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Self-control

Reprinted from PN August 2012

Many people have an issue with controlling how much food they eat.

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Moderation is a word that makes sense but can be incredibly difficult to follow. A lot of people suffer from this problem, and many have no idea where to start in order to fix it.

Studies have shown that if we let ourselves get too hungry, we tend to crave very fatty and sugary foods. This is because these foods are most calorie dense. Our brain is simple, right? Get real hungry, and it automatically picks foods with more calories/energy. This can also explain why after a sports practice/activity we can get so hungry and grab whatever is close and convenient.

The way to attack this phenomenon is to not get too hungry. I know, I know: “I should eat more often in order to eat less food? That doesn’t make sense.”

Snacks throughout the day will curb these cravings. Hit that 3:30 spot and want a muffin? Munch on some pistachios or grab an apple/banana/orange.


This is also why breakfast is so important. Many people don’t eat in the morning and end up being way too hungry for lunch and later for dinner.

Try these three strategies that I have seen work:

(1) Portion-controlled items. Supermarkets are selling a lot of these — little packs of Cheez-Its, single-serving yogurt or cheese, single packs of trail mix. They all work.

The strategy is to put the big bag somewhere safe and only grab one small bag at a time and throw it into your backpack/bag/purse. This way when you want a quick burger and fries or ice cream, you can go into your bag and eat the food that is already in front of you, portioned out, and picked to be a healthy option.

Make sure this is something you like. Everything is okay, in moderation. If it needs to be potato chips, pick out a handful and put them in a zip-lock bag. That’s all you get. Quench the salty thirstiness with water.

(2) Smaller plates. 

I know we are talking snacks, but for meals it can be as simple as small plates in order to curb your self-control problems.

My parents practice this constantly, and it always works. Don’t use huge ten-inch dinner plates. Go for a 6- or 7-inch plate and fill that up. Automatically, less food is taken. To try this, buy some small disposable plates and see if it works. If it does, maybe buy some nice plates and be real classy.

(3) Crave-smashing foods. Certain foods will do a better job of keeping you satisfied with smaller amounts.

The three areas I look for when considering this are protein, fiber, and poly- or monounsaturated fats. Snacking on just a little bit of these foods will do a much better job than the sweets and the fats. Here are  some ideas:

-         Nuts — cashews, almonds, pistachios

-         Trail mix, granola bar, dried fruit

-         Saltines, popcorn, pretzels, and baked crackers

-         Veggies like carrots, celery (with peanut butter), cherry tomatoes, peppers

-    Fruits, like all of them

-         Yogurt, cheese sticks, one glass of milk/chocolate milk (skim)

When you are shopping for these snacks, make sure you eat beforehand! Going to the grocery store hungry is the most dangerous thing you can do. Your cart will be filled with tons of salt, sugar, and fat. Trust me.

When all else fails, just remember the phrase, “Everything in moderation!”

 

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