It’s that time of year again. You promised yourself that in 2015 you were going to eat healthier. Despite your best intentions and a promising start, those New Year’s resolutions are dropping by the wayside faster than midnight cookie crumbs hitting the floor. But don’t despair! Here are five easy tips to help you break those bad eating habits for good.
Substitute yourself: Our brains are geared to assemble things into repetitive arrangements. You probably get dressed in the morning and put on your shoes following the same pattern without even noticing. That’s one reason why habits are so hard to break. But by substituting one pattern for another, you make it easy for your brain to drop unwanted behaviors. So instead of trying to quit that midday binge on junk food, substitute a healthy alternative like fruit. By swapping in healthy eating habits for the bad, you dramatically improve your odds of success.
Be your own reward club: Sugar, salt, and fat are prominent components of the foods that make up the modern Western diet. They stimulate the reward centers tucked into the dark, primitive parts of our brains. This stimulation reinforces the behavior that caused it. You eat the junk food because it whispers in your ear and pats you on the back and makes you feel good — except when you look in the mirror. So use that same tactic when you engage in healthy alternatives. Verbally reward yourself when you choose the healthful option and fight fire with fire. Or dopamine with dopamine.
Spice it up: Many healthful choices, like the vegetable side dish, are the gustatory equivalent of C-SPAN. Use herbs and spices in traditional and novel flavor combinations to jolt your taste buds out of their sugar-, salt-, and fat-induced coma. A flavorful dish will always leave you more satisfied than a bland version of the same.
Sleeping beauty: It turns out that a good night’s rest is as important for your figure as it is for your looks. The latest studies reveal that sleep deprivation causes chemical changes in the brain. These changes give birth to the crave monster. It’s what causes us to hanker for junk and eat more of what we shouldn’t. Adequate sleep will put all of that to bed.
Stop counting calories: A healthful approach to eating is not about the calories. Simply consuming less of the toxic maelstrom that passes for food in the modern Western diet will not leave you healthy, wealthy or wise. Start evaluating the character of your comestibles; quality matters. As Jules Winnfield of Pulp Fiction might observe, “Personality goes a long way.”