Monday, December 22, 2008

Habit-A-Week Challenge, Week 11: Find Alternatives to Eating

It's week 11 (since we skipped a week) of the Habit-A-Week Challenge. How's your brick wall looking? Solid, or does it still have some gaps here and there? You can always go back later and work on the habits that are hard for you, or if you started late, go back and do the first ones later. Just be sure to only choose *one* habit to work on each week; if you try to do more, you might get sick of it and burn out. One per week makes it easy, and if you keep each habit, you build up a very healthy lifestyle in the end.

For the previous 10 Healthy Habits, check here for week 10 and here for weeks 1 through 9.

This week's healthy habit is: Find Alternatives to Eating. Now, you're wondering, "what the heck is she talking about?" Here's what I mean. Many times we are tempted to eat for reasons other than hunger: boredom, anger, happiness, comfort, panic, sadness, celebration, or loneliness. There are always lots of reasons to eat, but unless it's part of your healthy eating plan or your planned indulgences, you might rather have an alternative with less calories so that you can continue to lose weight or maintain your goal.

When you're in the middle of the anger or boredom or whatever, it's tough to stop and think of something else to do rather than eat. Those Doritos sound like just what you need. The cookies are calling to you. Nothing else sounds good enough. But what if you had a LIST of things already made, with alternatives to eating? There are lots of benefits to this:

1) Waiting out a craving has been shown to be effective most of the time. Usually, if you are having a craving or are just wanting to eat, if you wait ten or fifteen minutes, the craving will pass. By having a list of alternatives to eating, you have something to fill those ten or fifteen minutes, and perhaps when you are done the craving will be done as well.

2) Some activities are incompatible with eating. It's hard to cram Pringles in your face while playing tennis; it's just as tough to eat a burger and fries while painting your nails or taking a shower. Just substituting an incompatible activity for "sitting around wanting to eat" will make it much less likely for you to indulge.

3) You might burn some calories with your alternative activities if they include things like taking a walk, exercising, or lifting weights. You might get some important things done, like working on your scrapbooks, making phone calls, or paying bills. Or you could do both, if you do something like cleaning the house.

When you get in the mood to eat and hunger isn't the problem... when you are sufficiently nourished physically... eating can cause you some negative consequences: guilt, weight gain, sluggishness, sadness. If you do something positive from your list instead of eating each time you get the urge, just think of all the wonderful things you will accomplish in addition to losing weight! It's like getting two-for-one!

Sit down (you're already sitting down so that's a great start) and make your list. You can type it on the computer (you're already at the computer... wow, you are doing great so far!) and then print it out to hang on the fridge or have handy when you need it. Or if you're a pen-and-paper kind of person, you can write it out that way. Add to your list as you think of more alternatives to eating. Then every single time you are tempted to eat (but don't need to or shouldn't), get out your list, pick something, and do it. If picking is hard for you, just go down the list in order.

Here's a sampling of what you could put on your list (including some things that are on mine):

Walk the dog
Play with the cat
Treadmill/Exercise bike
Cut up carrots and celery for snacks later
Prep a big salad to keep in the fridge
Wash dishes/clean the kitchen
Read a chapter from a book
Read a magazine
Go to the library
Dust the living room
Clean toilets (this is very effective for me in killing the cravings)
Do yard work
Call a friend
Play a musical instrument (or learn to)
Take a bubble bath
Paint your nails
Give yourself a pedicure
Give yourself a facial
Vacuum and sweep
Work on photo albums/scrapbooks
Write in a journal/blog
Shave your legs
Sew/knit/cross stitch/make a craft
Work on a collection (stamps, rocks, coins)
Sort a drawer in your house
Bathe your dog
Wash your car
Brush/floss your teeth (another one that works great for me)
Go shopping (NOT for food!)
Visit a friend
Walk in the park
Scrub something dirty
Build something
Paint/take photographs/draw/sculpt
Play with your child

Make your list, check it twice :)
Use it.
Let me know how it goes!


Katschi said...

A great reminder that life isn't ALL about eating :)
Cleaning toilet = craving killer...TOTALLY agree :(
My thoughts are with you, Lyn, in this difficult time. You're an amazingly strong minded woman! I want only the best for you always!

Sabs said...

Great post. My biggest obstacle is boredom, but you have provided some nice things to do instead!

Vickie said...

I think this is a great posting.

Two things that occurred to me as I read your list –

I think it is beneficial to say - beware of substituting shopping for eating! I have read many a blogger that had the three part curse - eating, shopping/$$$, cluttered-ness.

And I wonder how many of us have to STOP some activities when we get our eating under control - because that activity is tightly interwoven with snacking. Quilting comes to mind for me as one that is undistinguishable from eating - quilt and eat. Talking on the phone is another - one hand holds the phone - the other shoves it in my mouth.

I think your suggestion to look for things that are incompatible with eating (like your tennis example) is excellent!!!

Also – just think – if we cleaned toilets (or the bathroom in general) EVERY time we thought about eating – we’d all the immaculate, shiny, TV commercial worthy bathrooms – all the time!!!

Stages of Change said...

Excellent post. Remembering a list of possible actions to do instead of eating is a great asset. And the more its focused on the more those options start to be things you think of automatically. I will be doing this activity!

Granted, theres a good chance I'm not going to shave my legs or paint my nails to avoid eating. And sadly I'm pretty sure I've eaten in the bathtub, so that may not work either.

But really, all great ideas and the overall concept is such an important one.


Nancy said...

Wow, this post was great! Exactly what I needed. I'm gonna make my list and use a lot of the suggestions you provided. Thanks so much!

CactusFreek said...

Hey :o)
This list is awesome!

Vicky Delgada said...

This is an awesome list indeed! Now if only, I will remember to clean the toilet next time I get a craving!

May I join you on the challenge?


Lyn said...


join right in!