25 March 2013

How to Phase Out Bad Eating Habits

This post is written by contributing author Anabel Bouza.

Now that March is well under way, I would like to look back, to January. Remember your new year resolutions? Are you still sticking to them?

How about the ones concerning health and diet?

healthy girl eating veggies
Illustration by Anabel Bouza
This month's theme coincides with my decision to phase out my own bad eating habits. I'm not referring to radical changes that will drain my willpower, or leave me feeling defeated when I fail to stick to the plan (as is the case with so many new year's resolutions) instead, I'm looking to introduce gradual changes that can be sustained on the long term.

Not only is my intention to improve my own health, but also the health of those who benefit from my cookery. Also, I have the suspicion that the progressive replacement of bad habits for good ones will be less likely to meet resistance from hesitant family members... Some may say it's sneaky, I call it the cook's prerogative!

Hearty winter foods are moving aside in favor of lighter spring-summer fare: the time is right to change things up, and the benefits are plentiful.

Banish temptation. Don't bring into your home the foods you are trying to avoid. 
This sounds obvious, but sometimes we set up traps for our future selves inadvertently: think of future you (eat-at-home you), when you're debating whether to buy that guilty snack or not.
Instead of setting up the stage for a wrestling match with yourself later ("Should I have another piece of that salted chocolate caramel?") just leave it on the market shelf.

If you're trying to eat out less, spice up your eat-at-home routine.
Some people do this by creating a choose-your-own-adventure kind of spread: customizing homemade pizzas with fun, healthy toppings, for example. The idea is to serve simply cooked dishes, in small proportions, and to relish the occasion.

Our own version of this involves tapas, those tasty Spanish appetizers. They're a break from the usual 'finish your plate' approach, and make the occasion feel celebratory. You get to sample and mix... and sampling is always fun, right?

In a perfect world, portions would be perfectly sized to fit our needs and not a spoonful more, and there would be no food left on the plate — the #1 cause of upset among grandmothers everywhere. I've been trying to balance the art of the sensibly portioned meal, with the Hara Hachi Bu approach.

Hara Hachi Bu is the practice of eating until you are 8/10 parts full, customary among the residents of Okinawa, Japan.

(Really, it is just common sense: it takes roughly 20 minutes for the brain to register that you've eaten, so when you eat up to the point of feeling full —without giving the brain time to catch up— you end up over eating, in fact.)

This knowledge has already proven handy: it keeps me for 'going for seconds', or overeating when going out, since restaurants' portions usually are one-fits-all. 

And finally, something I adopted from one of my favorite science podcasts, a reminder to tackle food-shopping mindfully. After all, what we eat informs us, and it all starts with the ingredients we choose.

'Whatever I put in the shopping cart is what my body will use to build the next version of itself.'

Now it's your turn, what can make you change your eating habits?

This post is part of Eat Healthier month on Kanelstrand. Read the rest of the posts here and join in the discussions, we'd love to know what you think!

Anabel Bouza insists there's powerful magic in the action of creating something out of a vague vision, a chill of inspiration. She is an illustrator with a passion for nature, paper manipulation, and pointing her camera at things.

Her appreciation for simplicity dates back to a former life in Cuba - her strange homeland - where she refined the ability to see the alternative uses of common objects, and the enchanting side of things. She's often found blogging as
Weird Amiga, hard at work in her sunny studio, or staring at things as if looking at them for the first time. Her tiny family is comprised of husband & a turtle. Connect to Anabel via facebook and twitter.


  1. These are great tips--I haven't heard of Hari Hachi Bu, I'll have to remember that during lunch today. Sometimes it's hard to keep bad food out of the house--I've always had roomates who eat quite a bit of desserts, it can be hard to draw the line of "no I will not eat your cookies you just baked that smell delicious."

    1. You're surrounded by temptation, then!
      I never had a sweet tooth until recently, then all of a sudden it dawn on me that I had a mini addiction to desserts... so I just stopped buying them.

      In some instances, my significant other has come home with sweets, which leaves me now way out: I'm forced to honor his kind gesture by eating sweets ;)

    2. The problem with the smell is enormous. But I have noticed that when I decide not to succumb to the temptation, I have no problem saying no.

  2. I eat very little and have fond that foods that used to tempt me no longer do. A candy bar for example can last me a week. A small bag of chips a week too. I rarely drink pop anymore and that used to be the only liquid that I drank after coffee.

    Lots of water. Only eat what amount I fix and I "fix" in moderation.

    Stopping by from Blogging Buddies


    1. You have made a big step for removing yourself from pop. I myself have never been a fan, I don't even drink coffee, actually (really don't like the taste of it). In fact I am pretty much like you, I can eat a single bite of chocolate each day and that's just enough of artificial sweetness I need. Fruits do the job for me.

  3. Wonderful tips! Banishing the temptation can really work. If it's not around, and you don't see it as much, you won't even get the craving for it as much.
    I like the Hara Hachi Bu, and I never knew it had a name. I practiced this long ago and should get back to it!

    1. I have noticed that banishing temptation does great wonders to kids too! How was that old saying, "Far from the eyes, far from the heart"?