Category Archives: Common Lifestyle Mistakes

hungry!

Constantly Hungry?

There are three different types of hunger:   hangry, hungry and what I will call “mouthgry” or mouth hunger.  Hangry happens when the body’s natural hunger mechanisms have long gone unfulfilled, the body’s glycogen stores have been depleted, and you feel irritable and foggy.  Hungry occurs due to fluctuations in satiety hormones, leptin and grehlin.  Leptin tells us we’re full.   Grehlin tells us we’re hungry.  Leptin levels decline and grehlin levels rise 4-5 hours after eating – motivating us to eat.  And “mouthgry” happens when the mouth is just crying for a little something-something, not due to any real hunger, but as a reward, a titillating mouth pause from life’s burdens.  If you feel you are constantly hungry, it’s important to know what kind of hunger you’re experiencing and to observe personal eating patterns if you really want to change it.

Hangry, Hungry, Mouthgry

Personally there is no excuse to ever experience hangry.  It is so easy to keep a protein bar or peanut butter and crackers at your work, in your car or on your person.  No excuse, it’s a no-brainer, period.  And mouthgry is much more complicated.  It could be from eating too many refined carbs that cause fluctuations in blood sugar, or it could be related to your personal level of life satisfaction and personal contentment.  This is a much bigger focus than what will be covered here and requires personal reflection, re-prioritizing and some serious de-cluttering, both physically and mentally.  So that pretty much leaves addressing feeling hunger.

How To Manage Hunger

The key to managing hunger is to make sure each of your meals contains a good amount of fiber from real foods, a good amount of protein from low-fat sources and just the right amount of fat from the heart healthy fats and to eat 3 spaced meals a day.  Personally, I’m not big on  snacking if meal planning is given its due diligence, but a snack prior to exercise certainly makes sense.  Here’s how you can keep hunger at bay.

  1. Don’t skip breakfast.  It’s the most important meal of the day and sets the pace for the day.  Focus on fiber and protein.  It is recommended that we get 25 grams of dietary fiber based on a 2000 calorie diet.  The best sources are from whole grains, beans, nuts and produce.  You’ll know something is whole grain if the first word under the list of ingredients starts with “whole” or “100% whole”, not “enriched wheat flour”.  Some good breakfast examples are a veggie omelette with whole grain toast, a smoothie, or plain fat-free Greek yogurt mixed with fruit and topped with 2 tbsp of nuts.  Oatmeal, teff or even quinoa topped with nuts and some Greek yogurt is another great breakfast that will keep you full until lunch.  If you don’t have the time to make an omelet, one of my favorite breakfast solutions is to take a slice of a frittata and put it in a whole grain wrap with some spinach and salsa.
  2. Reduce your high glycemic carbs.  These are the carbs that shoot your blood sugar up quickly.  This is a correlation between a high glycemic diet and low leptin levels.  Examples of high glycemic foods include donuts, fruit juice, corn, potatoes, white rice, pasta and bread and sodas.
  3. Include heart healthy fat in every meal.  Research indicates that getting adequate amounts mono- and poly-unsaturated fats raises leptin levels.  Good sources of healthy fats include nuts, soy, avocado, flax seed, olive oil, canola oil and nut butters.   These fats also will lower your bad cholesterol, LDL, and raise your good cholesterol, HDL.  Be mindful of portions by looking at the calories per serving size because fat is high in calories (9 calories/gram vs 4 calories/gram for carbs and protein).
  4. Boost your protein.  In this Psychology Today article eating sufficient protein caused rats to eat less:                                                                                                                                                             “They found that the regimen sparked production of glucose in the small intestine, and              that this increase, sensed in the liver and relayed to the parts of the brain involved in the          control of appetite, caused the rats to eat less.”
  5. Increase your volume each meal with nonstarchy veggies and soup.  Not only will this please your eyes, but it will fill your belly.  Adding nonstarchy veggies to eggs, casseroles, and soups will give you volume, without all the calories.  Make sure the soups are broth based without added cream or lots of cheese.  Here’s one of my favorite chicken soup recipes and using frozen veggies and canned beans makes this a quick preparation.
  6. Distract yourself.  Hunger does come in waves.  If you’ve eaten a balanced meal a few hours earlier, go for a walk, get a drink and know that it will pass in a few minutes.

Feeling hungry is normal.  I notice with my own hunger it can be uncomfortable at times.  It effects my thinking and makes me want to make quick food choices.  Even now, it’s been four and a half hours since I had my smoothie and I notice my hunger is a little uncomfortable.  I’m thinking about the half sandwich and extra salad I made for dinner last night.  I always keep quick meal ingredients stocked like my peanut butter or low-fat cottage cheese I put on Wasa crackers, a portion of last night’s meal or even the salad we make extra at dinner to have for lunch today.  I never let my hunger get to the point where I could eat a horse.  And I certainly don’t let myself get hangry.  It takes a little planning, but my body rewards me for my effort.  And that’s something to “nay” about!

 

How To Fit Losing Weight Into Your Life

The next few blogs will focus on the most common emotional mistakes people make in their efforts to loss weight.  Today will focus on how to successfully lose weight for life.

FoundationYou’ve had some success with Weight Watchers or a low-fat or low carb diet, but now you’ve stalled.  The novelty of losing weight has worn off and now work and home life has caused you to lose focus in your efforts to lose weight.  This is a common mistake, it’s because you tried to fit your life into your diet instead of making your diet part of your life.

Mae West once said, “knowing what you want is the first step to getting it”.  The top two reasons people want to lose weight is for health and appearances.  Those are powerful reasons but keeping them front and center means addressing the issues that caused the weight gain in the first place.

What Works In Losing Weight

If you look at the National Weight Loss Registry that tracks participants who have lost at least 30 pounds for over a year, you’ll find that most maintain a low-calorie, low-fat diet and get an hour of physical activity – usually walking – a day.  Some have kept their weight off for over 65 years and have lost as much as 300 pounds!  Other findings are that participants tend to weigh themselves weekly, limit TV to no more than ten hours a week and eat breakfast daily.

How To Fit Weight Loss Into Your Life

There’s no getting around it.  Examining the patterns that lead to your weight gain is essential for lasting weight loss.  Yes, you’ll mourn some of those habits, but your weight will come right back on if you don’t address them.  The following are the three most common causes I’ve seen for weight derailment:

  1. Not putting enough value in a good night’s sleep.  People try to stretch the day by staying up late to finish watching a ball game, a late night show or playing internet games.  Before you know it, it’s been three or four hours since dinner and those high-fat, high calorie munchies in the kitchen are soon in your hand.  So not only to you go to bed full, but you wake up tired and not hungry for breakfast.  Lack of sleep is associated with a decrease in the hunger-blocking hormone Leptin, and an increase in the hunger-producing hormone Ghrelin.  Insufficient sleep causes weight gain.  Furthermore, waking up tired is not exactly conducive to wanting to work up a sweat.  At least during the work week make it a priority to get to bed at a decent hour, before you would be naturally hungry and get at least 7-8 hours of sleep.
  2. Develop a hobby instead of watching TV.  There is nothing more mind-numbing than watching TV.  And with all the food advertisements, it heightens the desire for snacking.  When you mind is busy, it’s off food.  Besides, having a hobby is a great way to cope with stress and boredom – the two most common reasons for non-hungry eating.
  3. Not believing in yourself.  Losing weight is not a sprint, it’s a lifelong marathon.  Anyone can lose weight quickly through a fad diet, but keeping it off means believing that you are strong, that you have willpower and that you are worth making the changes to the nonfood parts of your life that will help keep the unhealthy habits out of your life.  There will always be temptations, but they also diminish in intensity.  Have faith that you are strong enough to get through those moments and focus on what you are gaining.

Change Your Life And You Will Have Lasting Weight Loss Success

Losing weight begins with a strong foundation of getting to the root cause of your weight gain and going from there.  It’s not a diet, it’s a new way of living your life for the rest of your life.  It’s learning how to adjust your life in order to fit lasting weight loss, not fitting your life into a temporary diet.

 

Candy Cravings On Your Mind?

These next couple of blogs are part of the series of common nutritional and emotional mistakes people often make in the logistics of losing weight. Today’s focus is on candy craving.

There are times during the day when the brain just stalls and candy cravings call.   It gets fixated on something or quits making any creative breakthroughs.  That’s when the ole candy dish starts to look mighty fine….and if you grew up on the 70’s you might hum that jingle “sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t” and reach into that bowl for something chocolotey, coconutty and chewy.  Maybe some of you have been disciplined enough to still have some of your Halloween candy (or maybe you just stocked up when they went down 50% the next day).  So you open that piece of candy either from home, at work or in your car and you pop it in your mouth.   Mmmmm.  Can you taste it?  Bursting with flavor, little crunchy, little chewy, little chocolatey.  All kinds of sensations and textures filling every corner of your mouth.  You’re in heaven.  You just got that initial pick-me-up feeling.

Mintel’s report on Snacking Motivations and Attitudes US 2015 found that many people are snacking in order to satisfy a craving or improve work focus.  But what you choose to snack on can either be a pick-me-up and keep me up, or a pick-me-up followed quickly by a put-me down kind of feeling.  My goal is to help you see how eating soda, cookies, candy or some other sugary snack is just a short-term fix, only for that mouth-filling moment, and then poof, it’s gone and you’re tired.

Candy Cravings, A Pick-Me-Up or Put-Me-Down

Feeling tired or unproductive at work is a frustrating feeling.  Add time pressure and boredom with a task and you have a magic recipe for a candy craving.  It seems logical that candy does rev us up, giving us all kinds of energy immediately, but you have to understand what comes next.  All that extra sugar tells the pancreas to make extra insulin which then causes our blood sugars to crash.  Soda, cookies, fruit snacks and other sweets do the same thing.  That’s what makes us tired – the fluctuation in blood sugar – especially from a candy craving.

Discretionary Calories, Not Much Room For Candy Cravings

A day's worth of food

Nutrition Action Healthletter visual

Discretionary calories are the “fun” calories we should only eat after we’ve eaten the nutrient rich foods our body needs.  For a 2000 calorie diet it amounts to about 200 calories for a sedentary individual a day.  They include the sugar in coffee, the wine with dinner, the candy for the afternoon pick-me-up.  The governor in our brain should say, “hold on, will your day’s worth of food look anything like the menu above?”  Are your candy and cookie choices using up the calories your body really needs to deal with the daily attack by cancer-causing cells,  building the good HDL to fight off the artery-narrowing bad LDL, wearing out your pancreas and leading you to type 2 diabetes, or aggravating inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis?  How is that short-term candy craving fix really serving you?  If you really want that candy, save it as a reward after you’ve eaten what your body really needs and then go for a walk.

Cravings Pass And There Are Better Foods To Improve Focus

That afternoon lull might really be a sign of boredom, tiredness or need for brain stimulation. Changing your scenery, talking to someone, doing a brain teaser or doing a different task might be what your brain really needs.  If you need a pick-me-up to really improve focus, choose something from the menu example above to check off some of those nutrients your body really needs and save those discretionary calories for later.  If your mouth still really wants that candy delay it by then first get a cup of tea, talking to someone and then see if you still really want that candy.  Cravings pass and will power gets stronger, one craving at a time.

 

Common Mistake, Packing The Wrong Snacks

The next couple of blogs will focus on common nutritional mistakes I see initially in my clients.

 

There’s 23% more snacking going on this year than last.  I bet even Santa is packing a few extra treats to get him through the night!  According to Mintel’s research, Snacking Motivations and Attitudes US 2015, half of adults snack two to three times a day.  And while older generations grew up rarely snacking, millennials (age 21-38) report snacking four or more times a day and mostly snack for emotional or functional reasons, to cope with stress or improve energy.  For older people snacking is associated with special occasions like games and gatherings.  Sadly, nearly a quarter snack due to boredom.  And probably the most significant finding is that 62% of people snack to satisfy a craving.

Is It A Snack Or A Meal?

The first thing to consider before judging snacking habits is to understand the intent.  Millennials apparently often use their snacking in place of a meal.  The other reasons – special occasions, boredom and cravings are a different animal.  Each requires a different strategy.

myplate_blueIf someone is using snacks to make a meal their combined snacks should make up a healthy plate – with veggie, protein, fruit/whole grain carb and dairy.  See below for some ideas.

Many of my clients in the beginning are surprised that the chips, nuts, cheese, ice cream and baked goods from snacking are providing sometimes a third of their total daily calories – and not giving their body the nutrients it needs.  Most people are unaware of the serving size on the label and are eating directly out of the container.  And yes, nuts are high in those heart healthy unsaturated fats but 1/4 cup contains 200 calories.  One ounce of most cheeses have over 9 gms of mostly saturated fat – amounting to over 100 calories.  Some ice creams have over 7 gms of fat in a half cup serving.  And ice cream, chips and baked goods are double villains, not only high in fat, but delivering a good portion of carbs – up to 22 gms in just one serving.

If It’s A Snack, Then Make It Deliver The Right Nutrients

Snacking should be a time to get some veggies and fruit.  Not only are they low in fat and calories (providing the dip is low-fat), but they will help move number on your scale downward.  The OmniHeart Trial determined that a diet focused on vegetables and fruits reduced systolic blood pressure, as well as heart disease-causing LDL and triglycerides.  These foods can also reduce the risk of diabetes and cancer.  The OmniHeart study recommends 11 daily servings of veggies and fruits based on a 2000 calorie diet.

I recommend my clients aim to get a veggie or small carb and protein as their snack.  Putting more emphasis on non-starchy veggies will reduce the calories, provide good fiber and water.  Add a good dip like hummus, whipped cottage cheese with chive and spices or herbed plain fat-free Greek yogurt will give you the protein to stave off hunger.  Here are some good snack ideas:

  • Wasa crackers topped with low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup of plain fat-free Greek yogurt with 1/2 cup of fruit
  • 1/2 peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread
  • Cut up veggies with hummus, whipped cottage cheese dip or Greek yogurt dip
  • Low fat cottage cheese with fruit
  • Hard-boiled egg with fruit
  • 2 tbsp of nuts with 1 tbsp of raisins
  • 3 cups of air popped popcorn with spray oil and light salt

But You Say You Want A Little “Some’in, Some’in” To Snack On

Well, I get it.  We all need a little something chocolately or crunchie or creamie.  But how about if things actually still fit my goal of having adequate protein and slow burning carbs?  Some of my desserts contain more than the usual amount of protein and are high in fiber.  Both these things are important because they prevent a sudden rise in blood sugar which is the precursor to most cravings.  Want something chocolaty?  My Divine Chocolate cake is made with oat flour, cocoa powder and chia seeds making it high in fiber and higher in protein than most chocolate cakes.   Want something creamy and crunchie?  My Quinoa custard is made with Greek yogurt, quinoa, raisins and eggs also making it high in protein and fiber.  My Mango frozen yogurt is made with fruit and Greek yogurt, making it high in protein.  Every dessert I make I try to enhance my adding ingredients to boost fiber, protein or both.

Breaking Old Snack Habits

I was a chip-aholic before I knew better.  And I confess there still are times where the craving hits me.  But on those rare occasions I keep it small by buying a small serving.

In general, what has worked for me and for many of my clients who successfully lose weight and keep it off, is to eat a breakfast with adequate protein to help control hunger, keep unhealthy snacks out of the house and out of eyesight at work, drink plenty of water, seltzer or tea,  and pay attention to hunger levels, never allowing ravenous hunger to develop.  Snacks have many purposes but packing healthy ones will keep you from packing on the pounds.