Eating and Weight Management: How to Avoid Self-Sabotage

Gateway Garden Center

By Jeannie Versagli, R.D., LDN

As we have learned, fad diets do not guarantee permanent weight loss. Why? Because an individual who adheres to a fad diet has not identified or changed the specific behaviors that influence their weight gain. Behavior modification is an individual approach to understanding how the environment affects a person’s food choices throughout the day. Understanding how you react to your surroundings with food will allow you to change your behavior and improve your ability to maintain a stable, healthy weight.

Woman making a mess while eating popcorn and watching TV.

Mindless Eating

Mindless eating can occur when the brain is distracted and the person is not aware of the food he or she is consuming. Here are five factors that contribute to mindless eating:

  1. Disinhibition: Disinhibition means eating out of boredom when eating food gives you something to do.
  2. Distracted eating: This happens when the mind becomes preoccupied with television or other distractions while eating, making one unaware of what they are consuming.
  3. Lack of awareness: Not realizing the quantity of food eaten. This often results when eating from a large bag of chips or cookies.
  4. Emotional eating: Eating to calm down when stressed or lonely.
  5. External reasons: Outside sources, such as food advertisements, can trigger the mind to eat.
Woman whisking eggs and other ingredients in the kitchen with her daughter

Implementing Behavior Change

When working through behavioral changes, know that changing behavior takes time and patience. Everyone’s time frame for adapting to behavior changes will differ. On average, it takes 66 days to change a behavior (https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-does-it-take-to-form-a-habit). Be realistic in your approach to changing behaviors. Here are some guidelines and goals for you to consider when looking to make lifestyle changes to manage a healthy weight.

  • Write down weekly goals and post them in your office or kitchen so you can read them each day to help you maintain your focus.
  • Journal or track your food intake throughout the day. Using a food journaling/tracking app on your phone is the best way to keep you on track with logging foods daily. Consider also tracking how you felt each time you reach for a snack. i.e., bored, stressed, tired, etc.
  • Focus on non-food activities that divert attention away from eating, such as pausing to listen to music, reading, or taking brief walks.
  • Eat at the table for meals and snacks.
  • Use luncheon-size plates for meals.
  • Weigh yourself weekly (no more and no less). Weighing in on a regular basis adds accountability.
  • Set up an exercise program. Aim to complete 150 to 300 minutes of exercise each week.
  • Keep your hands busy with a project while watching TV.
Refrigerator shelves stocked with kale, strawberries, brussels sprouts, and colorful containers of meal-prepped food

As we previously discussed, our behaviors are largely shaped by our environment. Be prepared by keeping healthy meal options readily available throughout the day.

  • If home, make sure that your meals during the day are healthy and easy to put together.
  • If you find that you tend to eat while cooking, try chew gum while preparing meals.
  • If you fall off your program, just restart the program the next day. It takes several weeks to change behaviors, so do not be hard on yourself.

Remember to reward yourself with a non-food reward at the end of the week if you were able to accomplish your weekly goals. Reset your goals weekly. Know yourself, and if you need additional support, reach out to a friend and or a Registered Dietitian to assist you in making positive changes to your eating program that will last a lifetime. Remember, “Nutrition is your path to wellness’.

For more information, here are some additional resources:

  1. https://www.nchpad.org/1693/6799/Mindful~vs~~Mindless~Eating#:~:text=What%20is%20Mindless%20Eating%3F, when%20you’re%20not%20hungry.
  2. https://obssr.od.nih.gov/mindless-eating-eat-think/
  3. https://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20160406/the-health-risks-posed-by-mindless-munching
  4. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/121610p30.shtml
  5. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/bariatrics/_documents/hunger-cravings-mindful-eating.pdf
  6. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/13-tips-to-stop-mindless-eating

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