How do we avoid overeating while still enjoying food and its connection to cherished memories and cultural traditions?
The first step is to understand ourselves and the way we eat. Are we internal eaters? External eaters? Do we know of a situation when we usually fall prey even when not hungry?
“As a dietician, what I usually do is bring awareness to those factors,” says Catherine Coccia, an associate professor in the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work. “Why do we do those things, and how can we work to fix some of those behaviors? It comes to self-regulation.”
The keys to finding balance, Coccia says, is to learn to listen to our bodies, figure out when we are truly hungry, develop a nutritious meal plan and apply this knowledge through self-regulation.
“We have to think, ‘What is the best, most strategic decision at this moment?’” she says. “And balance that with ‘What’s going to make me feel good in the long run?’”
The important thing, she adds, is to know yourself and your goals.
For those looking to lose some weight or just trying to fuel our bodies with nutritious meals, here are some tips to help.
The general tips outlined here are for the average, healthy adult. Those struggling with obesity, anorexia, bulimia or other eating disorders and health conditions, should consult a medical expert.
1. Your goal should be about health, not appearance.
“It’s about setting yourself up for good health in the future and enjoying the activities that you like,” Frazier says. “It’s about making lifestyle choices that are more psychologically fulfilling and attainable.”
If you’re working toward a goal that you know will lead to a happier life in the long run, it makes your decisions – and overcoming obstacles – a little bit easier.
2. Track what you eat.
“When you track what you eat, sometimes you realize you’re eating a lot,” Coccia says.
Maybe you’re munching on chips or grabbing one too many chocolate bars from the vending machine outside of class. Keeping a log of what you eat can help you figure out which extra calories you can cut.
3. Rate your hunger before each meal from one to 10.
The rating of one means you’re not hungry at all. And 10 means you’re feeling ready to eat anything in sight.
“Usually we want people to start eating at seven, and stop eating when they’re at three,” Coccia explains. This will help you listen to your body better.
4. Try gathering around the dinner table to share a meal with your family.
This might seem surprising, but gathering around the dinner table – or coming together for a meal any time of the day – is proven to impact families and particularly adolescents for the better.
“We know that when you eat around a dinner table, kids do better in school and there are less delinquent issues. It doesn’t matter what ethnicity or what socioeconomic status,” Coccia says. “Research show that family time is really important. In terms of eating, you’re creating a positive food environment for your family where they get excited to eat their food together and talk about their day.”
She adds that parents get a special opportunity to lead by example: “If mom and dad are eating green beans, then kids will, too.”
5. Beware of fad diets.
Frazier says many of us might be tempted to cut out calories through new, seemingly cutting-edge diets. But, she says, don’t buy into quick fixes.
“Think about the long-term trajectory of things,” she says. Try to find a diet plan that is sustainable and that truly fulfills your needs while providing critical nutrition.
6. You don’t need to restrict everything you eat.
“I think you need to honor your hunger,” Coccia says. “If you see a cake and you’ve been trying to eat healthy but are really in the mood to eat that cake, you can have a small portion of cake. If you want to have a cookie every once in a while, it’s okay.”
You need to try to meet your health goals, but you also need to allow for self-love and to be kind to yourself when you fail, adds Frazier. “If you do [indulge], be forgiving, remember your goals and try to do better next time.”
7. Seek help from a professional.
“Healthy eating can be really difficult for a variety of reasons,” Coccia says. “Consulting with a registered dietitian is very helpful.”
Through the Healthy Living Program, dietitians are available to meet with students for free and with faculty and staff for $30 per session.
Chartwell’s also has a registered dietitian available to meet one-on-one with students to discuss dietary restrictions and preferences, food allergies and overall nutrition and healthy eating on campus. Students can reach her at Gabriela.Alfonso@compass-usa.com 305-348-4022.
General tip: For healthy, sustainable weight loss, you should lose no more than a pound or a pound and a half each week (excluding the first weeks of diet during which you may lose a couple more pounds of water weight), says Frazier.