This is the third and final part in the series How to Treat Obesity in Adults and Baby Boomers: Losing weight in middle age.
This information has been excerpted from the book “Boomer Be Well! Rebel Against Aging through Food, Nutrition and Lifestyle©,” by Susan M. Piergeorge, MS, RD, which is available in both print and ebook format Click here to order.
One key to making long lasting change is to become conscious of what you are doing. Many people are not “aware” when they are eating (along with many other tasks these days). They are pre-occupied with something else, whether it is a conversation, a book, a television show, or a reaction to stress, boredom or some other emotion.
For many, emotional eating is how we have adapted to what I call our wiring. We use food as a reactionary device. We plug into it for a response. It’s just how some of us have developed our emotional connection.
This connection is not always limited to food. For some it may be cigarettes, alcohol, or another outlet. At our stage in life, we are fairly well aware of triggers that can create an emotional chain reaction. A bad day at work, coupled with kids stressed with homework, extracurricular activities that have you doubling as a chauffeur, and a little sleep deprivation can all create for the perfect meltdown.
Sometimes it may seem as our only ally in all the chaos can be found in food. A nice big piece of chocolate cake makes the world a little better place. The tricky part about sugar and simple carbohydrates is that they can create a high and low effect on our blood sugar. This reaction can create a “need” for more sugar or simple starches. It is possible to select foods that can actually calm the craving that some foods can create. I suggest eating something with combined protein, carbohydrate, fat and fiber. A few examples of this would be a bowl of cereal or a sandwich. The combination of all three will balance out the blood sugar and should reduce the feeling of being hungry.
Here are some other strategies to consider when making any changes in your eating patterns.
Remember, this is for the long haul. Take your time and think about the big picture.
Give yourself variety with any change you make. This can avoid boredom and burnout.
Food is your ally and does not have to be the enemy. It’s just that we’ve woven eating, emotions, etc. into our behaviors, responses and the like.
Improving your quality of life is about the internal and the external. Check your external environment. Get rid of any temptations or obvious trigger points that you can. It’s the balance of the pyramid of good nutrition, exercise, and stress management that keeps us well. If having sweets, chips, or whatever is a trigger for you, don’t tempt yourself by having them around the house. The same thing goes for your work setting. Try having treats you enjoy but have less of an impact on your blood sugar. Pretzels, popcorn, cereal, fruits, string cheese, individual serving treats, and sugarless gum may all be satisfying for you. It is not necessary to have temptations for the children, or in case company drops in. Same goes for quitting smoking. It is not necessary to have them around or subject yourself to a situation that will cause you to “cave” to the craving.
Set yourself up for success, not sabotage. You know that you can make excuses, and that is just what they are. Ask yourself the reason why you are doing what you are doing. Then come up with a commitment and alternative that will make you succeed. You will know when you are ready.
Practice ahead of time. For example, practice learning what actual portion sizes look like on a plate. By doing so, you will have a better way to gauge what is on your plate when dining out.
Understand why you are doing what you are doing and pay attention to your actions. Become conscious. Also pay attention to how your body feels. For example, when you are eating, eat a reasonable bite (not a huge handful), and chew (not inhale) it thoroughly. Enjoy the taste, texture and pleasure of the food you are consuming. It is easy to eat a handful of nuts, candy, or chips without realizing it, let alone even thinking about it. If you are inhaling that bag of M&M’s or whatever, try to enjoy each one at a time. This in itself might change a few things.
When planning meals and snacks start acquiring the mindset of assembling a meal of protein, carbohydrate, fat and fiber. This strategy will stave off hunger spikes and keep your blood sugar steady. It may not always be possible, but after a while, you will start to notice the difference in how long you feel satisfied.
It’s not about giving up your favorites, it’s about learning how to live with them. If you want dessert, an alcoholic beverage, butter on your bread or cream in your coffee, learn how to make a few swaps and strategies. For example, if you are going to be celebrating an occasion, you know there will be dessert. Whether it be before, during, or after, incorporate some foods and behaviors that may help reduce the cravings. Let’s say cake is part of the plan. So is a glass of wine. You have found that cake tends to make you hungry for more, and wine reduces your inhibitions. Try having some cheese and crackers, nuts, or half a sandwich with that cake. It’s also OK to ask for a smaller portion. Sometimes it can take while to feel the effect of sugar, alcohol and caffeine. After having the dessert and glass of wine, switch off to a glass of water. Enjoy the celebration and enjoy the energy you have gained from being able to develop new habits and coping mechanisms. If you eat a little more on one day, balance your caloric intake or energy expenditure over the next few days.
Commit to yourself to not skip meals. Skipping meals can send you on a roller coaster of blood sugar highs and lows which tend to cause overeating. Developing a meal pattern of three meals and two or three snacks per day; it will likely keep your hunger levels lower.
Breakfast has been shown to help in weight management and help us start our day with more energy. Often the morning meal is skipped the next day to cut back on calories. Many people skip the morning meal after eating a lot of food the previous day. By midday, they are starved and consequently will be likely to eat more. It will do you good to have something to eat in the morning. You can also make some swaps to cut back on some calories if you have been eating more than usual. Have a fruit salad versus French fries; drink water versus a sweetened beverage; ask for a lowfat sauce on the side in dishes; walk a little longer over the next few days. A few small changes are all it takes. Just a few easy steps and you have achieved success.
Susan M Piergeorge, MS, RD is a registered dietitian and nutritionist. Her background includes nutrition counseling, coaching, health promotion, sales, marketing and communications in the food and pharmaceutical industries. She is available for personal and group coaching, along with culinary demonstrations. Visit her website at www.boomerbewell.com.