Why Is It So Hard To Change Your Eating Habits?
You may have been there several times before... You've committed to this new diet/ way of eating and yet there is a nagging voice at the back of your mind saying:
"This is too tough - why don't I just give up today and start again TOMORROW"
"F**K it, it's been a tough day - there's no point in even trying to be "good""
"My goals are so far away, I don't know why I bother"
" Let me just eat everything that I want tonight and then I will never eat them again FROM MONDAY"
"I will just finish off all that "bad" stuff in the house and then I will be "good""
"I have a dinner planned on Friday, so let me go to that and after that, I will start the plan again"
WHY DOES SO MUCH RESISTANCE SHOW UP WHEN WE TRY AND CHANGE THE WAY WE EAT? It seems so simple, surely all we have to do is just use a bit of willpower and make different choices? Yet, the reality of changing our eating habits proves to be far more complicated.
Here are 7 reasons why it is so difficult to change your eating habits:
WE ARE CREATURES OF HABIT The first and biggest reason it is so difficult to change our eating habits is because as humans, we are creatures of habit. We love routine and we love doing the same things day in and day out. In fact, most of the time, it is very difficult to make any more than just gentle tweaks to our routine. It is why any big life changes such as the end of a job or relationship can often give us a lot of anxiety due to the uncertainty and "newness" that this presents. In the same way, trying to overhaul our diet overnight can prove very challenging for our habit-driven brain.
WILLPOWER WILL ONLY TAKE YOU SO FAR Most people rely on their willpower to change their eating behaviours, however we all suffer from something called willpower fatigue. This effectively means that we will often reach a point where our willpower just runs out. Perhaps we have had a day where we made lots of decisions and resisted lots of temptation already or a day where we are bit more tired and stressed and on these days, relying on our willpower alone, can prove tricky.
FOOD IS OFTEN A COPING MECHANISM For many people, food is a way to cope with stress, sadness, anxiety or boredom. This means that it doesn't mean how well the new "meal plan" is going, when stress/sadness/anxiety/boredom kicks in, it can be very difficult to resist food unless you have some other (more helpful) coping mechanisms that you can turn to instead.
OUR BRAINS OFTEN WORK IN RULES We are all prone to all-or-nothing or black-and-white thinking as humans. This means that our brains often like to think in rules. We like the idea of being either "GOOD" or "BAD" when it comes to food. What this often translates to is that one "slip-up" with our food plan can often completely derail us.
WE CAN BE EASILY INFLUENCED BY OUR ENVIRONMENT/ THOSE AROUND US Our environment has a significant impact on our food choices. This means that your partner suggesting a take-away, your colleague bringing cookies into the office or your daughter baking a cake can all influence you enough to persuade you to eat things that you hadn't planned to. This is also why often getting those around you on board with your lifestyle goals can really help you to succeed in achieving them.
FOOD ISN'T JUST FUEL We often think that changing our food habits should be easy because food is just fuel. However, food is also a source of pleasure, a way we connect with others, a representation of our culture and so much more. This means that we aren't just making food choices based upon what would best fuel our bodies.
SLEEP/ STRESS/ ALCOHOL AND MORE AFFECTS OUR FOOD CHOICES We all know how our we lose our inhibitions and our willpower goes out the window after a few drinks. This same effect is also often caused by tiredness and stress too. This is why, in order to change our eating habits, we do really need to look at our lifestyle as a whole. We all know how difficult it is to dodge the biscuit tin or Deliveroo App tired, stressed (and drunk).
Whilst it is difficult to change your eating habits, the good news is that, with a holistic approach to behaviour change (that takes all of the above factors into account), it is possible to change your habits in a way that is then also sustainable long-term. If you would like some support to effectively change your eating habits and re-build your relationship with food, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to book in a free consultation.
"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" - Lao Tzu