Oceanside Nutrition
Matt Priven, MS RDN
Apples EDIT.jpg


Changing Your Eating Habits (Switching Off Autopilot)

Whether we’re aware of them or not, we all have eating habits. These are eating behaviors that just happen. They are habitual. While we’re busy thinking about other aspects of our lives, we’re subconsciously sinking deeper into familiar grooves, using muscle memory to make sure that we’re getting the food we need to survive. We're on autopilot. For some of us, it’s reaching for that same bowl of cereal every morning. For others, it’s stopping at Dunkin' Donuts on the way to work. And for others, it’s waiting until mid-afternoon before remembering to eat something. 

When we’re trying to make changes to our eating behaviors, we often underestimate how incredibly lost we will feel when we leave our familiar grooves. Suddenly autopilot is switched off and we’re in charge of a thousand micro-decisions that we previously did not have to think about. 

Anytime you’re given a nutrition recommendation that you want to put into practice, you’re taking on the challenge of replacing an old habit with a new, (hopefully) healthier habits. But this transition doesn’t happen immediately. There is always a period of time when we are habit-less. We have shaken loose our old way of doing things, but we can't quite switch the autopilot back on with our new behavior. We have to get through the storm. It takes time, patience, and resilience. But remember, when we truly get in the habit of healthy eating, it’s easy. It doesn’t take willpower or even brainpower. It just happens. 

A few tips for navigating the storm while you’re trying to get a new, healthy habit into place:

  1. Adjust your habitat. Sometimes the best way to navigate the storm is to change the weather. So overhaul the food you keep in the house and the restaurants you frequent in order to make healthy eating easier. 

  2. If you are trying to completely overhaul your eating habits, start small. Break off a small goal, like eating a healthy breakfast everyday, and then establish that goal as a habit before moving on. 

  3. Use the right language. Don’t speak about yourself as someone who is “trying to eat healthier.” Confidently say that you are someone who “chooses healthy foods most of the time.” When we start to identify with the person we want to be, it becomes easier to be that person. 

  4. Make it your passion. Get excited about healthy eating. Get a few great cookbooks. Devour YouTube videos about healthy cooking. Connect with others who share the passion. Find a way to make it fun. 

  5. Make sure you're working to build habits based on sound nutrition advice. Restrictive diets and healthy eating are not the same thing.