Jumping off the Hamster Wheel of Bad Habits

hamster with front legs held up

My life is a continuous roller coaster of trying to eat well but getting sucked back into the bad food habits I’ve developed over the years.

I go back and forth constantly from trying to eat healthy, cook healthy and live healthy to being a regular at the drive thru and having something very unhealthy but quick to make when I cook because that is what I am used to making.

The last few months have been more of the drive through and diner days and much less of the healthy eating, cooking and living. In June, D went to Iowa for a month so I was here alone and thought it’d be a great time to detox and really start eating healthy. BUT I got busy with pet visits and became overwhelmed by the end of the first week he was gone.
The rest of the month was a frenzy of running to and from pet visits, stopping at a local diner a couple times each week for breakfast, grabbing fast food on the way home from my last visit, napping when I had a few hours between visits and evenings of popcorn with lots of butter and my 40-ounce cup of Diet Mountain Dew. The cup is a stainless steel one and keeps the ice frozen for the entire day and even overnight. (Note to self: it would be GREAT for WATER instead of pop.)

D got home the first week of July, but my bad habits carried over and we both ate out a lot that month. He also purchased a deep fryer so we had a week of nothing but fried foods as we tried out different things. I brought home pizza a few times, and made pasta many times. By the way, pasta is the one food I will go back for seconds, and thirds for, even if I am not hungry.
By the time August started, my pants were tighter and my joints were extra achy. I knew I had to stop the madness of bad food decisions. This time, however, I don’t want to do what I always seem to do, which hasn’t worked in the past (obviously, since I’m here once again…) I need to do something different.

Any of you who have gone back and forth with healthy vs non-healthy knows how it goes. We make a firm decision to eat better and stop doing junk food.

Maybe go to the store and stock up on vegetables and fruit. Get lots of salad ingredients, stop drinking coffee, give up yummy snacks, etc. We tell our friends we can’t eat lunch out. We make our own “healthy” meals while our family eats what used to be our favorite “bad” meals.    It never seems to work for long, does it? Maybe it’s a craving for sweets, which leads to a mad frenzy of donuts, crumbs and guilt. Then a night out to dinner turns into appetizers, meal AND dessert. Before long we think “whatever, I don’t want to have to sacrifice, I want to enjoy myself! Phooey on getting healthy.”

Well, this time I have a better plan. Instead of avoiding things I know I love, which never lasts, I am going to do what I learned in my health coach classes through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. They encourage teaching the idea of “crowding out” when it comes to beginning to eat healthy.

Crowding out simply means adding healthier foods to your eating plan.

You aren’t asked to give up any of your favorites, just add in healthy bites of things here and there. The idea being that you will fill up MORE with the healthy and therefore eat LESS of the non-healthy.  By continuing to do this and making it a way of life, you will be getting more good for you ingredients into your body without feeling deprived. By staying mindful of what your goal is (which is to eat healthier foods) you can slowly add MORE of the good and eat a little LESS of the bad as time goes on.

Here are a few simple ways to incorporate this into your own eating plan:

1. In the morning before you have coffee and a donut, drink at least an 8-ounce glass of water and have an apple or some other type of fruit. The next day, try 12-ounces of water and 2 pieces of fruit before the coffee and donut. Be mindful of how you feel after the water and fruit…do you still even want the coffee and donut? Maybe you can have the coffee but skip the donut and see how it goes. You get the idea?

2. For lunch, if you normally go out and grab fast food or to a restaurant, bring a salad or cup of soup and a bag of carrots and celery to work with you and eat them about half an hour before lunch. Drink another 12-ounce glass of water. When you go out, you hopefully won’t be as hungry and will get the small number 9 instead of the “supersized.” You could even order a salad with your meal and eat that before the “good” stuff.

3. For dinner, especially if you have a significant other and/or kids to cook for, this can be more difficult. Cook whatever they want and are used to, but sneak in a vegetable as a side, even if it is a can of peas or green beans. For yourself, have another cup of soup or some vegetables and dip before eating the main dish. Again, drink some water before you eat also.

As you can see, the idea is to continue as you are used to, but start mindfully adding tidbits of a healthier way of eating into your routine. Slowly add to those healthy tidbits as you adapt to them so they are slightly bigger tidbits. Doing this for each meal every day can add up to more healthy food being deposited into your body almost without you realizing it.
If you stick with this idea and continue to build on it, before long, you will be off of that hamster wheel of mindless eating and regularly choosing healthier options on purpose!

I’d love to hear from you!  Do you have any tried and true ideas to incorporate healthy eating into your routine without feeling deprived? Please comment below 🙂

Leave a Reply