Healthy eating is a habit. And like so most other habits that you develop in your lifetime, it’s all about the process– making mistakes then learning from them. The challenge with so many dieters is that they’re making all of the same mistakes, but they’re not acknowledging or addressing those underlying problems. So their diet plans are rarely successful over the long run.

According to Daniel Thomas Hind, a diet and lifestyle coach and founder of EvolutionEat, the key to success with healthy eating isn’t setting goals for your diet– it’s learning the skills and creating sustainable healthy eating habits. The problem many people experience is that focusing on diet alone can lead to you missing out on developing a healthy relationship with your food. Three major misconceptions all play an interconnected role.

#1: Healthy eating is a goal rather than a skill

There’s a reason why dieting doesn’t work– it focuses on deadlines and milestones rather than nurturing your relationship with your body. Studies have shown that the simple strategy of exercising more and reducing your calorie intake isn’t enough to lose weight long-term. The pressure to ignore your body’s signals in favor sticking to a meal plan can certainly have short-term results, but most people who lose weight after dieting end up putting it right back on within a year.

Instead, consider looking at eating as a skill that you develop over time rather than a goal to be accomplished. It’s a skill that you foster daily through listening to your body’s signals and addressing some of the external triggers that lead to healthy or unhealthy dieting choices.

#2: Healthy eating can be achieved by ignoring or suppressing emotions

We are all naturally emotional beings, according to Daniel Thomas Hind. And we make dietary choices every day that are based on our emotions. Developing healthy eating habits requires us to address the reality that we are emotional eaters and make decisions– often subconsciously– about our food consumption.

We make eating choices that relieve pain or seek pleasure, he says. Food is so easy to abuse, because it’s everywhere. We make decisions with our eating that support how we’re feeling– good or bad. Often we instinctively use food for temporary relief from emotional distress like anxiety, sadness, loneliness or boredom. And most of the time, we don’t take time to reflect on the effect emotions have on our eating habits until we’ve already inhaled a large bag of salty potato chips in a single sitting.

By ignoring the effect our emotions have on our diet, we’re unable to address the impact it can have on us meeting your dietary ambitions. Addressing this misconception requires us to be more reflective of our eating habits. When we’re craving foods, it’s important to take a moment to pause and consider what emotional factors may be affecting our decisions– and address those issues head-on rather than with eating.

#3: Food addiction isn’t a problem

Addiction is a scary word. That might be why so many people tiptoe around the word “addiction” when they’re talking about dieting. Culturally, we only apply that word to explicitly harmful substances and habits like illegal drugs, alcohol, gambling, sexual addictions or smoking. Food addiction is such a ubiquitous and societally-accepted problem that we don’t even call it addiction– but it absolutely is.  

According to addiction.com, food is the number four addiction that attracts the most attention or causes the most issues in society. In fact, food ranks higher than internet addiction, sexual addiction and even alcoholism. Similar to drugs, food has a massive impact on brain chemistry. Around 2 percent of Americans suffer from food addiction– and about 20 percent of food addicts are also obese, according to the same site.

Unfortunately, the kinds of foods that we’re addicted to aren’t the foods that are dense in nutrients. The food industry invests billions of dollars to carefully design foods that are produced or manufactured for their addictive properties so that you continually consume it. To address issues around food addiction, you must first acknowledge that it may be playing a role in your eating habits– even if you’re not actually a “food addict” in the scientific sense of the word.