How Long It Really Takes To Change Bad Eating Habits And How To Speed It Up
You may have heard that you can change any bad eating habits in 21 days.
So have you tried it?
Did it work?
Did you miraculously stop craving sugary snacks in the afternoon? Did you successfully give up bedtime snacking?
The chances are that your 21-day habit change did not stick. But, you can change your habits in a relatively short period of time and with a few little mental tricks you can speed up this change.
Your Habits Are On Autopilot
If you have been overweight for a long time, then you probably know that at least a portion of your problem has to do with your habits.
We, as human beings, are creatures of habit. We tend to wake up at the same time each day and we tend to eat at the same time each day. We do this on autopilot, and for good reason.
Your brain tries to create habits because this frees thinking time so you can take care of new tasks.
For example, have you ever driven home and pulled into your driveway and realized that you didn’t remember any of your trip?
This is because the brain prefers to be on autopilot.
Your bad eating habits are the same way.
At certain times of the day, you get a thought that says, “Now is the time of day that I get tired and head to the vending machine.”
This thought causes you to get up from your desk and start searching your pockets for change without conscious thought as to whether or not you are hungry.
If you decide that you are going to take the next 21 days and force yourself to not visit the vending machine, without addressing these thoughts that are on autopilot, then at the end of the 21 days you will pat yourself on the back for reaching your goal… and head to the vending machine.
To really change your bad eating habits, you may need to stick with your new habits for much longer than 21 days.
In fact, from personal experience and from experience working with others, the amount of time needed to change is typically measured in months.
You can change your bad eating habits much faster with a couple of easy mental tricks.
1. Know your hunger number. This is a simple trick, but you will need some practice to get good.
I discuss how to go about learning this simple skill in a different post (to read the hunger number post click here), but here are the basics…
a. Your task is to ask yourself throughout the day, “How hungry is my belly?”
b. Then rate your hunger on a scale of 0 to 10 with zero being not hungry at all.
c. After a couple of days, you will realize that true “belly hunger” is much different than “false hunger” where you just eat, because it sounds like a fun thing to do.
2. Use Stoppers. This is a great way to avoid overeating or mindless eating.
One of the most common bad eating habits is eating past the point of being full.
To speed up your shift away from this bad eating habit, start to use “stoppers.”(see the full post on using stoppers for more details)
This is simply something you do to stop yourself from eating BEFORE you overdo it.
For instance, if you have a 12-inch sub in front of you, eat half of the sub, and then use a “stopper.”
A stopper can by anything that interrupts your eating.
For example, you might want to pop a piece of chewing gum in your mouth or a menthol-flavored mint.
A “stopper” allows you to move away from the bad habit of overeating and gives your brain time to realize that you are actually full.
Use these two quick and easy tricks to change your bad eating habits and you will find that you naturally lose weight with very little effort.
About the Author
Dr. Becky Gillaspy, DC graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991.