Put your eating back on track
Have you noticed the number on the scale moving in the wrong direction? The best way to get your diet back on track is to make small changes to improve your eating habits and curb cravings. Food cravings are common, especially in the winter months when comfort food seems to call your name. Often, the strongest cravings for food happen when you're at your weakest point emotionally. For example, you may turn to food for comfort when you're facing a difficult problem or when you're angry, sad or just plain bored. This behavior is called emotional eating, and it often leads to overeating, especially too much sweet, fatty foods.
"Studies show that belly fat produces hormones and other substances that can cause serious health problems like insulin resistance (pre-diabetes), high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and cardiovascular disease," said Mary Aram, clinical dietician at the Enloe Outpatient Center.
An increased weight – a Body Mass Index (BMI) 25 or higher – and especially excess body fat around your middle is risk factor for pre-diabetes. Aram says the good news is studies show that losing weight can decrease insulin resistance and prevent or delay the development of pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes. Follow these tips from the Mayo Clinic:
Have a hunger reality check. Is your hunger physical or emotional? If you ate a meal recently and don't have a rumbling stomach, you're probably not really hungry.
Get support. You're more likely to give in to emotional eating if you lack a good support network. Lean on family and friends or consider joining a support group.
Fight boredom. Instead of snacking, take a walk, watch a movie, play with your pet or read a good book.
Take away temptation. Don't keep comfort foods in your home if they're hard for you to resist. And avoid grocery shopping when you're sad, mad or hungry.
Don't deprive yourself. When you're trying to achieve a weight-loss goal, you may banish the treats you enjoy. But deprivation will only serve to increase your cravings for these foods. Let yourself enjoy an occasional treat and get plenty of variety to help curb cravings. For more tips on curbing food cravings, see "6 tips to curb your cravings" below.
Focus on making positive changes in your eating habits and give yourself credit for making changes that will lead to better health.
6 tips to curb your cravings
Feel like a bottomless pit? Feeling hungry can be caused by other factors besides lack of food. Here are six common reasons cravings kick in and what you can do about them:
- You're thirsty. Mild dehydration may feel the same as hunger. Try increasing your water intake (unless your fluid intake is limited for medical reasons).
- You're tired. Poor sleep or too little sleep can leave you searching for energy. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep a night.
- You're eating too many carbs. Simple carbs, such as those in foods using white flour, cause blood sugar levels to spike and then quickly drop, leaving you hungry for more. When you crave carbs, go for the complex variety — such as nuts, oatmeal and green vegetables.
- You're stressed. Stress hormones can contribute to feelings of hunger. Try stress management techniques, such as meditation or yoga, rather than reaching for comfort food.
- You're drinking too much alcohol. Not only can alcohol stimulate hunger, it can also make you dehydrated. Limit alcoholic beverages to one a day for women or two for men.
- You need more protein or fat. Protein and fat both help you feel satisfied. Include lean protein (think eggs, chicken or fish) and healthy fats (think avocados, nuts and olive oil) in your diet.