How do I improve my self-control around food?


Hannah Sweetman Nutrition shares some tips on how to improve your self-control around foods you typically overconsume. These helpful habits will support anybody working towards body composition changes such as weight loss.

Make bad habits harder. Make good habits easier.

Making bad habits harder to initiate places a thought barrier before an automatic action. Bad habits are usually performed on autopilot and without any thought process. This leads to actions that move us further away from achieving our desired lifestyle. Here are some examples of how we can make bad habits harder. Buy single-serve portions, delete apps that distract you such as social media, use smaller plates and cutlery to make your meal look bigger and take longer to consume. These are all methods of how to make something more difficult or less appealing to want to continue that bad habit. You can also make good habits easier or more appealing to increase the incentive to continue. Some examples of making good habits easier include buying frozen pre-chopped fruit and vegetables, having a fruit bowl on the table instead of a cookie jar, cutting up vegetables, and using them as snacks to help you achieve your daily vegetable target. 

Analyse your habits by writing down the good habits and the bad. Then write down for each bad habit how you can make this harder to perform and for every good habit how can you add further incentive to ensure these habits remain strong. For any new habits, you wish to work on start by setting up these habits with as little resistance as possible making sure they are obvious in your environment to cue a response.

Control your food environment.

Place trigger foods or foods you easily overconsume out of sight. By putting these foods in areas that are out of sight you have fewer visual cues towards making a mindless decision. Place these food items in high cupboards or lockable containers such as Tupper Ware. Another great option to help with portion control is to purchase smaller portions or single packet items to support consuming an appropriate portion size.

Look for the cue that starts the bad habit and replace it with a new routine.

An example could be instead of post-dinner eating choose to brush your teeth and remove yourself from the kitchen. Or develop a 20-minute post-meal window where you wait and distract yourself before reaching for more food when potently not wanting or needing it.

Planning using the if-then backup plan.

Planning is great when everything goes right however life is unpredictable, so we also need backup plans. Having an if-then plan gives you a strategy for when unexpected distractions occur. An example of an if-then plan would be, if I get called into a late work meeting then I will know that I can make a quick meal of canned soup or eggs on toast or a whey protein smoothie or yoghurt and fruit as quick meal solutions that keep me within my calorie requirements for weight loss. Knowing what to do when things don't go 100% to plan is important for long-term weight loss success. 

Turn I have to into I want to, or I choose to.

Remember you are always in control of yourself and your own decisions. If you have chosen to lose weight requiring you to be more selective around your food choices, that is the choice you have chosen for yourself. Knowing why you're working towards a goal will help your mindset. When you develop a mindset that is working towards, I want to do this or I'm choosing to do this you accept the trade-offs required.

Plan your indulgences.

A life without indulgences would be very boring. You don't need to go completely without them, but you want to enjoy them mindfully with full enjoyment. Plan them into your diet knowing how much of them you will have when you have them, and what environment you'll be in when you have them. By having a plan for your indulgences, you allow yourself to successfully hit your targets required for losing weight and develop the skill of understanding what a logical dose of enjoyment is to you.

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