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Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016 12:18 am

Simple ways to make healthy eating habits stick

If your head is still spinning from all the diet tips you’ve read or heard about since 2016 arrived, then slow down and take a deeeeep breath. I’m going to make this real simple.

All it takes is keeping an open mind and practicing what I am about to share with you. Several of my clients and I have found that this mindful strategy really works: If we find ways to relax ourselves (and make it fun) while implementing a goal, we will ultimately accomplish it. Here are a few methods you use to stay on track.

Gratitude before food.

Taking a moment to be grateful is one of the simplest ways to enjoy and taste your meal to the fullest. This is different from a prayer, although prayer can be nicely incorporated with this method to further your experience of peace and appreciation. I am proposing that you focus on the person who prepared the food for you. Be thankful for whoever that person is, whether it is someone you know or don’t know. It could be you. But someone made that for you, and you can decide to ground yourself in the moment and be grateful for that person and the healthy meal you are about to eat. Smell the food, enjoy the colors and any other sensory experiences you wish to invoke. Doing so will remind you that eating is not an end goal; it is a pleasurable journey. Practicing this will actually solidify a new habit that will benefit you immensely. You will begin to feel satisfied overall, which means you will most likely eat the right proportion of food your body needs in that moment.

Tree meditation.

Set a positive and peaceful tone for the day, so emotional eating won’t take over. As you are driving to a destination that could potentially create stress, such as work or a social gathering, notice the trees around you at the next stoplight or stop sign. Or, notice a part of nature that appeals to you. It could be grass, sun, flowers, whatever you like. Take in a deep breath and literally say the name of the object. Repeat, saying “tree” or “flower” to create a sense of peace as you connect with nature. Doing this is meant to instill a meditative message that work is not the most important thing in life – it’s simple living and enjoying the world around us.

Use body signals to stay in healthy eating mode.

When things just aren’t going your way, pay attention. In this busy world, many of us don’t realize that we are starting to feel sick, weak, hungry or tired – until it nearly socks us in the face. Take a moment and acknowledge that, right now, you are in a vulnerable state and may feel a little more depressed than usual and might not make very good food choices. Whether you catch this mood shift or not, have an immediate, healthy, back-up comfort food ready. Eat a slice of whole grain bread with some nut butter on it and maybe some fruit-sweetened jelly. This is my quick go-to snack for when I feel depleted. Unless you are on a special, physician-monitored diet, you need these carbohydrates to help your body heal. To make it fun, I bring certain foods from home that I look forward to eating in the afternoon, so I hardly ever skip my breaks.

And if all of this seems daunting, use electronics to your advantage:

Schedule mindfulness breaks. If you become so involved in your work that when you finally look at the time, and you realize you’re starving at 3:30 in the afternoon because you haven’t eaten lunch yet, then this simple idea is for you: Set your phone or watch for certain break times and honor them.

To improve your odds for success, take the time to create your own strategies. Decide how you will incorporate your everyday practices into goal-directed activities, such as doing floor exercises while watching your favorite program. Don’t forget to have fun. As your new habits begin to show even the slightest result, you will stay motivated.

Linda K. Castor, RN, LCPC, is a psychotherapist at Linda K. Castor and Associates, 2663 Farragut Drive, Suite A in Springfield. Linda has taught health and wellness for 30 years and treats mental health issues in children, adolescents and adults. She specializes in all eating disorders. Linda can be reached at 217-652-8040. For more information, visit www.LindaCastor.com.


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