Friday, June 10, 2011

Reality Bites: Lessons from TLC’s Freaky Eaters

By JJ Virgin

Not a day goes by where someone doesn’t share with me their food or drink “habit” and ask me if they are a “Freaky Eater”.  By our show’s definition, a freaky eater is someone who has taken an eating habit to the extreme and it is damaging their health, their relationships and their finances. They are quite often in denial about it, they hide their habit and they are powerless to stop.  While it is unlikely that your “habit” has reached that magnitude (if it has, we are casting for Season 3!) but I believe that nearly everyone has a bit of a freaky eating habit that could be keeping them from being their very best.
Fortunately you can use the same format that we have created on the show to turn around the toughest of cases in a week or less.  These are people who have been struggling for years, sometimes even decades and if they can do it, you definitely can….that is, if you want to.
It all starts with acknowledgment.  You need to come clean that there is a behavior/habit that you would like to change. By the way this can apply to staying up to late, skipping your workouts, etc. but for now we are going to focus on food.  Let’s say that you have the bad habit of snacking at night. 
Start a food journal so you can capture exactly what and how much you are eating at night.  By doing this you can really see the magnitude of what you are doing.  If you are eating a few extra hundred calories each night, and most likely these are the worst type of calories – refined carb and sugar calories, this can undermine everything you are doing as it is telling your body to store fat all night long and those extra calories gotta go somewhere.   Look at what this behavior is doing to your overall health - is it stopping you from being as lean, energetic and vibrant as you could be?  Is it getting in the way of your relationship (how about quitting the snacking and spending some cuddle time with your spouse instead?)  Are you wasting money on these treats?  It all adds up and you need to take a hard look at what you are really doing to yourself.
Next set up a course of action.  On the show there are two strategies we employ here. First we add before we take away.  I would make sure that you are eating enough at your 3 meals so that you aren’t hungry at night. I would add a glass of water as it was shown in a University of Chicago study that an 8 ounce glass of water shut down 100% of midnight hunger pangs.  Then we use lateral shifts. Quite often this means replacing a less healthy food with a healthier option like replacing ice cream with Greek-style yogurt topped with berries and sliced almonds.  However it can also mean replacing a bad habit with an incompatible one.  For example, instead of reaching for a snack, go relax in a hot bath with a great book. 
Figure out what will work for you here and lay out your action steps to make it happen.  Start easy, don’t give yourself more than three things to do and make sure that they are things you can have success with.
Get support while you are changing your habit.  You need to accountable to someone. The going might get a little rough during the transition and if you can call a friend or a coach and get talked down it can help ensure your success.   By the way, we have set up special one month coaching programs for this very reason (link here) so if you don’t have a friend you feel comfortable discussing this with, we are here to help.  You will probably find that you not only have a friend who will help, he or she will probably want the favor returned so they can break their own “freaky food habit”.

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