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How to break unhealthy food associations

Breaking unhealthy food associations

Many of us get into the habit of enjoying unhealthy food and drink while we're doing everyday things like watching our favourite TV shows, visiting cinemas, going to our favourite club, etc.

Every time you go to the movies do you habitually order a large popcorn, ice-cream, large Coke, bag of lollies or chocolates before sitting down?

Or can you watch your favourite soap opera without a cup of coffee or tea and a few chocolate biscuits?

If the answer is yes and no respectively, you could have some unhealthy food associations that could be making you heavier or preventing you from losing weight.

In this article we identify some of these habits, how and why we develop them, and more importantly how to break them.

Unhealthy food associations

Unhealthy food associations are very, very common. For example, have you or have you ever heard of someone referring to Thursday night as “fish and chips night”, or Friday as “Pizza night”?I’ve certainly used these terms before, and I’ve heard more than a couple of people refer to them as well.

In isolation, this isn’t such a big deal. It becomes a big deal if every Thursday night is “fish and chip night”, every Friday is “Pizza night” and every Saturday night “Indian Take Away night” and every Sunday “McDonald’s day”.

Add to this weekly visits to the football, cinema, restaurants, dinner parties, or outings with the kids that involve take away food, alcohol, soft drink, pastries, ice creams and the like, the majority of the things we eat and quantities of them that we eat could cause us to put on extra weight that we don’t really want.

Collectively it is the combination of all these occasions that becomes our ‘lifestyle’, that thing that almost all professional weight loss advisers tell us we need to change if we are to achieve sustainable weight loss.

Unhealthy food associations are often seasonal

The fact that Unhealthy food associations are often seasonal shouldn’t be surprising to many of us.

Most of us are naturally drawn to high-calorie, high-fat comfort food in winter and light salads and the like in summer.

Being conscious of this natural phenomenon can be the key to preventing us from getting into bad eating habits in the first place, or if it’s too late for that, helpus to break those habits.

For example, if it’s coming into winter and you notice that you’re developing more than one or two of the types of food associations described above, you can do something about them before they become too entrenched.

Likewise, if we’re coming out of winter and you’ve developed some bad eating habits over the winter months, spring becomes the ideal time to break some of these habits by introducing healthier new ones in their place.

Unhealthy food associations can often be linked to activities we enjoy

Many unhealthy food associations develop because they enhance the things we enjoy doing or are rewards or distractions for others we don’t.

For example, having Pizza on Friday night can be seen as a reward at the end of a working week, or a way to get the weekend off to a great start. Likewise going out for dinner on Wednesday’s can help to break up the week and give you something to look forward to on Monday and Tuesday, or going to the movies and having a large Coke, large popcorn and a choc top ice cream can make the occasion a more enjoyable for some people.

Ways to break unhealthy food associations

There are a couple of ways to break unhealthy food associations (eating habits).

The thing to keep in mind though is that the key to a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle is variety and not having too much of anything, good or bad.

We’re big believers in incorporating food treats in a balanced diet as you can see in our Everyday diets for Everyday people.

That said, here are a couple of suggestions to breaking unhealthy food associations:

  1. Increase the length of your ‘food cycles’, that is, instead of having pizza every Friday, have it every second Friday or once a month. The secret to getting the most out of this suggestion is to replace the food that is the issue with something healthier.
  2. Look at your diet as a whole. It’s rare that a single food becomes the issue. In most cases the issue is a combination of ‘occasional foods’ that are consumed in the same week, week after week.
  3. Keep a food diary for a month or two and then review what you’ve been eating. List all those ‘occasional foods’ that you eat regularly and think about which ones you can remove from your diet without making it too boring.
  4. Try to identify any unhealthy food associations with activities, such as eating biscuits watching your favourite soap opera, or hotdogs, pies and chips at the football, and eliminate or modify them.
  5. Look for opportunities to replace some of the activities that have unhealthy food associations with activities that don’t. For example, instead of watching a TV show, go for a walk for 30 minutes.
  6. Alternatively, you can add healthy activities to help compensate for over consuming occasional foods.  For example, if you know you’re going to the movies on Saturday afternoon and eat more than you should, go for a bike ride or long walk on Saturday morning to help compensate for it.

Conclusion

Many of us get into the habit of enjoying unhealthy food and drink while we're doing everyday things like watching our favourite TV shows, visiting cinemas, going to our favourite club, etc.

Every time you go to the movies do you habitually order a large popcorn, ice-cream, large Coke, bag of lollies or chocolates before sitting down? Or can you watch your favourite soap opera without a cup of coffee or tea and a few chocolate biscuits?

If the answer is yes and no, you could have some unhealthy food associations that could be making you heavier or preventing you from losing weight.

In this article we identified some of these habits, how and why we develop them, and more importantly how to break them.

We hope you’ve found this article helpful in your quest for weight loss and leading a healthier lifestyle.

Good luck and thanks for visiting weightloss.com.au.

© Copyright Ultimate Weightloss.

This article was written by Scott Haywood.

Scott is the editor of weightloss.com.au. Scott has developed an expertise in fitness and nutrition, and their roles in weight loss, which led him to launch weightloss.com.au in 2005. Today, weightloss.com.au provides weight loss and fitness information, including hundreds of healthy recipes, weight loss tools and tips, articles, and more, to millions of people around the world, helping them to lead happier, healthier, lives.

You can follow Scott on Google+ for more interesting articles.

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