Claire’s Creating Change

Claire is a stay-at-home mom of three young children. She is well-organized and excels at taking care of her family. Eating is her only problem. She doesn’t understand why she can’t control her eating habits when she is able to control everything else in life. She rarely eats during the day while she fixes meals for her toddlers, except some of their leftovers and a few snacks. By the time she’s sitting down for supper, she feels famished and often has a second helping, despite feeling full after her first. Once her children are in bed is Claire’s real “danger time.” After giving so much to her family all day, she feels she deserves a treat and takes her favourite sweet treat, chocolate covered almonds, to the couch to enjoy. By the time her show is over, she looks down to find her entire bag is gone. Claire feels like a failure; she promised herself last night that she wasn’t going to do this again.

“New year, new you!” I think we’ve all heard this timeless sentiment over, and over during the season of resolutions. We forget about the past and focus on making this year our best one yet – which I’m fully supportive of, and I believe most health care clinicians would agree. Behaviour change is a large part of a dietitian’s job – guiding others to create the change they’ve been craving in their lives, and to reach their health goals. With our fast-paced society and constant multitasking, goals we set and often methods of reaching them may not be rooted in the healthiest facets. To prevent the February “goal slump” this year, I have created a checklist with some great solutions to get you back on track and creating lasting change for 2018. If you’re feeling any of Claire’s sentiments, or that you’re ready to get in control of your eating, try one of the tips below!

Checklist for change:

Tick off the technique you’re going to try this week to curb unwanted cravings!

  • Nurture, rather than nourish yourself.

Starting from childhood, utilizing food for comfort is a learned behaviour. We look to our favourite bag of chips as a solstice after a long day at work, or reward ourselves for going to the gym by having a dessert. As a child, birthday cake was a once a year treat, and you may have gotten a candy for doing well on a test. So how can we break this learned behaviour? Create a list of ways to nurture yourself, without the use of food. This may be taking a bath, cuddling your pet, or snuggling up with a good book and a cup of tea. Plan to be able to do these on your own, and with little time and money so that they can be an easy “go-to reward.” Next, be sure to utilize these comforts often, not only when you feel desperate or awful. Aim to do at least one of these daily – make feeling good the new norm!

  • Quench your thirst.

You find yourself looking for something to eat. You start with a few crackers, but that doesn’t satisfy it…so you reach for some chocolate chips…no, that’s not it either. You wander around the kitchen aimlessly snacking but nothing seems to hit the spot. Sound familiar? Often in these situations we’re truly thirsty, not hungry. This means no matter how many snacks you try, you’ll never feel satisfied. To keep these cravings at bay, make sure always have a water bottle with you, drink a glass before each meal and before each snack. This will help you check in whether you’re truly hungry or not.

  • Ambush your triggers.

Just as Claire sat on the couch with her evening snack, many of us simply eat out of boredom. Often these “trigger times” are when our lives aren’t as scheduled – such as weekends, holidays, or evenings. It may also be around certain people, or in particular situations. The first step to changing this behaviour is to identify these high-risk times, being as specific as possible such as evening snacking during the week. Once you’ve identified this high risk time – plan an ambush! This could be scheduling an evening walk, volunteering on weekends, or knitting while watching TV instead of snacking to keep your hands busy.

Set one of these strategies as an intentional goal, and start taking control of your eating habits today!

Checklist for change strategies adapted from Craving Change workbook.