Is Your Appetite Out of Control?
Take Charge of Your Appetite
If you don't have a compulsive-eating problem, consider yourself lucky. Still, experts say it's important to take steps to avoid developing one. "It's harder to kick an addiction to food than to alcohol or drugs," says Lisa Dorfman, RD, a sports nutritionist at the University of Miami. "You can't cut food out of your life; you need it to survive." Here, eight strategies for sensible, healthy eating.
Make a plan and stick to it. Consuming the same basic foods week to week will help prevent you from thinking of meals as rewards, says Dorfman. "Never use treats like ice cream as a gift to yourself after a hard day."
Don't munch on the run. Our brains feel gypped if we aren't sitting down at a table with a fork in hand, says Stout. You should eat breakfast and dinner in your kitchen or dining room as often as possible, adds Dorfman. Otherwise, you may end up conditioning yourself to eat anytime, anyplace -- like when you're lying on the couch watching TV.
Avoid noshing in the car. "Your waist will count it as a meal, but your brain won't," says Stout. Not only that, but you can quickly become trained, like one of Pavlov's dogs, to eat whenever you're behind the wheel. "The same way that people who smoke want a cigarette every time they have a drink, it's easy to get used to having food every time you're on the road," he says.
Have a healthy snack, like fruits and veggies, 30 minutes before you eat a meal. It can take as long as half an hour for fullness signals to travel from the stomach to the brain. The sooner you start eating, says Dorfman, the sooner your belly will get the message to your brain that you've had enough food.
Downsize your dishes. "Unless our plates are full, we tend to feel cheated, like we haven't eaten enough," says Dr. Gold. So use a dessert dish for your entree.
Bust your eating triggers. "If you can't control your noshing when you're watching prime time, then don't sit in front of the television with a bowl of snacks," Dorfman says.
Exercise, exercise, exercise. It will help you maintain a healthy weight, and it can prevent compulsive eating because, like food, it produces stress relief and a feeling of well-being, says Dorfman. Dr. Gold explains, "Working out before meals can be especially beneficial. When your metabolism revs up, you may get the 'I'm full' signal faster, though we aren't sure why."
Finally, if you're trying to overcome a food habit, take heart. Says Dorfman, "Once you've developed healthy habits, it feels just as good not to overeat as it used to feel to do it."
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