Here’s an interesting study which demonstrates that compulsive eating is related to changes in brain chemistries, which is similiar to other substance addictions.

At around 10 o’clock this morning I started noticing my typical signs of hunger- growling stomach, headache, difficulty concentrating, so I ate a few nuts.  About a half an hour later, my hunger came back.  I knew that eating more nuts would not satisfy me….what I really wanted was to eat my lunch! My initial thought was, “I already ate breakfast and it’s only 10:30 in the morning, I can’t eat my lunch.  I can’t eat lunch earlier than 11:30.“   Suddenly I realized that this was a completely unreasonable rule.  Who says you can’t eat your lunch at l0:30 in the morning?  I am sure that this thought came from our society and years of  being in environments (school, work), which have taught me to eat lunch at noon.  But in my current life, I can choose when and what I want to eat.   So, today, for the first time in my life, I ate my nicely packed lunch which included a salad, yogurt, and fruit at 10:30 in the morning and I was completely satisfied. 🙂 

The reason that I’m sharing this with you is that I think it’s important for everyone to listen to the voices in your head (or in your stomach :)); try to recognize any “food rules” that are dictating your eating; and to start to challenge them. Obviously my body was telling me that I needed food, if I had ignored it and ate “when it was time”, I probably would have had a completely different experience- extreme hunger, eating fast, probably overeating, then feeling sick, and possibly guilt.  But, instead, I chose to listen to my body, honor my hunger, and ignore external cues for eating (time).  The end result was feeling fueled properly, pleasure, and contentment.

After a month of practicing being a mindful eater, my client came to my office yesterday with an interesting analogy about his eating behavior.  He said, “It’s like when I’m driving a car and I see the stop sign, but, I don’t stop and I keep on driving.”   Basically, he was trying to tell me that while observing his eating behavior, he has been able to recognize his harmful behaviors, but he can’t seem to stop himself from doing them.

I’m sure that everyone has experienced this in one way or another: You recognize your own bad habit, but, you can’t seem to make yourself change it.

One of my own worst habits is excessive gum chewing.  I think I chew at least 5 pieces per day.  Now, even though it’s sugarless, my intuition tells me it can’t be healthy to chew so much gum.  I have thought about changing for several years.  Why haven’t I made the change? It serves a purpose for me (the benefits of chewing gum outweigh the risks).  For me chewing gum, keeps my mouth feeling clean and fresh, it prevents me from snacking unnecessarily, and may even prevent tooth decay.   The only real negative that I am aware of is that it doesn’t look pretty to see a person chewing gum.  However, if it suddenly became known that chewing gum was harmful for my health, I would make more of an effort to find a substitute for the gum immediately.

My point is, a change in behavior (no matter how big or small) can only happen if:

  1. You’re aware of the behavior
  2. You want to change the behavior/ It’s important for you to change (the benefits changing outweigh the risks of continuing the habit)
  3. You know how to make the change
  4. You feel confident that you can make the change.

For my client, he’s done the first step of being aware of his behavior, but, he’s stuck because he doesn’t think it’s important enough to change his bad behavior, he doesn’t know how to do it, and/or he doesn’t think he can do it.

These are some things that I encourage you to think about for any bad habit you’re trying to change!

Sounds simple…but, it’s definitely not easy….:)