07/22/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

They Are Called Eating Habits for a Reason

You wake up, get out of bed and head to the bathroom. Habit. You take a shower or bath in the same way each time. You drive to work the same way. Habits... routines... we need them. If we had to think about all the mundane tasks we do everyday, we'd have no room to focus on anything else. When you get up and head to the bathroom, if that is your routine, you are probably thinking about things other than getting up and heading to the bathroom. You might be thinking about your dreams from last night, what you are going to do today, etc. -- not teeth brushing, peeing and whatever else you do every morning in the bathroom.

The same is true of our eating habits. You most likely eat either the same things, or similar things, every day. If what you eat and drink is keeping you fit and healthy than your eating habits are working for you. If, on the other hand, your eating habits are causing you unwanted extra weight, then they aren't working and should be changed.

How do you change a bad habit?

First you have to be aware of it.

Some of our habits sink below the conscious level and operate without us even thinking about them. If you want to change your eating habits, or some of them, start by writing down everything you eat and drink (if it has calories). Get your eating habits out of your head, and down on paper so you can look at them. Write down how much you are eating and the calories in the foods you eat. You might have to weigh and measure your food to learn the portion sizes at first. You can look up the calories online at websites like Calorie King. You don't need a degree in nutrition to learn this information, however, you do need to pay attention and realize that what you put into your body is important.

One of the biggest studies ever done on the value of keeping a food journal was just published. In this study of close to 1700 people they found that those who kept a food journal lost twice as much weight as those who didn't. It is one of the most powerful weight loss tools we have.

It is estimated that we make about 200 decisions a day when it comes to what and how much we consume. Many of those decisions are unconscious, or habits. When your habits are working for you and contributing to your health and well being, life is sweet. When your habits are self destructive, well, the consequences are there and although habits can be very hard to change, they can be changed.

If your eating/drinking habits aren't working for you, try writing everything down for a week. Write down everything you eat and drink, if it has calories. Try to estimate, or actually weigh and measure the portion sizes (be honest) and figure out the calories. This will tell you how many calories a day you are eating. This is akin to knowing how much money you spend on average. You can't get your spending under control until you pay attention, it is the same with food and weight.

That's it for now. Good luck and let me know how you're doing.

If you like to participate in the research for Irene's new book on the process of weight loss, please visit Eating Disorder Therapist and take the survey.