Why do we eat when we are not hungry? Are you finding that you are doing it more often in isolation or while working from home?
Do you find yourself going to the fridge and cupboard when you’re not even hungry? Do you seem to be eating for the sake of eating?
This behavior can certainly contribute to our weight problems, it has been one of the main issues contributing to my own weight battle for many years.
So why do we go to the kitchen to look in the fridge and cupboards? What are we looking for? And why do we get food out and eat when we are not even hungry and why we don’t have the willpower or motivation to stop it?
Well, it’s a HABIT, which means we have very little control over it. But how did it become a habit? Simply because we have repeated the behaviour so many times that it has become automatic.
We can make over 35,000 decisions a day and if you had to think through each one those you would have decisional fatigue and be absolutely exhausted, a habit preserves brain energy and allows you to think through other things.
How do habits work?
- First there is a TRIGGER or CUE (e.g. location, time of day, emotional state, thought, belief, other people, a pattern of behaviour)
- These triggers or cues cause an ACTION or ROUTINE which is the behaviour you do as a response. This could be going to the fridge or cupboard and eating, biting your nails or any number of things.
- This action will then give you a REWARD, which is the benefit you receive from doing the action. The reward means that next time the trigger or cue occurs you gravitate to doing the same action. This forms a positive feedback loop, and the reward becomes a distraction from the underlying issue.
Here are some tips to try and help you break or change a habit:
- Be aware of the habit, identify it, name it. Once you are aware of the habit and know how it works, it loses its power to draw you in and control your behaviour.
- Figure out the cue – is it a time, person, place, thought, feeling or emotion?
- What is the action or routine that follows the cue?
- What is the reward?
Now we have identified the habit we need to think about how we are going to change it or break it so that it serves us in a healthy way.
In my case being distracted is the reward, I eat because I am bored or procrastinating and need to be distracted. So, instead of going to the kitchen and seeking out food, I could use other things to distract me like making a tea, doing some stretching, deep breathing, or going for a walk. There are lots of different options that are better for me than eating unnecessarily.
So, to change, create or break a habit, we identify one of the 3 things in the loop to be changed, but bear in mind, if your new reward does not meet the impact of your current reward, the habit will not change as the incentive is not strong enough.
You can change a habit, but it will take, time, consistency, and commitment, but just being aware of your habits is a step in the right direction.
If your habits and routines have fallen by the wayside during isolation and you need help to get back on track I am offering a FREE 45min Get Back on Track coaching session until the end of June, to get you back on track with your health and wellness.