The Dietitian Challenge: Week Two
Hi! I’m Kayla, and I am so excited to be joining Harmons’ team of amazing dietitians. I will be spending most of my time at the District store in South Jordan, where I will be offering individual nutrition counseling, as well as store tours and nutrition workshops.
Food and nutrition are my passion, and I love talking about them both. If you have any questions, or just want to chat about grocery shopping, recipes, or healthy cooking, please feel free to send me an email or give me a call – I am very excited to meet you!
Dietitian Challenge Blog Series: Week 2
January 8 – 14
Listen to your body: Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are satisfied.
For this week’s challenge, instead of focusing on a particular food group or nutrient, we are focusing on eating only when you’re hungry, and stopping when you feel satisfied. This style of eating, also referred to as mindful or intuitive eating, can be anything but what the names imply. Though our bodies are hard wired from birth to tell us when and how much to eat, we tend to lose sight of this as we age. We frequently eat for reasons other than hunger: to celebrate (think about holidays and birthday parties), out of boredom, or because we are sad, just to name a few. Conversely, we often ignore our body’s signals that we are full, and continue to eat past the point of comfortable fullness: think of how children are often told that they have to clean their plates before they can leave the dinner table. With the popularity of extreme dieting (juice fasts, anyone?), we have also been taught that we can’t be trusted around food, and that we should ignore our body’s feelings of hunger in order to stay in specific calorie ranges or prescribed meal plans. These patterns can lead to yo-yoing weight and food preoccupation (constantly thinking about what you should or shouldn’t be eating), not to mention downright confusion about how much food your body actually needs.
Here are a few tips for getting back in touch with your body, enjoying the food you eat, and listening to your body’s signals of hunger and fullness.
1. Eat when you’re hungry
We commonly eat in extremes: we either eat when we aren’t hungry, or wait until we are so hungry to eat that it becomes an emergency. Work on staying in between these two extremes and notice when your body is first signaling to you that it needs food.
- Don’t mindlessly snack or munch your way through the day to keep yourself from ever feeling hungry. Gentle hunger isn’t something that needs to be avoided – it’s the healthy signal from your body that you need fuel.
- Also, don’t let yourself get to the point that you are starving. This generally leads to over-eating and poor food choices. When you are deliriously hungry, your body instinctively tends to want foods that are high in calories and easily digested – which is why resisting cookies or chips is so much more difficult when you haven’t eaten for a while.
2. Eat the foods you love in moderation, and savor them
Trying to cut out foods completely can backfire; it gives the food a forbidden fruit mystique, and makes it seem more desirable since you think that you shouldn’t have it. Then, when you do indulge, you overdo it, and feel guilty afterword. If you really want something, have it! Give yourself the power to choose what you want, rather than giving food the power over you.
- Be mindful: eat a small portion of what you really want, and, as with all foods, take the time to really savor it. For example, if you are craving chocolate, have a small piece and let it melt in your mouth. Pay attention to how it feels and how it tastes, rather than just quickly chewing and swallowing it.
3. Give yourself permission to eat the foods you enjoy
Remind yourself that the food will be available to you later – you don’t have to eat more than what satisfies you to fully enjoy it. When you know you will be able to have it again, it takes away the panicked feeling that you need to eat as much as you can right now. This idea of giving yourself permission to eat what you want has been shown to be effective: one recent study demonstrated that dieters who felt guilty after eating a slice of chocolate cake gained more weight those dieters who viewed chocolate cake as a celebratory food.
- Determine why you want that particular food. Is it because you really want the taste, or is it because it just happens to be in front of you? Or is it because you had a bad day and are looking for comfort from food? Be honest with yourself, and eat something only when you really want it, not for emotional reasons or out of habit.
4. Pay attention to how your body feels while you are eating
Continuously take stock of your level of hunger while you are eating, and notice when you begin to feel satisfied. In addition, pay attention to how you feel about the food you are eating, the way it tastes, and how it is making your body feel as you eat it. By being mindful of how your body feels during and after eating, you can start to notice which foods make your body feel the best, and which ones don’t.
- Limit distractions while you are eating, such as watching TV or driving. Take the time to savor the experience of eating.
5. Stop eating when you are satisfied or comfortably full
Though our brains are big and smart, they are not very good at quickly determining when we are full – in fact, it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to fully register that you aren’t hungry anymore. When you eat very quickly, you don’t give your brain time to catch up with your stomach, which can lead you to eat more than you really need – and end up getting uncomfortably full.
- Slow down, and savor your food. This can be a big change for some people, so train yourself to do it by physically putting down your fork or spoon between bites. By savoring the food in your mouth, you allow yourself time to actually enjoy it.
- When you’ve decided you are comfortably full, put the food away. It is easy to mindlessly graze when food is sitting in front of you.
A good place to start is to keep a food journal for a few days or a week. Take stock of not only what you’re eating, but where you ate, how much, and how you felt – physically and emotionally- before and after eating. This can help you identify patterns in your eating, like eating out of boredom or habit, because you were sad, or mindlessly in front of the TV.
Eating should be a pleasure – not the source of stress and anxiety that it can often become. By paying attention to your body and how it feels when you eat, you can start trusting your own instincts and feelings of hunger and fullness.