I recently came across fitness writer John Fawkes' blog from last December entitled "6 Appetite-Control Strategies that Helped Me Stop Overeating." It was pleasing for me to see that some of these tactics are practices that I have been employing for quite a few years now.
Yet, for many of us, eating healthy is still a struggle because of two major pitfalls that Fawkes describes. Even if you are eating healthy at home, you are surrounded by junk food everywhere you go. If you are eating healthy all the time, you can't always eat just one portion. No matter how good the foods you eat are, overeating is still overeating!
I love what Fawkes offers based on his experiences in overcoming his issues with indulgent eating. Listed below are excellent strategies that do not call for fasting or other difficult "cold turkey" tactics.
- Add vinegar and cinnamon to your meals to control blood sugar levels.
Vinegar and cinnamon help you metabolize food more slowly, thus lowering your glycemic load. According to Fawkes, "this keeps you full longer, and helps you prevent the post-meal slump." I also like Fawkes' idea of adding cinnamon to coffee!
The other significant advantage of this strategy is that you can use an abundance of oils and spices instead of sugar to make your food healthier and taste better. Some of these spices, like ginseng and cayenne pepper, have weight loss benefits. Even black pepper can block the formation of new fat cells.
- Eat when you are NOT hungry.
I understand that obesity comes from overeating and snacking when you are not hungry, but as Fawkes asserts, we tend to overeat when we are hungry, so "instead of trying to resist hunger, beat it to the punch."
When you are not hungry or just a little bit hungry, you will tend to eat less and eat more slowly. I like to think of this as an opportunity for creative snacking! When you are starving, you tend to go for the unhealthy choices that are "ready now" and most palatable, like a bag of chips, the frozen pizza, or the fast food drive-thru window.
When you are not so hungry, you are open to trying new things, like the healthier, smaller-portion item on the menu that you always pass on because you don’t think it will fill you up.
I get many laughs from my co-workers because I always have a stash of almonds and low sugar protein bars in my office that I snack on throughout the day. By the way, eating when you are not hungry does not mean helping yourself to the desserts, chips and other unhealthy snacks that your co-workers bring to the office! To overcome these temptations, bring a bag of nuts, trail mix or raw veggies to work so that you can curb hunger cravings and eat better.
- Drink water, not liquid calories.
Fawkes makes excellent points here. Mild dehydration can be confused for hunger, so he recommends a goal to drink at least three-quarters of a gallon of water each day, including one glass about 20 minutes before each meal to prevent overeating. Keep in mind that sweetened drinks may fill you up, but they are full of calories - and they digest so quickly that your insulin spikes. For more flavor, add fresh fruit to your water.
I want to add that fruit juices are generally not healthy. Next time you shop for juice, check the label and you will see a ton of sugar. (Sometimes you will find more sugar in a 12-ounce glass of fruit juice than a can of soda!) Choose water instead, and if you crave a more flavorful drink, add cucumber, lemon or another favorite fruit. Since it is summertime, "drink in the season" by making your fruit drink from fresh-squeezed fruit. You will savor each sip, which leads to Fawkes’ next great strategy.
- Eat slowly!
Fawkes offers a great explanation as to why Americans should eat more slowly than we normally do. "When you swallow food," he writes, "there's a sizable delay before you feel any satiation from it. This delay is usually between 10-30 minutes. Because of this delay, we tend to eat more food than we need." Fawkes proposes a simple rule: chew each bite ten times. This will often result in consuming smaller portions at each meal and greater enjoyment of each taste.
You truly are what you eat, and when you decide to make healthy choices, it is a reflection on your commitment to lead a better life. Mealtime and even snack time should be a celebration. Take the time to enjoy each bite!
- Have a small, flavorless snack between meals.
A bland snack, according to Fawkes, regulates ghrelin, a hunger hormone, "by weakening flavor-calorie associations." For this unique strategy to work, you must consume only water for at least an hour before and after the snack.
While this tip might require the most effort (with regards to sticking with just water before and after the snack), the concept of a bland snack is a real winner for managing weight and overall health. One of our patients told me recently that he goes for a bag of lettuce at snack time. Holding the bag in his hands has that same sensation as a bag of chips, and a few bites of lettuce – especially iceberg – curbs his appetite cravings.
- Try the "front door" snack technique.
Fawkes calls this one of his "favorite body hacks." Since we are surrounded by junk food outside of our homes, filling up on a healthy snack or meal before leaving your home is a great way to beat the temptations at work and even during the commute. Leave a healthy snack by your front door or kitchen counter to grab on your way out the door to help fight temptation during the day.
At home, we have the power to control what we can. Your home is your castle, your fortress for better health; so load up on healthy food, snacks and lots of water. Instead of bringing your work home with you, bring your home to work and fill your desk and the fridge with healthier eating choices, using John Fawkes' 6 appetite-control strategies!