One of the most difficult health conundrums in modern life is figuring how to deal with the abundance of food that is available to us at all times. From an evolutionary perspective, our bodies are designed to consume food when we have it, because we never know when food is going to be scarce. For us, though, while scarcity is not a problem, the urge to eat the food that is available to us remains. This, along with the growth of sedentary lifestyles, goes a long way in explaining our contemporary problems with obesity and health in general.
We cannot make the body ignore millions of years of genetic programing, but what we can do is trick it. There are many natural ways to avoid overeating while getting all the food we need and fulfilling all our nutritional needs. Here are a few ideas to consider.
1. Eat slowly: Did you know it takes the mind 10 to 15 minutes to register the fact that you have eaten? So, for instance, if you wolf down a large burrito in five minutes, a part of your mind will still be craving food for a good 10 minutes afterward, even if your stomach is full. This easily leads to overeating. Circumvent this problem by taking your time. A good rule of thumb is to take no more than two bites per minute, and chew your food thoroughly. This way, by the time you get to the end of your meal, your brain will not be playing catch-up.
2. Reduce stress eating: Do you find that you often eat when you are feeling nervous or stressed out? If so, identify some nonfood stress relievers that can be easily accessible in your rough moments. Meanwhile, eliminate food from the areas where you are likely to feel stress. For example, keep snacks and candy out of your office.
3. Impose willpower at the grocery store: Rather than grocery shopping in a haphazard way, picking up whatever catches your eye, make a rigid list before you go to the store, and do not deviate from it. Plan your meals, and include a couple of healthy snacks. Once you get to the store, follow your list strictly, and do not let temptation get the better of you. This way, you can exert willpower in advance rather than having to fight it later on whenever you open the fridge or pantry.
4. Smaller meals: Many people are locked into the ages-old habit of having three large meals per day, but this is not the only way to do things. Sure, having breakfast, lunch, and dinner may be convenient, particularly considering that everyone else is on that schedule, but eating smaller meals more frequently is actually better for the metabolism, and it helps prevent overeating. One strategy that seems to work for many people is to have a relatively large breakfast followed by four small meals spread throughout the day. Some choose to have a larger meal at dinner or lunch instead.
5. Know real hunger: There are different types of hunger. There is the real hunger, which involves a variety of physiological symptoms including stomach growling and lightheadedness. And then there is hunger that is all in one’s mind, often resulting from stress or boredom. Whenever you have the urge to eat, stop and think about whether it is real hunger or something else. If the hunger is all in your mind, distract yourself or find something else to make you feel fulfilled for now.
By Lisa Pecos