Change your eating habits one step at a time

Change your eating habits one small step at a time

With Appetite Retraining weight loss is achieved by making stepwise changes to your existing eating habits or behaviours.

The types of habits which produce overweight are those which involve ignoring or overriding the body’s natural hunger and fullness signals. When you ignore these signals, you eat too much or you eat when you’re not hungry.

Approximately 60% of people in the UK are above the “healthy” range for weight so well over half of us are habitually failing to tune in to whether we are hungry or not.

Slowly does it

The good news is that you don’t have to overhaul your eating all at once. In fact making major changes to established habits is extremely hard work and puts you under tremendous internal pressure to revert to your old habits.

Small, stepwise changes are more likely to be sustainable in the long term, and here’s why.

Habits are helpful

Habits save energy and effort. A habit is an automatic sequence of behaviour such as getting dressed. When you first learned to dress yourself you would have had to put thought and effort in to the sequence of actions, but with repetition this sequence becomes a smooth operation which only needs thought if something unexpected happens. If you had to put the same thought and effort into habits as when you first learned to do them, you wouldn’t get much done in a day.

Once a habit is formed, it is like a well-worn groove in the brain and it is controlled by the more automatic parts of the brain. This leaves the “higher” parts of the brain free to focus on other things. Habits free up brain space to use for other activities. Notice the way that your mind can wander on to other things when you are doing a repetitive task. In contrast, you focus all your attention when you are doing something unfamiliar or complex.

Habit change

Changing habits takes effort in the short term, but once a new habit is established, this becomes the automatic way of doing things and it is then easier to continue with the new habit than revert to the old.

Work out the new habit before you try to change. Be clear about what you are aiming to do instead of your old habit.

Research suggests that in order for a new habit to become established, it takes 60 repetitions of the new behaviour. This repetition needs to be consistent and doesn’t work if there are lots of “old” behaviours happening in between the new.

In order to get these 60 repetitions, you need to bring the behaviour you want to change to the forefront of your mind for a while. Remind yourself every day that you are working on your new habit.

Each time the old habit is triggered you need to notice it, STOP what you are about to do and instead deliberately carry out the new behaviour.

Prepare to change

Because habits are like well-worn grooves in the brain, changing habits takes effort. It is easy to forget to do the new thing on occasions or to feel like not bothering. Occasional slips are to be expected and can be learned from. The important thing is to re-focus and keep the new habit at the front of your mind until it becomes automatic.

Lack of self-belief is a major stumbling block to changing habits. When you half-heartedly try to change something while subconsciously thinking “this isn’t going to work” or “I’m not capable of doing this”, success is unlikely. Before you embark on changing your eating habits, work on your self-belief. Visualise yourself successfully achieving the goal you desire making the image as vivid as you can. Feel what it feels like. Imagine seeing your successful self in a mirror. Imagine how others will see you. Use this visualisation every day to help strengthen your connection with the successful outcome.

Elite sports men and women use visualisations of executing perfect moves. Evidence shows that these visualisations produce an increase in their performance that is over and above the improvement produced by the actual physical training. Visualisation is powerful. Use it to help you achieve your goals.

More information about the psychology of eating and appetite is on the Appetite Doctor website, where you can find out about working with me in person

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