Do you sometimes have days where you can’t seem to get enough food, even when you’ve eaten adequate amounts? Truth is, we all have these days when our hormones and food choices are out of whack, and we still feel ravenous even though we just ate what seemed like a decent meal.
Some food ingredients can actually increase cravings for more and fail to turn on the hormones that signal to our body that we’ve had enough to eat, resulting in “rebound hunger”. But when you understand what’s going on, you are able to act intelligently and quiet those cravings for good.
Look for these 5 signs next time you have the never-ending “munchies”.
You are Overtired
Studies show that just one night of poor sleep will increase the hunger hormone ghrelin and decrease leptin, the hormone that signals to our body that we’ve had enough to eat. Nagging fatigue also increases the stress hormone cortisol, so a sleepless night becomes a “triple whammy” for increased appetite and insatiable cravings. We tend to seek out “quick energy” in the form of sugary and starchy foods or coffee to help get us through the day, but the best thing you can do is eat a meal of protein, healthy fats and fibre and go to bed early or steel a power nap.
You Drink too Many Diet Drinks
Soft drinks, cordials, ice-teas, syrupy coffees and energy drinks are our biggest source of high fructose corn syrup and nasty artificial sweeteners. High fructose beverages reduce blood flow and activity in the brains regions that regulate appetite, so these drinks are easily consumed and fail to satiate. Also, high fructose corn syrup and aspartame can trick our brains into craving more food, even when we’re full and increase our cravings for sweets. It works by impeding the body’s ability to use leptin, the “satiation hormone”. Switch to water or herbal teas to reduce cravings.
Your Breakfast Wasn’t Nutrient Dense
The toast, bagel, muffin or sugar cereal for breakfast is not an optimal start to the day. Eating a protein rich breakfast instead makes for smaller rises in blood sugar and stable insulin levels throughout the day, which means you have long sustained energy and stable moods and fewer sudden food cravings. If you make the mistake of eating a sugary cereal or white toast with jam or honey without any protein or fat, your body will automatically be put into fat storing mode – and you will be left craving more empty carbs.
You Skipped the Vegies
Most people don’t eat enough leafy greens, salad and vegies at meals and therefore miss out on filling fibre. Natural, fibre filled foods help to fill you up, keep you regular and slow down gastric emptying, which means you feel fuller for longer. When you “volumize” your meals with lots of non-starchy vegies, salad or soup, it helps shut off your appetite for hours and reduces the need for empty calories.
You are Not Hydrated Properly
Dehydration often mimics the feeling of hunger. If you’ve just eaten and still feel hungry, try drinking a hot tea or a tall glass of water before eating more, and see if your desires to keep munching diminish. I always finish my meals with a hot drink, and it helps to register that I’ve finished the meal. Another good trick is to drink a tall glass of water before each meal, as it has shown to reduce the overall amount consumed at the meal, which helps you lose weight.
Think Before you Keep Munching
Next time you are in a panic about your insatiable hunger, be a detective and try to ascertain the root cause. With the right knowledge, you are in a better position to understand what is really going on, without beating yourself up and feeling lousy.
In the spirit of Valentines Day, I propose that when you love yourself unconditionally, with all your flaws and without judgement, it will profoundly impact your ability to do what’s best for you.
Why is this important for weight loss? Because loving yourself – and putting your own needs first, at least some of the time – is very healthy! But many of us never learned how.
The concept of self-love is uncomfortable for many because we shudder to think about vain, egotistical people we’ve known and have perhaps vowed never to be like that.
But true self-love is nothing like vanity or egotism – in fact it’s quite the opposite. True, authentic self-love is subtle and humble and never obtrusive because there is no need to prove anything to anyone. It’s more like a quiet whisper of self-assurance – which means we always act with self-respect and self-care.
Self-love is never a selfish act. Taking time to create, to rest, to enjoy, to laugh – affects our overall health and wellness. Doing activities regularly that makes us feel good boosts our serotonin and makes us less likely to reach for food to take care of ourselves.
When you take care of yourself and nurture yourself in ways that don’t involve unnecessary eating, you are better able to take care of the needs of your family, your career and your life. So don’t be afraid to embrace the concept of “healthy selfishness” – because when you feel loved by yourself – you will have more love to give others.
Why is self-love important in the process of losing weight?
Because if you don’t truly love and value yourself, you’ll struggle to do what’s best for you, including taking good care of your body, mind and emotional health. When you really love yourself unconditionally, you actually want to take care of yourself by making the effort to cook healthy meals, exercise regularly and get plenty of rest. You respect yourself and demand that others respect you as well.
By contrast, if you suffer from low self-esteem and believe yourself to be inadequate, you’ll find yourself acting inadequately, like your needs aren’t important. But they are! If you deem yourself a failure, you will constantly undermine and sabotage your own successes. If you think of yourself as fat, ugly, weak or unable to lose weight – these thoughts can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
To love yourself more try these tips;
1.Focus each day on being completely accepting of yourself, your body, mind and spirit and always speak kindly to yourself – like your would speak to a young child you love dearly.
2.Be gentle with yourself, listen to your body and treat it kindly. Remind yourself that overeating is pure body abuse. Refraining from unnecessary eating is an act of self-love.
3.Practice looking at yourself every day and feeling the love and gratitude for yourself and your wonderful body, which carries your stoically through this life journey. Feel proud of everything that works and take pleasure in appreciating all your best features.
We are all beautiful and worthy in our own way – so FEEL the love for yourself this Valentines Day and do something kind and loving for yourself!
Have you ever tried to lose weight by “white knuckling” it, trying to muster all the willpower you can find? For sure, I know the frustration of feeling like a failure because you feel you lack willpower over what and how much you eat. It’s devastating.
For decades, dieters and doctors alike believed that willpower was the key to successful weight loss. Just try harder, they said. In fact many of my clients tell me that they are hopeless at losing weight because they have no willpower. If only they could get some, their prayers would be answered.
Create New Behaviours
The truth is that the ability to stick to a weight loss plan has little to do with will – and everything to do with changing our daily habits and the way we think about food. In fact the ability to lose weight isn’t rooted in willpower at all, but instead in simple behavioural changes that become automatic habits.
When my clients are taught how to substitute a fulfilling activity for filling up with food, their appetites and their weight become easier to control. While it sometimes seems like we are being overtaken by an overwhelming desire to eat certain foods, what we are really experiencing is an unconscious behavioural reaction – or often just a bad habit. And habits can be changed.
A Habit is Simply An Automatic Behaviour
A habit, by definition, is simply an automatic behaviour. Grabbing a huge donut with coffee at morning tea may make us feel week willed, but the root cause may actually be hunger (if we didn’t eat breakfast) or an inability to deal with stress (if you’ve got some difficult work to do). So the root of your temptation is not about willpower, it’s about getting adequate nutrition at breakfast and strengthening your ability to handle stress at work by facing things head on without the need to stuff the stress down with unnecessary eating.
Understanding the Choices You Make
While nutrition knowledge is important, it is only one piece of the puzzle. The real secret is to understand your behaviours and motivations at their roots, and to use this information to have a meaningful impact on your health. Most of us understand that cabbage is healthier than cookies. We can talk about sugar, fat and gluten all day but does that change the fact that cookies taste good and you want to eat them?
Any weight loss plan that simply forbids cookies and neglects to help you understand why you make the choices you make is unlikely to help you in the long run.
Automate Your Decisions
The way our minds can cope with the willpower dilemma is to automate as much of our decision making as possible. We do this by creating strong daily habits that serve our health goals. Habits are specific behaviours that occur in response to a trigger or cue. Habits are also always associated with some kind of reward, which then reinforces the trigger and the habit is born. Like when the phone rings, you automatically pick up, because it may be your best friend calling. This is how habits are created.
Once established, habits occur automatically without expending any willpower or mental effort. There is no confusion over what you should or shouldn’t do, you just do it. For example you clean your teeth before bed as a habit because you want good dental health. Scientists have estimated that up to 90% of our daily food decisions occur as a result of habits.
Have a Meaningful Reward
So willpower is not a particularly reliable way to achieve lasting weight loss, because it wears out quickly. We are better off spending our efforts creating healthy habits and make sure these habits have a meaningful reward in order for them to stick.
This means that in order to achieve long term weight loss, you need to find healthy foods that you enjoy eating and physical activities that you like doing. Then spend your time making these as convenient and doable as possible. And do them consistently.
For 14 years now, I’ve been going for a morning walk and eating some variety of delicious protein rich breakfast every day. It’s not difficult for me because it’s a habit that I enjoy. On the other hand, if I didn’t make time for daily walks and a nutrient dense breakfast, I’d probably be reaching for the donut mid-morning.
So forget willpower and focus on habits that are healthy for you. Start with the easiest habits you can manage and work your way up. It took me about six weeks to break the habit of not having sugar in my tea and coffee, but now it’s an automatic habit. It takes anywhere from 6 weeks to six months to form new habits that stick. Best of all, once you’ve built enough good habits, your health and weight will take care of itself.
One of the problems of having so much cheap food available these days on every street corner is that we tend to use it rather than eat it. Our over abundant food environment leads to a lot of non-hunger eating – and eating for reasons other than authentic hunger. We use food for entertainment, pleasure, reward; procrastination and even prestige (think designer coffees, statement smoothies and famous cookies).
Occasional Treats Not Daily Occurrences
Donuts, cookies, muffins, frozen yoghurts with candy toppings, syrupy coffees and warm pretzels are all meant to be occasional treats not daily occurrences. Imagine if you chose just one decadent treat a week and really looked forward to it – how much more would you value and savor the experience?
Best of all, by cutting way back and being super selective, you can still lose weight. In fact, when I was living in Paris, I indulged in a buttery, flaky croissant every Sunday morning in a cafe and added a yoghurt when I got home and still lost weight. Mind you it was the highly anticipated treat of my week and I absolutely loved it, but I wasn’t doing that every day. I really valued that amazing croissant and looked forward to it with delight!
Plan to Indulge Rather Than Cheat
People often ask me how they can indulge within reason and not feel guilty about it. “Should I allow a cheat day?” is a common question. But the word “cheat” conjures up feelings of guilt and wrongdoing, which can then trigger more self-loathing and overeating.
Instead, I encourage you to “plan to indulge” rather than have a “cheat day”. This puts you in charge of planning what, how much and when you will savor your indulgence and by planning for it, there is no impulsive, addictive behaviour attached to the occasion. In the process you are practising patience, delayed gratification and learning self-trust with food.
What are “Your Can’t Live Without” Foods?
Everyone has a list of favourite foods that don’t score too high on the nutrient value scale, but sure are delicious to eat. Unfortunately, we’ve succumbed to the mindset that those foods are strictly off limits. And what are the results? For most, we get stuck in a cycle of deprivation followed by bingeing. For instance, we may have vowed to ban potato chips from our lives. But when we “break down” and have a few, we start feeling guilty and think, “Well, I blew it, so I might as well eat the whole bag now.”
Change Your Thinking
The key is to change your thinking and stop categorizing foods as “good” or “bad”. Off course some foods are healthier than others, but unless you have a specific medical condition that warrants dietary restrictions, it is perfectly okay to incorporate small amounts of “fun foods” into your lifestyle. Temptation will always be there, so we need to find a way to live in harmony with food.
So when you plan to indulge, choose your indulgences carefully and proceed to enjoy them wisely. If you love it, go for the best you can find and savour it. Don’t waste your time on mediocre food. It’s not worth it. You deserve the best! Give yourself a pat on the back when you do well. Be rational about events when you do enjoy a treat. I used to say to myself “one croissant wont make me fat, but ten will!” So I knew I was safe with one – and you can be safe too with the right mindset.
It’s important never to panic when you indulge, because we all know that can lead to continued overeating, which you don’t want. In fact, I encourage you to indulge when out, because when you only receive a single serving it’s a lot harder to overindulge!
The Bottom Line…
Learning to build treats into your overall healthful eating lifestyle is a process that will take time, so be patient and gentle with yourself. As your confidence builds, you will find that this will become a natural way of life for you. Treat foods will no longer seem so seductive and you can incorporate more flexibility. You will feel in charge of your choices, and will no longer have to deny yourself of favourite food.
How do you indulge without going overboard? I’d love to hear in the comments?
Have you ever heard the accusation that “overweight people are lazy gluttons”? If there’s any myth I would like to debunk, it’s that one.
No-one volunteers for unneeded weight gain. In fact I have never met people who try harder at anything than the clients who come to me for help in losing excess weight. I often hear people struggling with fatigue and low motivation to exercise. Many people struggle too just to have the energy to cook for themselves.
I also have clients that don’t overeat, but their metabolisms have been so damaged, their adrenals so burned out from chronic stress and their thyroid function so impaired that they feel really down about being constantly tired and overweight. But there is hope.
Resistance to Weight Loss
Resistance to weight loss can occur for a number of reasons. Sometimes, it may just be as simple as you are eating too much, even if its healthy and nutritious, and you can learn to moderate your portions and get results in a week or two. Another possibility is that you may lose slowly in the week before your menstrual period, especially when cravings are aggravated. So we need to be patient and take that into consideration.
Bear in mind, another common reason for your body to resist weight loss is a history of going on and off diets, or yo-yo dieting. When you get into a pattern of repeatedly losing and gaining weight, your body becomes adept at protecting its fat stores by slowing down your metabolism. Personally it took me three months of consistent, balanced eating to repair my metabolism.
However, solving other problems such as an underactive thyroid, metabolic resistance and a low serotonin state are more complex, but I want to give you some tips on how best to remedy these roadblocks.
If you’re facing sluggish weight loss, you may want to consider addressing these three possibilities;
1. An underactive Thyroid – Are you tired, cold and overweight? Hypothyroidism can slow your metabolism and get in the way of weight loss. Among other things, your thyroid gland regulates your body temperature, so sensitivity to cold is one of the first signs. Other symptoms include weight gain or an inability to lose weight, hair loss, fatigue and lethargy, depression, reduced sexual drive, dry skin, chronic constipation and poor nails.
What Can I Do?
If you suspect that you may have an underactive thyroid, talk to your doctor who will likely perform blood tests. You may need help with thyroid medicine. It also helps to eat plenty of high quality thyroid activating vegetables, such as leafy greens and protein, and take supplements such as L-tyrosine, the amino acid that the thyroid uses to make all of its hormones. It may also help to take a good vitamin B supplement and iron if you suspect anaemia.
2. Metabolic Resistance – The inability to burn fat or lose weight is called metabolic resistance. This is caused by excessive insulin and insulin resistance. When your metabolism is healthy, only a small amount of insulin is needed to regulate blood sugar. But if you have overloaded your cells with sugar and simple carbs for years, you need a lot more insulin just to clear the blood stream of sugars, just for insulin to do its job.
What Can I Do?
The best way to lower insulin and repair your metabolism is to lower your carbs and eat foods that keep your insulin levels balanced all day. This will allow your body to burn fat instead of burning sugars all day.
3. Low Serotonin State – Do you feel like a dark cloud is hanging over your head? If you have cravings for sugar and simple carbs that seems overwhelming, you could be depleted in an important neurotransmitter called serotonin, which is responsible for our feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Stress, lack of sleep, excess alcohol, toxins and lack of protein all depletes our stores. Our brains will seek out high insulin foods, like doughy, sugary starches, in an attempt to lift our brain chemicals – and this command will be stronger than your ability to say “no”. When your eating is rooted in mild depression, it feels almost impossible to eat reasonably and resist insatiable cravings for junk food.
What Can I Do?
The safe way to build up the serotonin level is to enable the body to manufacture its own serotonin by eating plenty of quality protein (which contains essential amino acids to make serotonin) or by taking the immediate precursor to serotonin which is a chemical called tryptophan (5-HTP), a popular nutrient found in health food stores.
Stay Strong and Carry On
When your brain chemicals are balanced, it is much easier to eat mindfully and resist emotionally driven eating. When your thyroid function is repaired, weight loss will become easier and you will have more energy to exercise. And when you start to lower your insulin by lowering your carbs and eating adequate protein and fat, you will definitely start to see progress in your weight loss and enjoy better moods without the need to reach for sugary starchy treats.
So never give up trying to get to the bottom of your weight problems. If you are determined enough, you will find a way to overcome any obstacle that is keeping you from your dream body!
Sally Asher Healthy Tips
Food is not the enemy. All foods can fit in the context of a healthy diet. Get all the tools, resources and support you need to reach your weight loss goals.
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