You’ve probably heard it said—and have undoubtedly experienced for yourself—that habits are hard to break. Who among us hasn’t tried to quit smoking or attempted to decrease their prime time TV snacking? Yes, bad habits are hard to break—luckily, so are good ones.
Please allow me to illustrate by way of my experience with peanut butter. I like peanut butter. And occasionally I’d like nothing more than to splurge on a whole jar of it. I get the really creamy kind and, after dipping my spoon, I allow most of the mouthwatering goo to slide back into the jar—which allows me to believe I’m not really eating that much. After all, how many peanut butter calories could possibly remain after drizzling most of it back into its jar?
Good Habit #1
Fortunately, I have a firmly established habit of weighing or measuring ALL my food (even the “unlimited” ones like raw veggies). It’s so firmly entrenched, in fact, that NOT doing it is uncomfortable. So no matter how badly a part of me wants unconstrained and (unmeasured) access to that jar, my good habit won’t allow it.
Technically, I can have all the peanut butter I want—I just have to weigh it. I can even eat it with my spoon straight out of the jar by putting the nut-butter filled container on the scale and zeroing it out. Now we can really see how much peanut butter remains on the spoon, for as I remove the spoon, the number on the scale drops to reveal the true amount! It turns out it’s quite a bit more than I thought, and if you multiply it times five dunks of the spoon, well, that’s a lot of peanut butter calories.
Good Habit #2
I also like nuts in their whole, natural state, and every time I get them out to make a delicious pistachio mustard dressing or chop some up for a salad, I’m tempted to pop one (or two or three...) into my mouth. Instead, I take this as a perfect opportunity to reinforce another good habit—eating only while seated. So again, I can eat all the nuts I want—I just have to sit down to enjoy them (after weighing them, of course).
Y’all, these two healthy food habits can take you a long way in your pursuit of a nutrient-dense diet style. For one thing, they are discipline-builders—delaying the fulfillment of an urge builds self-control. Even if you go ahead and eat the sea-salt kettle chips or cheesecake Haagen Dazs, taking the time to weigh how much you’re eating slows things down a bit and activates your prefrontal cortices, where your inhibition centers reside. The intentional act of putting those chips on the scale requires thought—you can no longer operate on autopilot. And it’s this unconscious, autopilot eating that packs on the calories (and pounds).
For the next week, commit to weighing everything you eat at home and sitting down to eat every bite. Make no exception—weigh and sit whether you’re eating nutrient-dense fruits and veggies or deep-fried pork rinds (yes, I used to eat those.).