Young child: "But Mom, I don't want to eat my vegetables!"
Mom: "No vegetables means no dessert after dinner then."
**Child proceeds to eat vegetables...
Fast forward 20 years...
Young child (now adult) always eats dessert after dinner...
There are so many habits we are taught as a child that we take into our adult years; it was all we knew. We now are oblivious to the fact that dessert really should not be consumed daily after dinner as a reward for eating something healthy. We did not know that eating an entire watermelon may be too much sugar. But it is fruit, which is healthy, right? The baked chips that mom got for afternoon snacks are ok because they are baked and therefore not considered potato chips. The list goes on and on. So, how do we break our childhood habits and retrain our brains to truly develop healthy eating habits after so long?
Tips for breaking bad eating hab
Identify what your bad habits are. Write them down and do not try justifying them. You need to see what you are consistently engaging in. You may not be a nutrition professional, but come on... We all know a Ho-Ho isn't great to eat daily...
Find a healthier alternative. Example: if you are use to eating a dessert after dinner, try swapping with 1 piece or 1 cup of fruit. Try dipping an apple in 1 TBS of peanut butter. If your snack addiction is chips, stop grabbing out of the bag and portion out 10-12 crackers and dip them in salsa or 2 TBS hummus.
Stop telling yourself that you deserve unhealthy food because you ate healthy. You are not a dog who gets a treat for doing something good. Embrace how good your body feels with eating healthy.
Parents: Stop making a million different meals to fit your child's hot dog and mac & cheese phase. If they are hungry, they will eventually eat the healthy food you cook them and begin to like different things as their palettes become more broad.
While I mentioned fad diets and going cold turkey not being your solution, I am going to say remove the unhealthy from the house. It doesn't mean you cannot have it every so often, but poor choices being around daily are tempting.
Elders: Meat and potatoes are not bad! Heck, you are/were doing better with those choices than most millennials. Just modify. Pick leaner cuts of meat and use real butter on your potatoes instead of margarine.
If your bad habits are fueled by previous diet culture (i.e. low fat, low carb, low calorie, meal replacement shakes, etc.) focus on whole foods! See a nutritionist to teach you the REAL food ways or start buying foods that do not come with a label. Get the potatoes, eat the fruit, order the steak. The less of a nutritional label and "health claims" the food has, the better!
Stick to portion sizes. Fruit is not bad. Yes, it has sugar. No, you should not eat an entire box of strawberries or mindlessly eat watermelon until its gone. Stick to 2-3 servings fruit a day for starters.
Habits are hard to break. Do not expect it to be easy and do not expect it to happen overnight. You have decades worth of a consistent action you are trying to replace. How can you rationally expect it to just go away? You cannot! Give yourself grace and begin implementing the tips above day by day. Do not overwhelm yourself and make it sustainable. Not only could you be changing your life for the better, you can be passing on new healthy habits to the next generation as well.