We eat when we are happy. We eat when we are sad. We eat to celebrate. We eat when we are bored. Sometimes, we don’t even know why we are eating at all. One of the main reasons so many people are not at a healthy weight is because at some point, they stopped listening to their body. They don’t know when they are hungry and when they are full.
Scientists have been looking into what contributes to our appetite and hunger for many years. Our bodies are complex and Ghrelin, the so-called “hunger hormone,” signals your brain when you’re hungry. Nerves in the stomach send signals to the brain that you’re full, but these signals can take up to 20 minutes to communicate, and by that time, you may have already eaten too much. Moreover, the decision to eat is affected by a host of factors like sights, smells and social settings.
The real trick to managing weight is to eat less and more frequently. My clients go on a custom nutritional plan and eat five to six small meals every three hours throughout the day.
When you sit down for a meal, you want to be hungry but don’t let your blood sugar levels get so low that you feel ravenous and go on a binge. Having a planned meal at a planned time cuts down on how much you eat and the quality of your meal.
How do you tell real hunger from emotional hunger?
- grows gradually
- can wait
- you stop when you feel full
- you feel good after eating
- you feel energized
- hits suddenly
- you crave a specific food, usually high in fat or sugar
- needs to be satisfied instantly
- no amount of food fills you
- you feel guilty after eating
- you feel heavier or bloated
Before you order a pizza or run to the kitchen, evaluate just how hungry you really are. If you are less than 2-3 hours ago, you are probably not feeling real hunger. If you have to have something, snack on a cucumber, celery or other veggies to tide you over until the next meal. Or drink a glass of water with fresh squeezed lemon juice. It will fool your body and stop the cravings.
When you do sit down for a meal, practice mindfulness. That means, no eating in front your television, computer and other distractions. Take pleasure in your meals. Focus on the quality of food, not the amount. Appreciate the flavors, aromas and textures.
One of my favorite tricks is to include lean protein in your meals and snacks. They last longer in your tummy and keep you feeling fuller. Eat healthy soups, cooked grains and hot oatmeal; they create volume in your stomach and make you feel more satisfied.
Always pay attention to portions and avoid buffet lines.