While I’ve learned to eat so much more healthily over the last 15 years, one of my biggest challenges has been over-eating over the Christmas and New Year period.
Interestingly, the odd social event isn’t a problem, a wedding or birthday party for example, but give me a prolonged period of opportunity then I find my good intentions so much harder to keep.
On reflection it’s often because I’m distracted by conversation so I eat mindlessly. Plus, if I’m not at home – where my fridge and cupboards are stocked with healthy, fresh ingredients to dive into – I’m often tempted by unhealthier foods on offer.
The most important habit I have to remind myself of is mindful eating – and drinking!
This is simply being aware of what you put into your mouth and listening to your body’s hunger signals. This helps you to avoid responding to your brain’s impulse to eat all the brown, beige, sugary and fried foods in sight and snack when you’re not really hungry.
Mindful eating is very, very powerful. It involves eating slowly, fully appreciating the textures and taste of the food in your mouth, being conscious of what and how much you feed your body. Really be aware and enjoy every mouthful.
So difficult when being distracted talking to friends and family, having a good time!
Listen to your body
Using a device called the Hunger Scale is a great way of understanding what your body needs.
The Hunger Scale
- Starving – ravenous, weak, irritable
- Uncomfortably hungry
- Very hungry – “I’m ready to eat now”
- A little hungry
- Not full but not that hungry either – “My mind is on things other than food.”
- Satisfied and feeling light – “I could eat more but…”
- Comfortable but slightly too full
- Very full – “I ate more than I needed.”
- Too full – Feeling heavy and uncomfortable
- Christmas Dinner full – “I’m going to be sick!!
How to use the Hunger Scale
Don’t wait until you’re at number one or two on the scale – starving or uncomfortably hungry – before you start eating. You’re likely to eat anything and everything you can get your hands on with little or no thought, and be totally out of control.
Start eating at number three – very hungry, ready to eat now. You need to feel some hunger pangs but still have control over what you will eat. So don’t wait till you’re starving, irritable, dizzy, and shaky. If you do, you’re probably going to regret it when you step on the scales or when the sleepless nights and hot flushes increase!
Finish eating when you reach number six – satisfied and feeling light. You could eat more, but if you did, you’d lose that lovely feeling of lightness and probably end up bloated, your clothes uncomfortable and tight. That’s because it takes about 20 minutes after you’ve eaten for your brain’s satiety signals to kick in. If you leave the table when you’re nearly full, 20 minutes later you will feel full, but not overly so.
If you stop eating when you’re a little too full – number seven – you’re going to feel very full 20 minutes later. In just those few minutes you go from feeling fine to feeling so big you have to loosen your belt!
So please don’t starve and don’t stuff! Stay in the Hunger Scale of three to six and you’ll be able to eat, drink and be merry… without the uncomfortable after effects.
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