I often find that it’s the habits we have formed along the way that derail us in our health journey. Whether it’s a snack mid afternoon as a pick me up – that’s eaten out of habit not hunger.
Or the glass of wine poured while cooking that’s not necessarily wanted, but has become habitual. This month I am going to take the most common habits that I find with clients in clinic and come up with some simple suggestions that you can use to break these habits.
Mid morning coffee
This is very common and, while I don’t have a problem with the occasional cup of coffee in someone that doesn’t suffer from stress, anxiety or insomnia, it becomes a problem if it becomes a habit. If you find yourself driving out of your way to visit your favourite coffee shop, or planning your day around your coffee break – then you probably have a problem! The key to break this is to move slowly.
First switch that full caffeine hit for a decaffeinated coffee. Try this for a week. If all’s good then you can start switching the decaffeinated coffee for something else. There’s chicory coffee, which is naturally decaffeinated, or try a turmeric latte to replace your cappuccino so you are still getting the milky taste.
A green tea is a very good alternative if you are prone to stress or anxiety. Green tea contains a compound called l-theanine, which helps to reduce the fight or flight response to stressful events and promotes a more relaxed state of mind.
The glass of wine while cooking
I see this in clinic a lot. Wine drinking in the evenings has become very habitual and suddenly you can find that you drink every night even when you are alone. Wine is very high in sugar and I often see clients who would never reach for a sugary snack or chocolate bar that seem to forget that those couple of glasses of wine every night actually contain the same amount of sugar as a chocolate bar.
Alcohol is easy to form a habit with as when you drink it you release a neurotransmitter called GABA, which relaxes you and makes you feel good. However alcohol can lead to huge blood sugar fluctuations and, if we drink too much, can impact our food choices even the next day.
Try switching that glass of wine for a glass of kombucha. Kombucha is a slightly fizzy fermented tea drink. You can either make your own or buy in supermarkets. I have had a client recently who made the switch a few nights a week from her glass of red wine to kombucha and she loves it!
The mid afternoon sugary snack
You’re tired, lunch seems a long time ago and you need something to get you through to evening so you reach for that sugary snack. Unfortunately this can then lead to a habit rather than actually resulting from hunger signals. For some the cause of this will be not enough protein at lunchtime or too many refined carbohydrates resulting in a dip in blood sugar and the body crying out for more sugar.
So make sure all your meals contain some protein and cut down on the refined carbs to avoid this. For others the snack is not because we are hungry, but actually due to it becoming a habit. The key here is first to switch that snack to a more healthy choice that includes protein – nuts and seeds; some fruit with some nut butter; some crudities with avocado dip or some hummus.
Then your body won’t be used to getting that 4pm sugar hit and you will gradually find that you don’t need that snack and can wait until your evening meal. Also we often mistake a hunger signal for a thirsty signal, so before you reach for a snack, drink a large glass of water.
Another way to beat that mid afternoon craving is to distract yourself. Go for a walk, have a herbal tea, listen to some music or a podcast, read a book… whatever you enjoy doing!
Breaking habits can be very hard and if they are deeply ingrained can take some time to break so don’t be too hard on yourself. The key is to recognise those unhealthy habits that are derailing you and then taking action against them. Often it’s the ability to recognise them that makes it so much easier.
When I get my clients to fill in a food diary for a week they often come to me saying – wow I didn’t realise quite how much tea I was drinking in a day, or how many times I reached for a sugary snack to get through the day.
• If you need help with your health journey and feel that your habits are derailing you then do get in touch. To book an appointment with Katharine you can contact her on 07769 636352 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For day-to-day healthy inspiration and new recipes follow them on Facebook and Instagram.