This is a guest blog by one of our amazing dietitians Narmin Virani. Enjoy her “just in time” tips this week:
With the holiday season upon us, being around sweets and treats is inevitable. Don’t let this stress you out though. Anxiety and fear around food and eating only keep you from relaxing and eating mindfully. And when you’re not eating mindfully, you don’t enjoy the food, and don’t feel satisfied, which ironically makes you want more. Relax!! And try these simple tips for indulging without over-indulging. Oh, and don’t take my word! Try out these tips curiously, as an experiment, rather than “dietitian’s orders”, and see for yourself if they work, to reduce cravings and increase satisfaction!
- Treat yourself on an empty stomach. Intense hunger = eating fast and eating too much. Save a treat for the end of a meal when you’re comfortably full
- Skip meals or snacks. Skipped meal = low blood glucose levels. Guess what our brain asks us to eat when our blood sugar level is low, to keep us from fainting….? Have a shake if not hungry or too busy.
- Save your treats for the end of the day. Fatigue is a trigger for overeating, as the part of the brain responsible for impulse-control starts fading toward the end of the day, and the auto-pilot part of the brain takes over
- Deprive yourself of your favorite treats for days or weeks. When does a food become a “trigger food” or cause you to eat too much? When you haven’t had it for days, and know you won’t be having it for days.
- Categorize foods as “good foods” and “bad/forbidden foods”. When you define success as “not eating X/Y/Z food”, then eating even a little of these foods makes you feel like you failed, leading to an unhealthy relationship with that food.
- Eat small, frequent meals, every 3-4 hours, and don’t eat in between. This keeps blood glucose levels from crashing, which reduces cravings. Have a shake if not hungry, or out and about.
- Include some protein at every meal and snack – this also prevents blood glucose levels from spiking and crashing, by slowing down the absorption of carbohydrates, which reduces cravings. Remember the 3 craving busters – protein, fiber, and small amounts of fat at every meal and snack.
- Include treats on a regular basis. If you give yourself a small amount of your favorite treats on a regular basis, its easier to tell yourself when you’re craving a second helping, “I can have some tomorrow, and the day after.”
- Include your favorite treats in small amounts on a regular basis, along with some protein to keep the carbohydrates from causing cravings later in the day. For example – a 100 calorie bag of chips or cookies or pre-portioned ice-cream sandwich or bread, along with a piece of cheese, or some yogurt, or ¼ cup nuts. You can have this sort of “balanced snack” everyday if you wish, as part of your 5 small meals a day.
- Eat slowly and mindfully when treating yourself, and generally. Engaging all 5 senses helps you maximize satisfaction from every single bite. Try to avoid multitasking when eating.
- Stay hydrated. Thirst can get mistaken for hunger or cravings. Especially make sure you’ve had a glass of water before you treat yourself
- Engage in activities that you enjoy on a regular basis: Sweets and treats give us a dopamine rush and hence feel rewarding, but so do hobbies, socializing, exercise that you enjoy, meditation, and making a difference to others. The more circulating dopamine you have in your system, the less pleasurable food will feel.
- Know the calories in your favorite treats. That way you can indulge in just the right amount, as often as you want, without any guilt. And when you eat mindfully, just a few bites might be enough.
-Narmin Virani, RD, LDN