Find your eating triggers by doing something new

Close animal encounters, new guests from around the world and daily changes in weather mean that no two days in the bush are the same. The exception, though, as my friend and I were discussing, is the first hour of every morning, and we weren’t talking about the always-magnificent sunrise. We were referring to the early morning coffee ritual. It’s a rare occurrence for staff, and guests, not to start the day this way. And with coffee comes rusks, and one rusk is invariably followed by another. Eventually this became something we don’t even think about anymore, and yet we’ve repeated it every day since we started our lodge work adventures.

How did this happen? Two triggers: 1) the situation or environment and 2) the forming of a habit in that environment. These are two of a handful of triggers which make us eat or drink something even if we’re not really hungry or thirsty. Do you get home, sink into the couch (environment) and then immediately put on the TV and open a packet of chips (habit)? Or give the kids their early dinner (situation) and then finish what they left on their plates (habit)? Or always buy a chocolate at the tills of a certain store, or have brunch with your friends after pilates, or have two burgers on Wednesdays even though you just need one but it’s what you and your friends have always done? The list goes on and on.

Being forced out of our routines is a good way to become aware of any habitual eating we may be doing. And it doesn’t have to be a showdown with a hyena that changes your schedule – it can be a long weekend, exercising before instead of after work, shopping at a different store, or removing your watch on weekends so that you don’t associate eating with a specific time. If you’re prone to opening those chips after work, place a fruit in front of the packet on the shelf – if you’re not hungry enough to eat the fruit, you shouldn’t be eating those chips! Have them occasionally as a treat, but not out of habit or because you’re hungry. If you are hungry, then you can start a new habit of either eating something healthier, eating dinner earlier, or making sure your afternoon snack is a little more substantial.

So go on, do something different this week to shake up your routine – catch some waves, have lunch outside, get up earlier, sleep when you’re tired, start planning an island getaway. Or if you can’t change your schedule, try to be more aware of what’s happening in your surroundings and whether something always triggers an eating response. Being aware of a habit allows us to adjust our behaviour, and every little adjustment is a step closer to healthier active living.

Image sourced from Pinterest

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