There’s no such thing as ‘bad’ food, only bad habits.

That’s right, we said it. Cookies aren’t bad for you. A takeaway isn’t bad for you. Or even a 2am takeaway outside some dutty kebab corner on a Saturday night after so many vodkas that you’ve forgotten how many…isn’t bad for you.

No single food is bad for you. One burger won’t make you fat. One burger won’t put you at risk of diabetes or heart disease. One drunken night out doesn’t mean you’ve screwed up your entire fitness plan. It’s when we’re eating  burgers every other day or go to town on the biscuit tin like the cookie monster that it starts to effect our weight and health, because we have developed the habit of eating these foods too often. You know what they say… “one salad won’t make you skinny, one burger won’t make you fat”. But if you consistently make the same lifestyle choices over and over again, they will become habits. That is to say, that this way of thinking and behaving is routine and sometimes involuntary.

Habits aren’t always bad, they aren’t always good. Quite often the mentality behind forming these habits can even be down to survival. Think how you look left and right before you cross a road without even having to consciously think about it. That’s because as children we were told to do it every time, over and over again, until it became instinctive. It’s the habits which we create and use in our day to day activities which shape our lifestyle, be them healthy or unhealthy. And it doesn’t just have to do with food. It could be the extra sugar you add to your tea, or that biscuit with the tea. It could also be getting up an hour earlier to get to the gym or switching your laptop off an hour before bed to reduce your cortisol levels and improve your sleep.

Habits can be easily made, however they are very difficult to break. Because we do them almost without thinking or knowing we are doing them, sometimes the real issue with unhealthy habits is the lack of awareness. Habits don’t just have to be food or exercise related, they could be to do with relationships or self-perception. To break an unhealthy habit, just as it does to make one, requires repeating the process over and over again until a new mental thought process and action is created. Think how long it can take someone to quit smoking or give up fast food… they’re just habits they’ve fallen into, probably as a result of stress, bad relationships or low self-esteem. If we can trace what triggered the habit in the first place and solve that issue first, it will have a positive chain reaction.

If we look at habits regarding people in recovery from an eating disorder, we could use examples such as religiously weighing food, measuring your body after eating, or skipping meals. We must find a new habit to replace the old one and do it over and over again until our brain learns that this is what we want it to do. Because we are complex little creatures, it is also easier for our brains if we only tackle one or two habits at a time, otherwise you’re more than likely to struggle.

On the flip side, many people may struggle with the bad habit of over eating. Or eating at unusual times. When Ella was first in recovery from anorexia, she started waking up at midnight with the feeling of hunger as her body’s metabolism began to increase and her hunger hormones kicked in. It was her body saying it needed more calories as she was still being very restrictive with food during the day. Waking up and having a snack became a regular thing, until it became a habit. Even two years after recovery, she still woke up at midnight, every night, like clockwork. It took years to change this pattern because it had become so ingrained. This just goes to show the longevity of habit making, and that if we work on creating small healthy changes to our every day lives they could have great positive results on longterm weight management and health. Likewise, if we address our not so healthy habits now we’re helping our beautiful bods out for the future.

Which healthy habit will you create this week…..?