How to beat bad eating habits
Beat stress snacking and boredom binges with a nutritional therapist's tips on intuitive eating and healthy habits in lockdown
Culture Whisper spoke to nutritional therapist and health coach Stéphanie Achar to find out more about the psychological triggers behind mindless eating and to learn practical tips for creating healthy habits during self-isolation.
Balancing body and mind
'Cravings exist in both the body and the mind, and you need to address both simultaneously if you want to overcome them,' Stéphanie explains. 'Using food as a way of dealing with emotions is common and finding ways to deal more positively with our emotions takes practice. First and foremost make sure you differentiate mouth hunger from stomach hunger; the second one is physical hunger.
1. Eating regular nutritious meals is essential to reduce cravings
Making sure you get all the nutrients your body needs to function properly is the first step if you want to reduce cravings as well as stress. Sugar cravings often come from blood sugar dysregulation. Basically, the more you eat foods containing sugar or refined carbohydrates (eg, fizzy drinks, cakes, bread, rice, pasta) the more you will crave them.
Focus on eating natural, unrefined, unprocessed food and cut out sugar as much as possible. That means loading up on meat, fish, eggs and vegetarian sources of protein like tofu, beans, lentils and chickpeas, and nuts and seeds, plus a broad range of fruit and vegetables.
2. Follow the 80/20 rule
This means eating healthily 80% of the time. The 20% of the time left, do what you want and choose 'happy' even if not 'healthy'. This rule will help you not beat yourself up for being human and allow you to enjoy comfort eating.
3. Remove unhealthy snacks from your house
If you really want to overcome mindless snacking, ensure there are no unhealthy snacks to hand. Don’t rely just on willpower. Choose instead healthy snacks filled with nutrients – a handful of raw nuts and seeds, carrot sticks and hummus, apple slices and nut butter, a slice of cheese with some lettuce, etc…
4. What triggers you?
You might not be able to change the cause of constant snacking (eg, stress, frustration, anger, boredom, sadness…) but you can manage it differently by changing your response to it. For example, if every time you get bored you grab a healthy snack, then you are already taking a step towards a healthier behaviour. Another step would be to find some alternative non-food rewards which could satisfy and comfort you so you get to your ultimate goal: comfort and pleasure. These could include having a bath, breathing deeply, journalling, doing yoga, calling your friends or family, taking a nap, visualising a pleasant experience or watching a funny movie. You are the only one who really knows which reward you need in the present.
5. Take an honest look at your life without any judgements
Acknowledge your feelings, whether it is boredom, anxiety or depression that make you want to eat, and take a decision. Do you want to comfort eat or would you rather take a step towards a healthier habit? If you decide that right now your choice is to comfort eat, then enjoy and assume your decision. It is all right.