zen habits : breathe

How to Change Your Eating Patterns

By Leo Babauta

Many of us are trapped in our old, hardened eating patterns.

In fact, we might not even be aware of the patterns, but we do know that 1) we’d like to get healthier or leaner; 2) we have a hard time making eating changes; 3) we don’t always know how to change.

Those are good realizations! It means we have to humble ourselves, and find a way to put ourselves into an area of uncertainty and discomfort in order to change.

Some common eating patterns that are difficult to change:

And more, of course. These are just some common examples. Do you have any of these? Are there others you aren’t aware of but that keep you locked into a less-than-healthy lifestyle?

If you’re ready to make a change, let’s look at how to change our eating patterns.

What Gets in the Way

Before we look at how to change the patterns, let’s take a look at the common obstacles. Don’t get discouraged by this list! Changing is definitely possible, as my own life shows. I’ve changed my entire diet completely, and while I’m not perfect by any means, I have confidence in my ability to change my patterns if I want to.

Some common obstacles:

OK, that might seem like a lot of obstacles. But being aware of them is key, and now that we’ve looked at them, let’s talk about some solutions, and how to shake up our eating patterns.

Shaking Up the Patterns

I’m usually a fan of slow changes, but lately I’ve been realizing that it can be helpful to really give our patterns a good shakeup.

How do we do that? By giving ourselves a line to stick to.

Here’s what I mean: when we meditate, by trying to focus our attention on our breath … it becomes very obvious once our attention wanders to a chain of thoughts. Without the line drawn in the sand — trying to stick to watching the breath — it’s hard to notice the mental patterns of impatience, frustration, harshness, retreating into our stories, rationalizing, etc. The breath is the line that we try to stick to, and the line helps us see what’s going on.

So create a line to stick to for eating patterns.

I recommend that your line be a meal plan, that you try to stick to for one month.

By trying to stick to a meal plan, it becomes very obvious when you binge, or eat a bunch of afternoon snacks, or breakfast on pastries and a latte. Your patterns start to become obvious.

And when you learn that you can actually stick to the meal plan, the patterns start to fall apart. You’re aware of them, but no longer beholden to them. You start to free yourself.

Here’s what I recommend:

So that’s the plan: make a simple, healthy meal plan and stick to it every day for a month (with two free meals a day). Clean up your food environment, don’t make it a super sacrifice. Yes, this is a bit boring. But if you rebel against that, it shows you a pattern — you need excitement in your food! But actually that’s not something we need to get from food — it’s not entertainment, it’s sustenance.

You’ll start to see your patterns if you try this plan. You’ll become very aware of what you’re rebelling against, what your failures are (and why), and you’ll be able to focus on those and get better at them.

Finding a Fresh Alternative

What happens when the month is over? Must we stick to a meal plan forever? No, but we can now step outside our old patterns and choose a fresh alternative.

Like what? Some ideas for alternatives to our old patterns:

I’m not going to tell you what alternatives you should choose, but only recommend that you allow yourself some time to contemplate how you’d like to live.

Fresh alternatives are available once we shine a light on our old patterns, and break away from them.

Course: How to Stick to a Lean-Out Diet

If you’d like to go deeper into these topics, and challenge yourself to stick to a meal plan this month … I’m offering a course for my Sea Change members called “How to Stick to a Lean-Out Diet“. It’s just a way to create a healthy meal plan and stick to it for the month, but it’ll be a good exploration of all the topics above.

Join us now to get access to the course (and a challenge with weekly reporting): Sea Change Program.

In this monthly membership program, you get access to:

I’d love it if you joined me today.



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