If you have a habit of eating while watching TV, try walking on a treadmill instead of snacking.
Some of my patients now enjoy their shows this way. If you still want to snack while watching your favorite show, then choose a healthy snack like vegetables dipped in hummus, a piece of fruit, a handful of almonds or seeds, or plain yogurt (1% fat or less) with your own fresh fruit added to it.
Instead of eating mindlessly, try going for a walk, taking the dog out, throwing a ball with the kids, doing some yard work, or picking up the vacuum cleaner – anything active that will keep your hands busy, your mind distracted, and your body healthy.
Food is also tied to our emotions. Many of us eat in response to emotional states. Sometimes we eat out of boredom, depression, frustration, worry, disappointment, or anger. In my experience, for some patients, emotional eating is one of the biggest obstacles to overcome in trying to lose weight.
Emotional eating often results in binging on unhealthy foods. Here are some techniques to try when the urge to comfort yourself with food comes upon you.
Be Mindful of Your Emotions
Recognize the emotion that’s driving you to eat and confront it. Acknowledge it, give yourself permission to feel the way you do, but don’t give yourself permission to let that negative emotion dictate bad eating habits. Don’t use food to cope with emotions.
Call a friend or do something to distract yourself from your emotional state. For those who snack on unhealthy foods out of boredom, or want to reward themselves for a hard day or a job well done, you could grab some baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, wedges of orange, red or yellow peppers, or a piece of fruit instead. These are much healthier choices, and they also taste great.
Be Prepared Inside and Outside the House
When it comes to food, preparation is almost as good as prevention. If you have a tendency toward emotional binge eating, make sure you always have lots of prepared vegetables in your refrigerator ready to eat. Keep some no-fat or 1% plain yogurt or hummus for dipping. Think of these as supplies that must be readily at hand. Without them, you’re likely to turn to crackers, cookies, and other foods that are immediately available but will not help you reach your goals.
Plan to take a healthy snack with you whenever you’re going to work or when you’re shopping or going to a movie.
A Trick That Always Works
On your way home from work or on your way to a restaurant, eat a piece of fruit or a small container of plain yogurt or handful of almonds. Fruit or yogurt consumed twenty minutes to a half hour before you eat will cut your appetite. Taking the edge off your hunger will make you far less likely to grab the first thing that comes to hand at home or to overeat at a restaurant. No fruit or yogurt with you? A bottle of water fifteen minutes before a meal will also moderate your hunger.
A New Meaning to “Bring Your Own”
Do big family meals create a huge temptation to splurge? One of my patients participating in the Health First program made a point of bringing a plate of cut-up vegetables and fruit to family gatherings so she could enjoy healthy snacking before and after the big meal. (She has lost 29 pounds and has kept them off.)
Creating mindfulness by following these simple steps will provide you with insights into your eating behaviors. This is the first important step to achieving a healthy lifestyle.
Patient Story: Feeling Great – and Safe
Mary is a fifty-eight-year-old with a BMI of 34 and a waist circumference of 38.6 inches (98cm). She was pre-diabetic. A year later, she was diagnosed with colon cancer. After her surgery, she was determined to lose weight to avoid developing diabetes and to help reduce her risk for a recurrence of colon cancer.
She embraced the Health First program and lost 20 pounds (10kg) over three months. Her blood sugar is now normal and, to date, her colon cancer has not returned. As she writes:
I feel great and I’m so proud of myself. So many of my friends in our community have type 2 diabetes, and I now feel totally confident that I have prevented getting it myself by losing 20 pounds and making exercise part of my lifestyle. I also feel very strongly that my new way of living will prevent my colon cancer from coming back.