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1 year ago
6 Ways to Beat the Urge to Binge-Snack

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Snacking's clearly delicious, but it actually serves a bigger purpose in the weight-loss game. "When you snack, you're making sure your hunger is satisfied throughout the day instead of trying to use willpower to get you through to your next meal," says Kimberly Gomer, M.S., R.D., director of nutrition at the Pritikin Longevity Center. "That just doesn't work." At the same time, it can be easy to fall into a snack trap and eventually wind up further away from your slim-down goal. Read on for a few tips about how to hit that snacking sweet spot.

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Pay Attention to Your Hunger Scale

Instead of diving into your snack without thinking, stop to consider how your body feels. "I teach what we call a hunger scale," says Gomer. "A one is when your tank is empty, 10 is when it's full and you're in a food coma. We tell our guests they should start eating at a three and stop at a six, which is when you feel light yet satisfied." Once you hit that point where you could eat more if you wanted but don't feel any hunger pangs, you can put the hummus aside.

MORE: 10 Simple Steps to Crush Hunger and Lose Weight

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Choose the Right Options

Don't just focus on how many calories are in what you're eating. Gomer recommends factoring in calorie density, too. "It's a simple science-based premise," she says. "If you take a pound of food, you can measure how many calories you can force into that single pound. That's its calorie density." Veggies and fruits have the lowest calorie density, followed by complex whole grains like oatmeal and brown rice, then lean protein, fatty protein, processed junk food, and finally, oils. "If you're eating less calorie-dense foods, you'll still get the same volume in your stomach with much less caloric effect," says Gomer.

MORE: 7 Ways to Eat More Veggies

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Slow It Down

"Every person has stress receptors in their system," says Gomer. "When you eat, these get a hit and gradually send your brain a signal that you've had enough." The issue is that it can take 15 to 20 minutes for that signal to reach your brain, so you may overdo it while it's on its way. Focus on each bite of food to train yourself to eat at a more leisurely pace—how does it taste, smell, and feel? That allows your body to process satiety before you've over-eaten.

MORE: Q&A: "How Can I Teach Myself to Eat More Slowly?"

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Swap Out What You're Noshing On

Let's say you know you're closing in on that six on your hunger scale, so you're almost satisfied. At the same time, you can tell you won't stop eating. Whether it's because of stress or because the food just tastes good or you're tipsy, there's a fix. Instead of continuing with whatever's in front of you, switch it out for something healthier. "You don't eat six carrot sticks and say you need more," says Gomer. "Food that tends to be easily overeaten is processed junk food because of all that added fat, salt, and sugar." You'll likely find that if you replace the chips with some broccoli, you'll be able to stop yourself pretty easily.

MORE: Top 28 Best Healthy Snacks

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Don't Multitask

The key to snacking and to a healthy diet in general is to eat mindfully. "It's impossible to pay attention to your satiety signals if you're on the phone, watching TV, or heading somewhere," says Gomer. You may be full, but you'll tune that out to devote your attention to whatever else you're trying to accomplish. "Instead, treat your body with respect by sitting down and concentrating on what you're eating," says Gomer. "It gives your mind a chance to tune into your body."

MORE: The Simple Way to Eat More Mindfully

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Ask Yourself This Question

If you feel the urge to overindulge even though you just snacked, ask yourself if you want a baked potato. Seriously! "That's our litmus test," says Gomer. "If you don't want a baked potato, you're not really hungry." The point is to determine whether your body actually needs more fuel or you just want to keep snacking for the taste or stress relief. If you'd devour the baked potato, that's your green light to keep on keeping eating until you're satisfied. 

MORE: 10 Healthy Snacks for Weight Loss

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