Today is the day you start “the diet.” You are “good” all day, but nightfall brings temptation. Once again you lose control… and tell yourself you’ll start again tomorrow.
You are not alone – a typical attempt at dieting can mean you go all day eating little or nothing, and by the end of the day you are so hungry you will eat everything in sight.
So here’s a tip if you are hungry: EAT SOMETHING! You probably already know quite a bit about dieting. But do you know how to nourish yourself?
There are two things that can be your most effective tools in controlling your weight for the rest of your life – the Hunger Scale and the Journal.
You are your own experiment in life. If you don’t know what you are doing now, you cannot know which habits you want to change, or which you want to keep. To change, you must become a Conscious Observer of your own behavior. So send the Inner Critic over to the Outlets so she’ll stay out of your way.
The Hunger Scale is the only “scale” you will need for a while. On the Hunger Scale, 1 is so famished that you will eat anything in sight. You may experience headaches, loss of concentration, irritability or feeling shaky.
You can not make rational decisions about food. This doesn’t mean you are weak or an addict – you are simply too hungry. You brain is in survival mode and craves nourishment. Your biological urge will be to overeat – fast.
Level 10 is stuffed to the point of being sick. If you fall to a 1 on the Hunger Scale, your natural instincts will suspect famine, and propel you to eat until you hit 10.
At 5, your hunger level is neutral; you probably could eat, but there is no physical feeling of hunger. At 6, you feel a slight pressure in your stomach. If you imagine wearing a fitted waistband, at 7 it would start to feel tight; at 8 you have to unbutton it. At 9 and 10 you are ready for sweatpants.
Your goal is to start eating at around 2 or 3. There is a slight sense of hunger, but you can still think clearly and eat slowly. It will then be easier to stop eating when you are no longer hungry, which is 5 to 6.
This will require planning so you can eat more frequently than you may be used to. Be prepared! Stock up so you can snack on fresh foods, such as protein, vegetables or salad, fruit, or whole grains. These foods burn more slowly and will provide energy for a longer period of time.
A food journal is important – as a tool to learn about yourself, not criticize yourself. Do you know your emotional eating traps? Do you pay attention to the needs of your body and feelings, or do you starve or stuff out of habit?
Record what you eat immediately. Don’t worry about specific measuring right now; just be honest with yourself. If you try to remember at end of the day, you will miss many details about your habits.
These are the journal guidelines:
• Are you hungry? If so, what level is your hunger? If it is not physical hunger, are you cranky, lightheaded, etc.?
• What are you hungry for? Eat it. Stop when you are no longer hungry.
• How much was that? Be sure to list side dishes and condiments; they sneak in extra calories.
• What were you feeling emotionally?
• What level is your hunger when you stop?
Be kind to yourself. It can take years before your improved eating habits are no longer thrown off by an emotional upset. However, your response will change over time. Emotions that can throw you into a 5,000-calorie binge today may be comforted by a 300-calorie “treat” in the future – or a behavior that does not even involve food.
As you change your diet to frequent small, balanced meals, you will learn to recognize your natural healthy appetite, enjoy natural, whole foods instead of craving sweets – and easily shed excess weight. Don’t panic if you are hungry; this is a sign that your metabolism is balanced and your brain is requesting fuel for energy. Eat!
This article is copyright © Dr. Laurie Andreoni 2006 and may only be re-produced with author contact resource and without alteration or addition.
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