Emotional eater? Late-night snacker? At-the-table-pants-unbuttoner? If any of these describe you, these smart strategies could be just what you’ve been ~hungering~ for.
Nearly all of us harbor certain eating tendencies that risk sabotaging our best efforts to otherwise eat healthy, be active, and feel happy and in control. It may seem like it should be as easy as simply stopping the behavior, but cycles of misguided habits and frustration can turn these issues into something that’s much more difficult to amend.
“You’re not alone,” says Ashley M. Lytwyn, R.D.N. and director of nutrition at Breathe Life Healing Centers, which specializes in programs treating eating disorders, including binge eating, and food addiction. “Today’s world encourages and even rewards unhealthy eating patterns that can lead to longer-term issues,” she adds.
Here are some of the most common food sticking points—and how to take control of your eating.
1. Needing to always feel “full” after a meal.
If you don’t consider dinnertime over until your belly is practically distended and it’s hard to stand, your idea of what it means to feel full probably means eating a lot more than your body actually needs. Think of it as the difference between packing an overnight bag for the weekend versus stuffing a suitcase with outfits you won’t even wear. Despite what you may be used to, a meal can be over before you have that unbutton-the-pants urge. Retrain your brain and body to feel satisfied with less by planning smaller meals with snacks after each one: breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack. Snacks at Breathe are generous and tasty, like a slice of Ezekiel bread with peanut butter and string cheese, and are respected like a meal, with a few minutes to set aside and savor it. “When you know you’re going to eat again in just a couple of hours, you’ll be far less inclined to feel the need to gorge at a meal–remember that the key is to never starve and never stuff,” says Lytwyn. Spreading your food consumption out throughout the day will also prevent insulin spikes and help keep your metabolism working in your favor, so weight management is easier, too.
2. And then still eating beyond the point of hunger.
Do you ever feel the insatiable urge to keep eating, long after you know you’re full? Learning to slow down and take a more leisurely European approach to mealtime–instead of quickly shoveling in food–can help you tune into the feeling of satiation so that you don’t eat more than you need, says Lytwyn. Make mealtime an event. Taking a moment to appreciate the colors, textures, aromas, and ingredients on your plate will help you more fully taste the flavors, putting you in better touch with feelings of hunger and fullness–a process that experts call eating mindfully. When you’re in a situation where you’re tempted to get seconds, wait five minutes before you do and sip some water, says Hollywood nutritionist Lisa De Fazio, R.D. You’ll likely find that the urge is greatly diminished or even gone, she adds.