If you are trying to completely change the way you eat, you may find it difficult at first. When we develop habits, a physical pathway is created in the brain. This means neurons connect when happy or unhappy chemicals are released, wiring you to repeat the behaviours that feel good.
Most of our habits are built when we’re young, and after the age of 20 the chemical that helps us create new pathways (myelin) drops off, making it that much harder to build new habits. It can still be done though, you just need to train your brain.
Take a look below for some techniques that will help you build a healthy eating habit.
1. Meet your needs in a healthier way
Your brain is designed to encourage you to meet your physical needs. This means, when you’re hungry it will want you to eat calorie-rich foods. This is why when you eat a cookie, you get that rush of dopamine. A plate of broccoli has less calories, and therefore won’t give your brain the same rush. To overcome this, start thinking about how broccoli meets your needs. Think about the health benefits and associate it with a positive mental image (such as helping to nourish you and make you stronger). Over time your brain will look at broccoli differently, and will create positive feelings when you eat it.
2. Make healthy foods fun
Use your prettiest crockery to display your healthy foods. Garnish meals with sprigs of herbs and present them in a fun way, anything to make them visually appealing. When you make eating healthily a fun experience, your brain will associate healthy food with positive emotions.
3. Give yourself choices
Making your own choices about your food will actually make you like it more, as you will become bias towards it. So give yourself some healthy options. For example if you want to eat healthier snacks, give yourself a couple of options – maybe some nuts and seeds, a Greek yoghurt with fruit or sliced apple with nut butter.
4. Use smaller plates
If portion control is something you want to get a hold on, try using smaller plates. When you eat from a small plate, you are likely to eat less than you would if you were eating from a large plate. This is a simple but effective tip for controlling your portions.
5. Be mindful
Question your choices and really think about what you’re eating. Ask yourself why you are eating and why you have chosen to eat it. Taking these steps will help to avoid mindless eating, which can see you eating unhealthily. You should also be in the moment when you eat – relish the smells, sights and tastes of your food. This will boost your experience, making your brain want you to repeat it.
6. Remember why you’re doing it
Whether you’re looking to lose weight, or you’re changing your diet for medical reasons, keep this in mind. Visualise the positive outcomes of your new way of eating and think about it when you eat. This will help motivate you to continue.