Being in control means being healthy and happy

Most people at some stage eat when they’re not physically hungry maybe at a party or holiday celebration, or sometimes just because the food is so delicious it’s hard to resist.

Are you really hungry?

When you’re physically hungry you tend to have difficulty concentrating, you can’t perform to the level you usually do, and you might even feel a rumbling in your stomach to alert you that your body needs food.

Then there is psychological hunger and lots of things trigger it. The aromas and presentation of food and your own emotions such as boredom or depression, to name a few. Or when a food is really delicious, the clues that tell you you’ve had enough don’t kick in the way they should and you end up eating more than you physically need.

Are you really hungry or is your body playing tricks on you?

Next time you feel a rumble in your tummy wait 5 or 10 minutes from the time you feel the hunger pangs. If you’re still hungry chances are your body really does need the nourishment. The same goes for that second serving if you’re eating appropriate portions of a balanced meal, one serve should be enough. If it’s not, take a break and do something else for 10 minutes before you refill your plate. If the distraction cures your appetite then you’ll know it was psychological hunger. Eat slowly and chew your food fully. If you eat slowly and savour each bite you are likely to eat less than if you gulp your food down. Focus on the food, don’t eat mindlessly in front of the TV, the computer or at you’re desk as you’re still trying to work. Instead take some time to actually taste and enjoy the food. Wholesome nutritious foods, particularly low-fat proteins and whole grains tend to make you feel more full for longer than their fatty counterparts.

Emotional eating

1. Do you eat because you’re bored?

2. Do you find yourself craving food when times are stressful?

3. Do you raid the cupboards when you’re in a bad mood, upset or depressed?

Some people turn to food for reasons other than hunger. We eat to celebrate or commiserate; we eat when we’re sad, lonely, bored, or anxious. This is called emotional or comfort eating. If you eat to soothe your emotions chances are you will be eating too much, and the foods you are choosing won’t be nutritious ones. Often you will be uncomfortably full at the end of an “eating therapy session” and burning off all the kilojoules you’ve consumed will be a challenge to say the least. It’s common to turn to fatty, sugary foods for a quick feeling of pleasure. But eating doesn’t resolve the problem it’s only a quick fix with a long-term impact on health and well-being.

Signs to recognise emotional eating include:

  • you’re craving junk food
  • the cravings come suddenly
  • you eat without thinking about what you’re doing
  • you don’t feel satisfied at the end
  • you feel guilty
  • you have some sort of unpleasant emotion when you’re eating.

Dealing with non hungry eating

The important things to remember before you eat is to:

  • stop and rate your hunger to see if you’re really hungry?
  • if you’re not hungry, how are you feeling and why are you heading to the fridge?
  • try to figure out what’s motivating you
  • if you’re feeling anxious try talking to a friend or health consultant about your feelings
  • if you’re sad take time to reflect or get help
  • go for a walk or try another form of exercise to de-stress, or
  • put your favourite music on and enjoy

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