Private: 3 Eating Behaviors That Are Derailing You


    After hearing so many people tell me about their struggles to stay motivated and consistent with healthy eating, I realized that there are some common themes that keep coming up over and over again.

    They often say things like “I just need to try harder” or “Yesterday was a total disaster, I’ll start over today,” or “I need more willpower.” The truth is, our eating behaviors can be complex. Blaming and shaming ourselves is not going to make the situation any better. However, understanding what is going on at a deeper level is often what is needed. 

  2. I’ve identified three distinct eating styles that many of us have adopted at one point or another that derail us from our healthiest selves. Take the quiz below and find out which one (or more) applies to you and what you can do to take back control.

    Quiz Time!

    1. On average, how many hours of sleep do you get per night?
    A. Less than 6 hours
    B. 6-7 hours
    C. 7-8 hours
    D. 8+ hours

  3.  2. How would you describe your current daily stress level?

    A. Very High – Both daily and major on-going stressors (i.e. divorce, an ailing parent, financial)
    B. Medium to High – Daily stress (busy schedule/job) but no major on-going stressors
    C. Varies – But when I stress I avoid thinking about it and reach for the chips
    D. Manageable – Some daily stress but no major on-going stressors

    3. Which best describes your hunger levels throughout the day?
    A. On many days I feel hungry all day long
    B. Normal – Hungry at meal times but sometimes I eat just because food is there and I’m not actually hungry
    C. Normal, but I tend to snack too much at night, even though I think I eat enough during the day
    D.Normal – I am hungry at meal times

    4. How often do you consume artificial sweeteners? (Diet sodas, chewing gum, sugar-free foods, etc.)

    A. A lot/daily
    B. Once a day
    C. A few times per week
    D. Hardly ever

    5. You eat foods made with white flour… (bagels, bread, crackers, white pasta, pizza dough, chips, pastries, etc.)

    A. Throughout the day
    B. Sometimes
    C. It depends, but usually when I do it turns into a binge
    D. Rarely or Never

    6. It’s lunchtime but you’re busy at work trying to make a deadline. You…

    A. Skip lunch (but make up for it later by having a bigger dinner or more snacks).
    B. Scarf down your lunch while you’re working in front of the computer.
    C. You might eat your lunch but the stress from earlier makes you indulge later that night.
    D. Eat a healthy lunch and make sure you take time to get up and move a bit

    7. When I overeat, it’s usually because:
    A. What I’m eating doesn’t fill me up and/or my cravings are really intense
    B. I’m distracted or rushed or feel pressured to eat in social situations.
    C. I’m bored, lonely, sad, stressed, or I just feel like relaxing.
    D. It happens on occasion but not enough to be a big concern for me. I always feel in control of my eating habits.

  4. 8. I take time to do something just for me:

    A. I plan to but it doesn’t happen
    B. Most days of the week
    C. Rarely or Never
    D. Daily

    9. What do you believe is your biggest struggle when it comes to eating healthy?

    A. Lack of planning healthy meals so you just eat whatever is available.
    B. Not paying enough attention to my food choices or how much I’m eating.
    C. I feel like eating junk food to help me feel better when I’ve had a tough day.
    D. I rarely struggle with making healthy food choices.

    10. When I’ve slept enough the night before but my energy is low it is usually because I…
    A. Miss meals or don’t drink enough water.
    B. I have no idea how the food I’m eating impacts my energy levels.
    C. Feel lethargic because I ate too much the night before.
    D. It’s because of the lack of sleep. I still eat pretty healthily, as planned.


    If You Answered Mostly A’s….


    You May Be Overstimulating Your Appetite

    Some of your eating and lifestyle habits are sending your appetite into overdrive. No need to worry, by making some simple food swaps and upgrading your self-care you can get your hunger under control and burn more fat all day long.

    Some of the behaviors that are getting in your way: 

    Skipping meals

    Whether intentional or unplanned, skipping meals is a bad idea. Skipping meals to save calories just doesn’t work. You’re hunger level will be out of control when you finally do eat and you’re likely to eat tempting foods instead of lean and green foods. 

    Eating White Foods

    Foods made with enriched, white flour (also known as high glycemic/ high GI foods) will skyrocket your blood sugar in no time at all. The quick burst of energy will soon disappear and you’re cravings for more “white foods” will intensify. Trade in your white-flour based foods for whole-wheat and high-fiber foods. 

    High Stress

    Chronic stress can trigger your appetite into overdrive. Ghrelin, a hormone which plays a major role in hunger, is elevated when stress is high. When we’re stressed we often want to eat something crunchy like chips. Try carrots or celery sticks with hummus instead! 

    Low-Quality Sleep

    Have you ever noticed that when you don’t get a good night’s sleep the next day your hunger is out of control? Again, hormones are at play. When you’re physically low on energy, hunger is stimulated because calories are energy and your body wants to create some energy ASAP. 

    Not Eating Enough Fiber

    Highly processed, packaged foods tend to be severely lacking in fiber. If you have too much of them in your diet you’re not getting the benefit of fiber to fill you up. Focus on getting in a rainbow of fruits and vegetables and high-fiber grains and legumes and you’ll see how much more satisfied you will be in between meals.

    Not Eating Enough at Meal Times

    Don’t make the mistake of eating tiny meals throughout the day. You’ll never feel full and feel like you are always looking for something to eat. Keeping a food journal and measuring portion sizes can help you see if you are truly eating enough at each meal.

     Eating Too Much Hidden Sugar

    You’d be surprised at how many food products in your supermarket are loaded with added sugar. Fortunately, in the U.S., the new food labels coming out in 2018 will specifically show how much added sugar is in each food item. Read labels and compare brands. Get the one with the lowest sugar grams. 

    Artificial Sweeteners Are Stimulating Your Appetite

    You think you’ve done a good thing but cutting excess sugar from your diet but if you’re replacing that sugar with fake sugar, you might be surprised. Sugar substitutes are sometimes thousands of times more sweet than sugar and can cause your sugar cravings to increase dramatically.


    If You Answered Mostly B’s….


    You May Be Mindlessly Munching

    Extra calories are sneaking into your diet causing you to eat more than you need. The good news is that with some simple planning and more awareness you can shed the weight once and for all!

     Some of the behaviors that are getting in your way:

     Eating Just Because Food is There

    Whether you’re picking food that your kid didn’t eat from her plate, perusing the donuts someone brought into the office, or taking every free sample you’re offered while grocery shopping, you just can’t say no to food. You don’t even realize how much all those little bites add up to over the course of the day. Journaling and just making a point to pay attention to your thoughts when food is available will help you distinguish between true hunger or if you are just triggered by your habits.

    Eating In A Hurry

    It takes 20 minutes for the brain to register fullness. If you are eating too fast it can be very easy to miss this signal and overeat. Slow down and try to only eat at meal times (no multi-tasking allowed)!

    Distracted Eating

    Distracted eating and eating fast tend to go hand in hand. When you eat while doing other things you miss out on fully enjoying your food with all five senses. It’s also way easier to overeat because you’re not paying attention to portion sizes or hunger. It may be unrealistic for you to eat every meal distraction-free but starting with one a day can go a long way.

    Unaware of Portion Sizes

    We all know that restaurant portion sizes can be astronomical but so too can many of the packaged foods you buy at the supermarket. Does anyone really eat half a cup of ice cream or drink half a bottle of juice (a 20 oz. bottle that is)? Fortunately, the new food labels here in the U.S. are going to correct some of these portion sizes. It’s still up to us, as consumers, to figure out how many portions we are really eating and how likely we are to overconsume without even knowing it.


    Pressure To Eat in Social Situations

    Most social situations revolve around food. Celebrations, work events, school events, parties and holiday gatherings bring us all together to eat and drink way more than we may have intended. It’s best to plan ahead what you will have so you’re not tempted to overdo it.

    Not Aware of Sneaky Calories

    Remember back in the 90’s when there were a ton of fat-free and low-fat cookies, chips, ice creams and other snack foods? Just because something is fat-free does not mean it’s calorie-free. The same applies whether it’s calories, points, carbs, or sugar. Condiments, extra croutons, a handful of crackers, a couple pieces of candy…it all adds up at the end of the day!

    Not Tracking or Journaling Your Food

    What does not get measured, does not get mastered. Do you have to track your food intake forever? No way. But committing to journaling for a few days or a week will reveal a lot more about your triggers and habits than simply trying to recall everything you ate in one day. By journaling, you also have the opportunity to get really honest with yourself and uncover blind spots in your eating behaviors that you might not even be aware of. 

    Unplanned Eating

     If you’ve ever gone to the mall to buy a shirt and walk past the food court and suddenly find yourself with a salted pretzel, that’s unplanned eating. Food is everywhere so you can find yourself in tempting situations throughout the day. The more you can pack your own lunch and prepare your meals ahead of time the less likely you’ll be to go for what’s convenient.  

    If You Answered Mostly C’s….


    You May Be Feeding Emotional Hunger With Food

    Dealing with uncomfortable feelings can trigger you to eat, even when you’re not hungry. By paying extra attention to your eating habits you can identify what you’re truly hungry for so you can fill that void, without food, and naturally, lose weight while feeling happy and fulfilled

    Some of the behaviors that are getting in your way: 


    Life seems to move faster. Work demands rise. Expenses go up. The gap between the life you have and the life you want seems to widen like the San Andreas fault-line each day. Attention spans are short and expectations are high. You compare yourself to the filtered photos you see on Instagram and think you’re falling short even though you are making progress. There is this underlying feeling of “not good enough” that plagues you and some days it just all gets to be too much. When we’re overwhelmed with life sometimes we check out mentally by snacking and watching mindless tv. Instead, try meditation, taking up a relaxing hobby, or going for a walk outside. Talking to a friend will also alleviate some of the overwhelm and put you in a much better frame of mind. 

    Loneliness and Sadness

    Two very common reasons for overeating are to quell feelings of loneliness and sadness. Interestingly, research has shown that people who perceive themselves as isolated and feel invisible are the ones who feel the most alone. It doesn’t matter how many social media friends you have or if you’re in a relationship; if those relationships don’t meet your needs you will feel lonely. Sadness stemming from loss, confusion, hurt feelings, and lack of control also can trigger binge-eating behaviors.

     Need For Control

    Emotional eaters sometimes eat because they do not have a sense of control over some part or (parts) of their lives. Feeling powerless over your circumstances is painful and eating is one way to dull the pain, temporarily. The real issue with this behavior is that our locus of control is off. We attribute control in our lives internally (I have control) or externally (others control my life). When you strengthen your internal locus on control you can take charge of your life, feel self-motivated and self-assured. While you may not always be able to control your circumstances, you can always control your reactions. 

    Decision Fatigue

  5. Did you know that we make nearly 35,000 decisions each day? Of those decisions, about 226 are related to food! Making decisions all day long at work can really wear us down at night. When it comes time to decide what to eat for dinner the quality of your choices can deterioate. Take the need for decision-making out of the equation and plan your meals ahead of time as much as possible.

    Using Food as a Reward

    Growing up, many of us were told we had to finish our dinner if we wanted dessert. Did you fall off your bike and get a cookie as a reward? Studies show that children who are rewarded with food are more likely to become emotional eaters later in life. We can reverse this pattern by using non-food rewards to drive desired behaviors.

    Avoiding Difficult Situations – Distracting yourself

  6. We sometimes avoid difficult situations with a variety of behaviors – procrastination, distractions, complaining, blaming, and hiding. Emotional eaters who are “avoiders” often use food to numb out the bad feelings and pretend those difficult situations don’t exist. Again, it’s a temporary “band-aid” to a problem and will result in extra weight and poor health if it becomes a habit. When we avoid, we tend to project the situation is a million times worse than it actually is. Better to deal with it and get relief from it being over than to hang on to the suffering.


    You Need More Self-Care

     Food is not a replacement for self-care. You need to take time for yourself to feel centered, grounded, and reduce stress. Using food to cope with lack of self-care takes us further away from awareness of what we really need. Make sure to take some time each day, even just a few minutes if that is all you have, to breathe, stretch, journal, or anything else that feels good for a few moments.

    You Have a Fear of Success

         It’s so strange to think you might be afraid of success, isn’t it? When things  start going well and you suddenly find yourself messing it all up, welcome to self-sabotage. If you’ve ever tried to lose weight and keep getting stuck at the same weight, or keep regaining and losing the same weight over and over again, fear of success may be at play. What if you really do achieve your goal? Will their be more pressure? Will my overweight friends still accept me? Overcoming the fear of success is complex, and requires us to stand in our truth and be willing to be exposed, take the lead in our lives, and be comfortable with the discomfort.


    If You Answered Mostly D’s….


    You’re a Healthy Balanced Eater

    While nobody eats perfectly healthy all of the time, you come pretty close. You don’t stress much about food and are mindful of your food choices. You have developed an excellent mind-body connection and really know which foods help you feel perform your best. You have a healthy relationship with food and enjoy indulgences in moderation. You hardly ever veer too far off track and when you do you are able to pull in the reigns. Living this way may not have come naturally to you in the beginning, but you’ve learned how to eat in a way that satisfies and nourishes you and over time that has become almost effortless. Keep up the good work!



    Which eating behavior do you struggle with most?

    Comment below! 




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