by Brooke Joanna Benlifer, RD
1. Enjoy a glass of plain water, club soda, or herbal tea. Often, we mistake hunger for thirst. Water, club soda and herbal tea are calorie-free and help to meet our hydration needs. The carbonation in club soda can help provide a sense of satiety, while certain herbal teas, namely chamomile and mint, are soothing and calming.
2. Having a hot soup or a salad prior to a meal is another easy way to take the edge off of hunger and prevent overeating at mealtime. Studies have shown that people tend to consume less at mealtime if they precede the meal with a broth-based soup or a salad.
3. Make a salad your main entree to get satisfaction without excess calories. Start with some dark, leafy greens. Add brightly colored vegetables (e.g. carrot, tomato, bell pepper, beets, radish, eggplant, asparagus, squash). Top with dried fruit (raisins, dried cherries, blueberries, cranberries, dates, etc.), lean protein (1/2 cup beans, 3 oz chunk light tuna/wild salmon, 1/2 cup cubed tofu, several egg whites or 1 hard-boiled egg). Sprinkle 1 Tbsp parmesan cheese and some black pepper on top to give it a zesty kick!
4. Eat every 3-4 hours throughout the day. Instead of consuming three large meals and no snacks, which can cause you to feel lethargic and “stuffed.” Try splitting your daily intake into 3 small to medium meals, plus 2-3 snacks. Snacks can include a wide variety of items, such as: 1/2 sandwich and fruit, string cheese and crackers, 1/2 English muffin mini-pizza, raw veggies and hummus, or almonds and a pear with 4 oz yogurt. Going longer than 4-5 hours without food can cause a drop in blood sugar (hypoglycemia), setting us up for powerful cravings that can lead to overeating, especially of less healthy foods.
5. Chew foods well and put your fork and spoon down between bites. When eating, it takes about 20 minutes to reach a sense of satiety, or fullness. By consuming meals very quickly and in a rushed manner, we are not only taxing our digestive systems, we are setting ourselves up to eat well past the point of satisfaction. Half of a restaurant entree may well satisfy, but we’ll never know if we eat the whole entree in less than 20 minutes.
6. Slow down and start learning to trust your body to gently let you know when you have eaten enough. If you think of hunger on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being ravenous and 10 being full to the point of feeling ill), experiment with waiting until you are at a 3 or 4 to eat a meal or snack and stopping when you reach a 7 or 8.
7. Have a fiber-rich snack prior to meals (e.g. a serving of high-fiber cereal, such as Kashi Go Lean, a piece of fruit or some cut-up veggies). Most people do not reach the recommended 25-35 gm of fiber daily. High fiber snacks are both satisfying and nutritious! Fiber helps to lower cholesterol and aids in weight management by creating a sense of fullness, helping to curtail overeating.
8. Journal your feelings. Call a friend or relative with whom you can talk openly, or log onto an internet site to get support from others who are sharing their own experiences and can aid you in your healthy eating efforts.
9. Distract yourself by reading a book or magazine. Sometimes leaving the house can help, if you find yourself constantly going to the refrigerator. Try going to a bookstore, a museum or a park (somewhere non-food related.) Go window-shopping and wear comfortable shoes or sneakers on so that you can walk briskly. You’ll be getting some exercise…plus walks are great de-stressors!
10. Try a green foods beverage, such as Greens First, for a nutritious drink without excess calories. Green foods beverages can taste great mixed with hot water, like a very low calorie vegetable soup, without excess sodium.
11. Exercise! Whether it’s a swim, bike ride, walk, run, a class at the gym or a fitness DVD, exercise packs a double whammy. Aerobic exercise is heart-healthy, AND is a great way to release stress that might otherwise lead to emotional overeating.
12. When at restaurants, scan the menu for healthy entrees. Try choosing a salad as the main meal (as mentioned earlier) or ask to have 1/2 your entree put into a doggie-bag container prior to being served. You are less likely to overeat if the food is out of sight (and out of mind)!
13. When you feel the strong urge to binge, set an alarm for 15 minutes and wait. Distract yourself during this time with another activity (gardening, knitting, playing with your pet, etc.). When the alarm goes off, the urge to binge may well have subsided.
14. Brush your teeth, or rinse your mouth with mouthwash. The clean, fresh taste is a good inhibitor to overeating. Some mouthwashes recommend not eating/drinking for at least 1/2 hour after rinsing, yet another good incentive to not binge.
15. Create a network of people who support and uplift you, and who believe in your efforts and abilities, especially with regard to preventing overeating.
16. When you feel stressed, panicked, frustrated, or generally overwhelmed, do some deep breathing exercises. Take a deep breath for a count of ten, hold it for that length of time, and then exhale. Repeat this sequence a few more times and then think through your emotions.
17. Chew a piece of sugarless gum. This gives you the oral satisfaction of chewing and can help curb false hunger.
18. Punch a boxing bag, yell into a pillow, or simply allow yourself to cry and release pent-up emotions.
19. Pause to decipher your true hunger. Is is stemming from your throat, stomach, heart? Journal your thoughts and think about what you TRULY want and need–likely it’s not food!
20. Record an audiotape of your thoughts on overeating. Listen to prior entries to help you distinguish your triggers and discern patterns in your thought process and actions. Think about, “What’s the payoff to this binge?”