Many of us tend to think losing weight is about eating less and controlling our portions, but as a self-nourishment counselor, I know that approach often doesn't work. When we start down this path, we go into "diet-mind," losing the connection to our body and our sense of how to eat to take care of ourselves, instead overeating and giving in to cravings.
Every day, I hear new clients talk about how they're "good" all day, only to find themselves overeating at night, blowing their diets and totally giving up, only to start again the next day, promising to do better — again and again and again. Another comment I hear a lot is, "I know what to eat. I just don't do it." Most people think they're the only one who has this problem and take the blame for their constant cravings, eating habits that don't work and weight gain that feels uncontrollable.
But what we really need to do is understand ourselves better, especially how we function as basic human beings (yes, we're still working from that old operating system known as "survival"). And we need to learn how to best feed ourselves to master our hunger. Just like learning algebra or a new language in school, we have to go back to the basics so we can learn to thrive.
Here are some essentials you can incorporate into your routine to help you feel better and lead to attainable, sustainable weight loss.
1. To feel full and satisfied after a meal, eat fiber.
Fiber is essential not only for your health in general, but also to feel full and satisfied after you eat. Foods high in fiber take longer to digest and keep you full for longer, which also helps to keep your blood sugar balanced (essential for balancing your cravings). They're also higher in overall nutrients, which make you feel full and satisfied, allowing your body to tell your brain when it's time to stop eating.
Good sources of fiber are cruciferous vegetables, leafy greens, legumes and whole-grains.
2. To master your hunger, eat healthy fats.
Good, healthy fats like avocado, nuts, seeds and olive oil help you feel full for longer. They're also an essential component in absorbing nutrients from your meals, helping you feel satisfied. They also balance the glycemic index of your carbohydrates, which help to curb future hunger.
3. To stop overeating, change your habits.
Five things to remember when you're in the process of changing your overeating habits:
- Timing is essential. Don't skip meals — you'll wind up eating more than you would have if you'd eaten. It's also just not fair to your intentions to eat mindfully and take good care of yourself! Hunger makes us do things we otherwise wouldn't, like attack the cookie jar.
- Stop, sit and chew. Paying attention to the simple fact that you're eating isn't easy to do, but it's a nice practice to help you feel nourished from your meals. Think of it as you would sharing a meal with a friend: if you don't pay attention to what you're eating, it's as if you're not listening to anything your friend has to say.
- Eat enough for lunch so you don't need as much for dinner. Restructuring your meals can be a challenge, but it'll help you function better throughout the day. After all, food is your fuel and you want to fuel up when it makes the most sense.
- Eat real food and full meals instead of snacking all day on processed foods.
- Re-proportion your meals so half of your plate is always full of fiber-rich vegetables.
As you can tell, these tips aren't about being perfect, eating the perfect food or being "good." They're about knowing what and how to eat so you can feel nourished, full and satisfied so your hunger doesn't get the better of you. Of course there are other factors that play into overall nourishment, but these essential tips are a good start to get you eating better in a sustainable way, without dieting.
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