Changing Eating Behaviour Patterns

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Man enjoying meal at vietnamese restaurantForming New Habits through Focused Attention

by Dr Kerry Halliday

In the words of Yoda from Star Wars,
“You must unlearn what you have learned.”

The most powerful tool you possess to help form new a habit is your mind. By utilising the wonderful creative resources that you have and with a little bit of imagination you can think yourself into a trimmer and fitter body. This may sound a strange concept at first, but as you work through this ebook you will learn that with practice you can begin to re-programme your mind. You have the ability to change your behaviour by letting go of old unproductive behaviours and make new healthy habits. This ebook starts by explaining how the way you think affects your behaviour and ends with a powerful exercise to help you establish new healthful habits.

This information is also available in audio form as the Changing Eating Behaviour Patterns Audio with the author of this piece Dr Kerry Halliday.

De-programme and re-programme yourself

“If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got”
Kathleen DesMaisons – Potatoes not prozac

For whatever reason your body has over time become programmed to eat and react in certain ways around food; you may have even unconsciously linked your self-esteem to your weight.  Over the years you may have also learnt good and bad habits around how you eat, re-wiring your brain and body to act around food in ways that have not been useful. Did you know that just by making the decision to read this book you have already made the first move towards re-writing your programme?  You are now sending messages to your brain that you are motivated to break the habits that contribute to your poor eating habits. In addition, by altering the way you think you will be able to change your behaviour around food, start feeling healthier and thinking away those extra pounds.

Change the way you think

Many of us who struggle with losing weight often start thinking negatively about ourselves. We begin to lose faith in our ability to control our eating patterns. For example, we fail diets, try to eat smaller portions, try slimming pills, herbal remedies; the list is endless. Dieting can become a habit and losing weight an obsession.  Some people diet on and off all their life, instead of enjoying food and their body. It becomes habitual… lose weight, gain weight… lose weight, gain weight…. For many of us we recognise this as yo-yo dieting, we begin to believe that we are not in control, cannot lose weight and keep it off. This is de-motivating and often a depressing cycle. This type of negative thinking can lead to a spiral of cyclical behaviour that often leads us back to the very food we wish to moderate or give up.

Let us take a quick look at what happens when we think in ‘diet’ mode. If I asked you not to think of pink elephants what would be the first thing you think of? Pink elephants of course! It’s the same with food. If you start to think ‘I mustn’t eat chocolate’ the first thing you will do is think of chocolate and lo and behold there it is yelling at you from inside your head…EAT ME!!!’ This, for many, can enhance cravings and the feeling of deprivation that drives you to eat that bar of chocolate or six! Here again begins the cycle of ‘oh, well I’ve blown it again, I’ll start again tomorrow’.

This can be a harmful pattern of behaviour especially if we overeat, often playing havoc with our health and emotions. This pattern of behaviour can be stopped by simple changes in the way you think.

Look for the positives

One beneficial way of helping you to eat more healthily and release those extra pounds is to change how you think. For example, instead of thinking “I wish I didn’t overeat/ stuff chocolate/ pies/ bread – it’s ruining my life”, change your thoughts to “I am slimmer and fitter everyday”.  If thinking that you are getting fitter and slimmer each day seems to big a step for you, be gentle, tell yourself that you are doing the best you can and you are learning to look after yourself more and more each day.

Don’t give yourself a hard time, guilt and shame about what you are eating can make you want to stuff those feelings down with even more food. There are no mistakes, only a learning process.

Think more positively, praise yourself, congratulate yourself on your progress and give yourself a pat on the back. This isn’t a diet, this is a way of thinking; so you cannot fail, you can only succeed.

Breaking old and creating new habits – the exercise:

In this section we introduce a powerful exercise that can help you break old unwanted habits and create new productive ones. For the best results let your imagination run riot so you can create a compelling future. The more creative you are the more powerful this exercise becomes.  You may wish to do it several times; you can also try out different habits you wish to break. Most importantly have fun!

Here are the steps to complete this incredibly powerful exercise:

  • Sit quietly, with you palms facing up, close your eyes and take three slow deep breaths and allow yourself to relax.
  • Now I would like you to use your imagination and be as creative as possible.
  • Imagine you have two pictures, one in each of your hands.
  • In one hand you have a picture of an old outmoded behaviour or habit you wish to change, in the other hand you have a positive picture of how you now wish to behave and you see yourself looking and feeling fabulous.
  • For example: the old habit may be a picture of you standing up, cramming a cake into your mouth quickly. The positive picture may include you looking fabulous and confident saying ‘no’ to the cake and seeing yourself smiling, in a fit and healthy body.
  • Look at the first picture in one of your hands of you lapsing into that old behaviour. Just take a few moments to observe that old outdated habit or behaviour and as you watch you can tone down the colour and size of that picture. Maybe you can it from a distance making it smaller and duller, so you can hardly see that old behaviour anymore.
  • Now imagine the picture in the other hand, the picture of you doing an alternative positive behaviour and everything going wonderfully well.  Make that picture really vivid; make it much, much bigger and brighter.
  • Now put the positive picture on top of the other picture and make it the positive picture bigger and brighter and when it is as big and as bright as you can possibly make it and then step into it.
  • Feel, see, hear how it is to have done something positively different, feel how it feels to be in control and allow yourself some time to enjoy this feeling.
  • For example, imagine how wonderful it feels to say “no” to the cake, experience how wonderful it feels to really mean it.  Maybe you can hear people saying how wonderful you look and you are telling them that you do not desire cake anymore. Maybe you can see the clothes you are wearing and how amazing you look. Remember, be creative.
  • Now take that positive picture and place it in your heart for safe keeping.
  • Finally take picture of the old behaviour and throw it away, again and again, and again until you can barely remember it. That’s right…throw it away, shake it from your hand so it is no longer a part of you.
  • Now…take the positive picture you stored in your heart and place it in the empty hand where the picture of the old behaviour once was and you can smile broadly to yourself, and allow that smile to reach from the top of your head to your toes and close your hand into a tight fist for a few moments when you … Feel really good… and after taking a deep breath in, breath out and relax your hand and open your eyes.

Now if you do this exercise enough times (or maybe you only need do it once or twice) you will be able to re-programme your brain into doing your new positive behaviour automatically.  I wonder how long it will be until you know how to behave in a way that is forming wonderful new positive habits that will help you become fit and healthy?

Your brain is a powerful tool and you can use your imagination to create a fit, healthy strong body.

Why stop there? You can create a life that is full of happiness, fulfilment and abundance; it all starts with a change of mind and a little bit of practice!