A lot of my clients are women in midlife, and regardless of their shape, most of them would like to lose "a little bit" of weight, though
specifically it is always those bits of stubborn fat, which never seem to shift. We would need a magic wand to target specifc areas, as we can't slim down "just in this bit".
As a health coach I have been trained to help women with tweaking their nutrition to find the right energy intake (the amount of daily calories) and macronutrient split (how much protein, carbs and fats should be consumed) to support their fat loss goals. But assuming someone is not consuming obscene amounts of heavily processed and highly calorific foods, there are 3 fundamental skills for managing a healthy weight, which in combination with exercise can result in desired body composition goals that can be maintained without the need for calorie counting.
The first of these skills is to ....eat slowly.
It takes over 10min for your body to interpret the fullness signals. Eating fast is a sure way to overeat (that unpleasant feeling of "I am so stuffed"). And when we consistenly overeat, we consume calorific surplus, which over time leads to putting on weight.
I can hear you asking "how on earth am I supposed to eat a meal so slowly?"
You could try some of these strategies...
Try to eat before you are super hungry (most people manage 3-4h breaks between meals)
Take really small mouthfuls (it is harder than it sounds)
Put your cutlery down after each mouthful
Take frequent sips of water
Engage in conversation
It can be super hard at first, especially when you are used to eating quickly, because let's be honest, we are living in a fast world. There is stuff to be done!
The second habit, truly worth exploring is investigating hunger.
What is the difference between hunger and appetite? Hunger is a physiological need to eat. Your body let's you know it is time to put some fuel in, with tummy rumbling and a slightly hollow feeling in the stomach. Feeling low in energy and shakiness as blood sugar drops will also be familiar to some of us.
Appetite is a want. It can be triggered by seeing or smelling certain yummy foods. It can be also triggered by our thoughts and feelings. We often use food as a distraction, cheer me up, or reward or pick me up ritual.
In our busy distracted 21st century world, most of us eat when we are not physiologically hungry. And most of us don't stop when we are physiologically full either. It is really hard to "hear" our bodies accurately, never mind actually respond to those signals, when being surrounded by foods we enjoy and crave.
Not reaching for food when we are not hungry requires some level of discipline, but it starts with becoming more mindful.
We don't want to get too hungry before we eat, as this is likely going to result in overeating, but in the absence of physical tummy grumbles, ask yourself the following questions next time you reach for a snack:
Do I need to eat (physical discomfort), want to eat (emotional) or should eat (e.g. it is lunchtime)
Am I hungry enough to eat a small relatively plain meal (a piece of toast with butter)
Am I mistaking thirst for hunger? - Try a glass of water
Am I tired, do I need to take a break? - Take a 5-10 min break, move your body
Is my desire to eat linked to someone else eating, cooking smells, seeing or hearing ad on the TV/radio
How long ago I have last eaten? (on average humans "work" best when we leave 3-4h in between meals)
And the final rule is to eat until satisfied. Much like the difference between hunger and appetite, the difference between "satisfied" and "full" can be tricky at first.
But it all works like magic when we apply the first two rules and try to be a bit more mindful.
Satiety is a physiological response (the body detects when it had enough and signals it to the brain) and the slower we eat, the more efficiently this process works.
And when we know what hunger really feels like physiologically, we will gain better awareness of when we had enough to be satisfied but not too much to be full.
Here are some tips to help eat until satisfied:
Try eating when mildly to moderately hungry - much more likely to overeat when you are starving, because you will eat quickly
Eliminate distractions during meals - that's phones off the table!
You don't need to finish what's on your plate - save it for later
Use a smaller plate (this will also help with portion size control)
Practice "stop and savour" moments during the meal (helpful in slowing you down)
Try to put hand on your stomach few times during the meal (amplifies feedback from GI tract)
I admit, eating mindfully can be a real struggle. Life is just so busy!! We do so many things on autopilot and eating is often the time when we catch up on whatever it is we like to do on our phones - email, social media, voicemails.
Starting with eating just one meal in a slow and mindful way might be the best way to learn these habits. And once you are nailing it with one meal, you will become more aware of your hunger a
nd satiety throughout the day and every time you reach for the snack.
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