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3 Tips to Form Goal-Directed Eating Behaviors

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

Losing weight [and keeping it off!] is a challenging task. We could argue the simplicity of weight loss. Sure. But is it easy? Not a chance. However, losing weight does not have to be a pesky process. With these 3 Simple Steps to Improve Your Eating Habits, you can kiss yo-yo dieting goodbye and adopt a lifestyle that promotes permanent fat loss. At The Michaud Method, a Personal Training and Nutrition Company, we aim to help clients ease their way into healthier eating habits by shifting their lifestyle choices. Losing weight is not a one-time process. Because at the end of the day, anyone can regain weight. But forming better habits lasts forever.

Failure to adopt better eating habits makes the dieting process harder than it has to be. Human beings are creatures of habit. Most of us buy the same groceries, prepare the same meals, order similar entrees at restaurants, and stick to a general routine. These habits develop over many years and become stronger the longer we hold on. After a while, we go into autopilot, eating foods that we know oppose our physique goals. You may be one of those who select fruit for dessert over cake. Kudos to you if you do! But do you eat more when stressed out? Or grab a twinkie at the checkout counter to reward yourself for a well-done job. Or get knee-deep into work that you forget to eat, then stuff yourself when dinner rolls around. Whatever the case, these habits become engrained in us, resulting in weight gain and lower confidence. Even if you want to change, old habits die hard.

Suppose you're ready to commit to losing fat and improving your health. In that case, it's time to develop new goal-directed eating behaviors that benefit your health and fitness goals. Like Head Coach and Nutritionist Ian Michaud said, "When is the best time to plant a tree? 20 years ago." While we cannot jump into a time machine and change our behavior patterns, we have the control to fix what we do today. If you focus on the "today," today will turn into tomorrow, the next day, and the day after. Before you know it, you'll be happier mentally and physically - and have the neck-breaking body to prove it. So, let's commit to making a change right now. It's time to shake things up!

Unhealthy weight-loss eating behaviors are usually radical. With an extreme weight-loss approach (i.e., losing over 1% of your body weight per week, dieting for over 12 weeks without breaks, or cutting out major food groups), most people get a jolt of encouragement after weighing in and/or reminiscence about how successful this diet was in the past. But this method often ends in rebound weight gain. Permanent fat loss requires improving eating habits, accomplished using a thoughtful approach via examination, adjustment, and tenacity.

It's time to E.A.T:

Examine your food and beverage consumption.

Adjust your unhealthy eating behaviors for healthier ones and reinforce that behavior.

Tenacity to strengthen your new eating behaviors.

Step 1: Examine

  • Examine your food and beverage consumption with a food journal. This can be done in MyFitnessPal or use this weekly food journal to help. Make sure to include all sugary beverages and alcohol. Writing your mindset, especially if you eat when not hungry, is also helpful. Were you stressed? Bored? Tired? Overworked? All these notations will help you uncover habits that may go unnoticed.

  • Highlight the causes of your overeating. Common causes of a hyper-caloric surplus include:

    • Eating too fast

    • Eating when not hungry

    • Skipping meals

    • Eating while standing or on the run (can cause mindless overeating)

    • Always reaching for the dessert

    • Alcohol consumption

  • Review your highlighted eating habits that conflict with your weight-loss goal. Identify a few that you would like to work on improving. If you find yourself reaching for sweets often, try switching to eating fruit for dessert. Or, if you find yourself snacking while watching T.V., try to eat only at the kitchen table with minimal distractions (no T.V., phone, work, etc., during mealtimes). Whenever you successfully apply a new behavior, pat yourself on your back. This positive feedback will reinforce this behavior and eventually turn it into a new, improved habit. Keep in mind that overindulgence will happen, so be sure to be kind to yourself when it does. Remind yourself that you do not control the past but can take control of the present. Just keep trucking forward.

  • Circle the eating habits that reappear daily or weekly. It is less important to note your eating habits during the holidays or celebrations. The cues that happen more frequently should be prioritized to help you bring you closer to your physique goal. Eventually, creating a plan on what you can do instead will help break undesirable eating habits.

  • Investigate the circled cues and ask yourself:

    1. Is there anything I can do to avoid this habit or situation? Suppose you usually grab calorically dense foods after work. Can you take another route to avoid picking up fast food on your way home? Do you purchase irresistible snacks for someone you live with? You can avoid the temptation to reach for a treat by hiding it from clear sight and adding a level of inconvenience, such as placing it in an opaque container on top of the refrigerator towards the back. A Kitchen Safe Timed Lock Container or a timed cabinet lock could be effective too. Think creatively to avoid temptations.

    2. If avoidance is impossible, can I make healthier eating choices to replace this habit? There will be situations that cannot be avoided. When this happens, the urge to give in to your old practice can be triggered, such as when free cookies and other goodies are available at the office or during a meeting. When these feelings emerge, evaluate your options. Can you sit farther away from the temptation? Can you grab a glass of water instead? Are there any healthier options available? Can you distract yourself from the situation? Can you eat beforehand, so you'll feel less inclined to indulge?

Step 2: Adjust

  • Adjust your mindset with goal-directed behavior. This requires planning and meal preparation - the key to any successful dieting plan. Suppose you have a plan in place and healthy food readily available. In that case, you'll have more nutritious meals and ultimately avoid deviation. Even if you're eating out, there are several ways to stay within your calorie target. Check out our blog post on weight loss while dining out here.

  • Stay hydrated. Research shows that people often confuse hunger with thirst, so drinking water and other low/no-calorie drinks can help you gauge your appetite more effectively. As a sports nutritionist and personal trainer, I have noticed that my clients are more successful in a calorie-restricting cycle when consciously drinking non-caloric beverages throughout the day and before/during meals.

  • Only eat when you're hungry instead of eating when you're in a high emotional state, such as feeling tired, anxious, bored, stressed, and the like. This also means you do not have to finish your plate just because it is in front of you. Speaking from my personal struggles, I grew up in a family that prioritized always finishing your plate at all costs. If your plate was not cleared, you could not be excused from the dinner table. This habit has been ingrained in me since childhood, but it doesn't mean I cannot break it by adopting new behaviors. Leaving extra food on my plate is still tricky, so I've switched to using smaller plates and bowls to avoid overeating.

  • Apply mindful eating practices, such as eating more slowly and noticing the flavors, textures, temperature, aroma, environment, and other features when eating. Mindful eating involves turning off electronic devices during mealtimes, so you can stay in the present. If you eat rapidly, try putting your fork down after every bite. It's important to note that mindful eating does not have to be done in isolation. Or grab a bite with a friend, neighbor, or family member. This practice allows you to appreciate and savor your meals while simultaneously slowing you down, so you are more in touch with your hunger cues and avoid overeating.

Step 3: Tenacity

  • Tenacious application to strengthen your new eating behaviors and lifestyle. Habits take time to develop, so undoing them will take time and diligence. Be patient and kind to yourself. If you fall back into old habits, stop as quickly as possible. Then ask yourself: "Why do I do this? When did I start doing this? What changes do I need to make?" Be careful not to reprimand yourself or think that a mistake ruins a day's worth of healthy eating behaviors. It takes time, but your new behaviors will eventually become better habits. You can do it! It just takes one day at a time!

At The Michaud Method, we understand that dieting is challenging for many people. That is why we have worked on perfecting our system to help our clients stay on track - whether it is losing fat, gaining muscle, or weight maintenance. We have implemented several elements- customizing a workout plan, structuring calorie and macros targets, tracking data, taking progress photos and body measurements, and much more - to ensure our clients feel supported and get results. Our clients work one-on-one with their coach and have unlimited access outside designated sessions via text, email, and calls. All these elements add to the accountability process and help our clients achieve their fitness goals.

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