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Overcoming Bad Eating Habits

Burger and Fries

Ever find yourself mindlessly munching in front of the TV, entirely unaware of what you’re shoving into your mouth? Or perhaps you’re the type who inhales their food in record time? If these traits sound familiar, then you may in fact be guilty of a bad eating habit. But don’t worry; you’re certainly not alone.

Every year, millions of people worldwide spend countless hours and dollars attempting to overcome bad habits. But every year, a significant number of these folk fail. Why? Because stopping an action that has become routine is no easy feat. As a mindful magazine, AM recognizes that there are hardships in overcoming bad habits, especially when it comes to food, which is why we’ve recruited ourselves an expert on the matter, Dr. Ian Smith.

About Dr. Ian Smith
Dr. Ian Smith is a renowned medical doctor and diet expert, best known for his role on VH1’s Celebrity Fit Club. As Dr. Ian is a Harvard graduate, his resume also includes extensive appearances on top broadcasts including The Rachael Ray Show, The View and Larry King Live. With six published books under his belt, including best seller The Fat Smash Diet, Dr. Ian is currently coordinating the State Farm 50 Million Pound Challenge, a program that hopes to help U.S. citizens lose a collective 50 million pounds!

Thankfully, Dr. Ian was nice enough to take time out of his busy schedule to lend his thoughts and experience to AM readers. Before we get to some examples of bad habits, however, we must first define exactly what it is we’re talking about.

What is a bad habit?
According to Dr. Ian, a habit is an action that we undertake without even thinking, an unconscious event. If we perceive this habit to be undesirable, then we may label this a “bad habit.” Going even further, Dr. Ian explains that a bad habit is one that we’re likely to perform even if we stop to think about it.

What drives bad eating habits?
As is the case with most bad habits, there are a variety of forces that can drive men toward bad eating. According to Dr. Ian, a few familiar forces characterize the majority of bad eating habits:
• A lack of discipline;
• Stress;
• Convenience.

Keep an eye out for these characteristics as AM explores five of the most common bad eating habits in men.

Bad Eating Habit No. 1 - You overeat
The explanation: You ignore the screams from your satiated stomach and continue to cram morsel after morsel down the hatch.

The root of the problem: A lack of discipline.

The solution: Overeating is often the result of intense hunger. To battle the binge, try to eat before you are overly famished. When eating, eat slowly and savor each bite. It takes the brain some time to register a feeling of fullness, so slowing your pace will keep your portions at a healthy size. Lastly, try to bring greater discipline into all areas of your life. Getting yourself organized is a great way to start.

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Bad Eating Habit No. 2 - You dig junk food
The explanation: You rewrote the food guide to include only one major food group: junk food.

The root of the problem: Convenience.

The solution: There is a reason that junk food is called “junk.” Your typical junk foods are rarely nutritious while your typical snack foods are rarely satisfying, making it easy to overindulge. Much of the problem with today’s dieting lies with boredom, explains Dr. Ian in his book, The 4 Day Diet. People get tired of eating the same food day after day, and junk foods offer a convenient escape. Don’t become a slave to this convenience. Healthy foods can offer the same variety as junk, but the motivation to opt for change will have to come from within. To get started, find inspiration for innovative foods from outside sources, like a cooking class. Who knows? You might even meet a cute lady friend along the way.

Bad Eating Habit No. 3 - You’re a speed-eater
The explanation: Each and every meal is a time trial, and you’re constantly trying to better your best.

The root of the problem: Stress.

The solution: If you’re stressed on time or have a lot on your mind, chances are that it’ll show in your eating. Your solution then is to actively try and slow down. You can help yourself by avoiding finger foods. Instead, choose more complicated food items that will require utensils and time to finish. Tackle the root of the problem by learning some stress-reduction techniques like meditation.

Bad Eating Habit No. 4 – You eat Vegas-style
The explanation: You’re a saint during the week but you let yourself go on the weekends.

The root of the problem: A lack of discipline.

The solution: Whether you are trying to lose weight or simply maintain it, five days of hard work can easily come undone from a weekend of bad binge eating. If eating out is your problem, eat lightly before you go out to lessen your hunger. And don’t restrict yourself too much during the week so that the weekend becomes less of a treat. Heck, even Dr. Ian lets himself go from time to time: “No one can eat healthy all the time. It's just not practical,” he says.

Bad Eating Habit No. 5 - You’re a mindless muncher
The explanation: The second you’re in front of a TV, you hit cruise control and stop paying attention to the food flowing into your mouth.

The root of the problem: Varied.

The solution: Spaced-out eating can be a symptom of various causes. Perhaps you’re stressed and attempting to take your mind off the burden or maybe it’s just convenient to eat your dinner with your favorite show. Whatever the reason, the habit needs to stop. Try and identify the root of the problem first, and if possible tackle that. Then do yourself a favor and separate food from television. If you must snack, have a suitable portion prepared before you sit down. At best, try to eat major meals only when you’re fully engaged.
picking up the pieces

No one can say that they are entirely guilt-free when it comes to pleasures of the gut, so the first step of any rehabilitation program is to recognize the problem and your weaknesses. But don’t listen to us, take it from the expert: For change to succeed, says Dr. Ian, “you have to reevaluate your relationship to food, your motivations for losing weight and your goals. Find your areas of weakness and work on them slowly. Always think that you can accomplish even the most difficult of goals.” Sound advice, doc.