Dr. Heather McKee's Evidence Based Insights

How to change your eating habits Part 1

It is approximately 75 days, 7 hours, 45 minutes and 46 seconds to Christmas!! For those looking to lose weight/gain health, Christmas can be an invariable minefield of tempting situations, social persuasion and overindulgence which can damage our self-esteem and steer us off track from our health goals. However, it does NOT have to be like this. There IS a way to find a balance where you can enjoy the holiday season without feeling like a stuffed turkey!

One of my biggest pet peeves is that the countdown to Christmas now appears to start in August. That said, in order to navigate the Christmas period and keep our minds and bodies fit we need to start to thinking about it now. Here are my top tips for how to change your eating habits to build weight-maintenance skills for success in the Christmas countdown:

  1. Don’t save your resolutions till the New Year; Many of us use the anticipated deprivation that New Year brings to justify a blow out over the Christmas period. However, thinking in this manner, as I call ‘The diet starts Monday’ mindset, has been linked to greater weight gain over time. Researchers found that simply having thoughts around planning to go on a diet resulted in compensatory behaviour in the form of overeating. Essentially even just thinking about dieting predisposes you to gaining weight. Yet it is genuinely quite difficult to get away from this mindset. We all do it from time to time to try to justify a blow out but the weight loss research shows it is ineffective and leads to negative self-perceptions. In other words, not only do you not lose any weight you tend to feel worse about yourself too. I want to empower you with the ability to NEVER think like this again.
  2. Build your skills Foster et al., (2005) seemed to capture it best in saying that for weight maintenance:

‘Skill power, not will power, is the key to success’

Whilst I do believe willpower has a role to play, this role is essentially through the development of effective skills that can help us resist temptation and stay on track. Self-control is like a muscle if you overuse it, it fatigues – leading to falling off the wagon. However, like a muscle, if given adequate training and recovery it can grow stronger over time (more on this in a future blog post).

Why not build your self control now for the Christmas season? How do you do this? Through practicing self-control skills. This is something I’ve looked at recently through my own weight loss research. We found that building self-control skills in how to change eating habits not only helped people lose weight but it helped improve their self-confidence and self-worth too. The interesting thing was that this happened without any changes in their diet or exercise. It was simply through helping people build their skills and change their thinking and weight loss habits.

Successful weight maintenance is like learning an instrument, you are bound to hit a few dud notes when you’re getting started, but repeated practice over time can enhance success. This is echoed in an article which I contributed to in the October issue of Shape Magazine. It talks about how calorie counting is dead and what we need to now focus on is getting our mindset right and build healthy eating habits. So why not help maintain your weight and improve your self-esteem for the Christmas party season? translating the latest research findings on what works for weight maintenance success so you can change your eating habits once and for all.

The countdown to Christmas has begun! Join in now by emailing info@weightlossiq.co.uk if you want to give yourself the gift of #fitness4christmas


Published on 19th Oct 2015 at 10:00 by Dr. Heather McKee

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This work is in no way meant to replace any medical advice. Dr. McKee is Non-HCPC-registered. Photography by Dylan Madden.

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