yourself to change your worst eating habits. Without completely sacrificing what you like, you can win the healthy eating war. Here are strategies for four categories of the most common undesirable eating habits that may trip you up.
The Nighttime Grazer
As a nighttime grazer, you're used to eating while watching TV or staying up late, way past your dinner time. You know you have a tendency to graze and despite your best efforts, you’re going to eat something after you’ve eaten dinner.
It’s time to come up with a grazing plan - limit your portions and/or type of food that you consume. Portion out your snack into a "grazing bowl" (small bowls only please). Once you’ve eaten what’s in it, no more.
In addition, you can limit what you eat after dinner time to something like carrots and hummus or a similar healthy snack. Think about what you like to eat, and determine a healthy alternative and make that your go-to food. Without a contingency plan, you’ll feel defeated and deprived when you do slip up, and it will be hard to make peace with grazing, which could make it doubly hard to let it go for good.
After a while, switch up your grazing strategy. You could play with the amount of time you allow yourself to eat, a certain amount of bites, or a certain location, perhaps right in front of your goal picture or an inspiring quote. The personal aspect of it will help you think about how important your goal is vs. your not-so-important grazing.
The Drive-Thru Life
Driving, going to certain events, even restaurants around your place of work are hard to completely ignore, no matter how well you stick to your healthy eating plan. On days when you work late, a meeting goes long, or you’re offered food, you may not always resist that temptation.
So, what to do? Come up with a rule that will help you limit these unplanned occasions when splurging is not your intention. Pick one thing on the menu that’s healthier, calorie-controlled, or otherwise not as bad as what you’d usually get. Maybe you avoid the drive-thru all together and tell yourself that you have to park and eat inside. If you’ve eaten a certain amount of calories so far in your day, maybe you allot a specific limit for this eating occasion.
It’s all about being flexible, and realizing that you can make better decisions even when you aren’t making the healthiest eating choice. By practicing these real-life situations, you can learn to forgive yourself for slip-ups and trust your decisions when you're not completely in control.
Jesse Schenker, a chef and self-proclaimed finisher, recently told the New York Times he still eats late at night after work, but has flipped the switch on what to eat with the help of a psychologist, “I’m still a finisher and I’m still eating at 1 in the morning.”
The trick he’s learned is replacing junk foods with low-calorie, nutritious options. He replaced his basket of bread, box of doughnuts and bag of Pepperidge Farms Goldfish with dishes of his own that incorporate high protein, low sugar, and healthy fats. His stable of go-to foods include shrimp, salmon, egg whites, and Greek yogurt, and high-fiber, low-carb crackers. His 55-lb. weight loss was less about restricting him from finishing foods, and more about making sure what he was finishing would be filling, tasty, and nourishing.
The Boredom Eater
If food is good company when you're bored, come up with a list of foods you designate for times when you’re hungry but shouldn’t be eating. This is an all-encompassing list of low-calorie foods not meant for cheat days or indulgence, but rather to quell your appetite without too many calories.
Here are 5 filling food pairings that you can eat without too many calories or guilt.
- 1 cup of Pineapple and 1 oz. of Part-Skim Mozzarella – 160 calories, 4.7g fat, 7.7g protein, 21.1g carbohydrates, 2.2g fiber
- Red Bell Pepper Strips (one medium bell pepper) and 4 tbsp of Plain Hummus - 145 calories, 5.6g fat, 4g protein, 19.2 g carbohydrates, 4.9g fiber
- 1 cup Grape Tomatoes and 4 oz. Low-Fat Cottage Cheese - 132 calories, 2.2g fat, 17.5g protein, 10.1g carbohydrates, 2g fiber
- 1 small Banana and 10 Almonds - 160 calories, 6.3g fat, 4.1g protein, 24.1g carbohydrates, 3.6g fiber
- 1 cup Sliced Radishes with 2 oz. Low-Fat Cream Cheese - 140 calories, 12.1g fat, 6.8g protein, 5.9g carbohydrates, 1.9g fiber