Think Yourself Thin
BY: Stacey Colino
Maintaining a healthy weight doesn’t just depend on what you eat or how much you exercise. How you think can make a big difference as well. Indeed, people who are naturally slender or who have successfully lost weight and kept it off often think differently than those who constantly struggle with their weight. You too can think yourself thin. Here’s how:
Learn the difference between hunger and appetite.
Hunger is a physiological state, while appetite is a psychological one, explains John Foreyt, who has a doctorate in clinical psychology and is the director of the Behavioral Medicine Research Center at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. If you have a gnawing feeling in your belly, that’s a sign of hunger. But if you just have a taste for ice cream or potato chips, that’s your appetite calling.
Think yourself thin: Listen to your body. If you are truly hungry, have something to eat and focus on enjoying your food, then stop eating when you feel satiated, not stuffed -- even if that means leaving food on your plate. But if it’s just your appetite nudging you toward the kitchen, take a walk, call a friend or engage in another distracting activity until the urge to eat passes.
Don’t feed emotions with food.
“Many people who have trouble with their weight confuse the emotion they’re feeling -- tension, loneliness, boredom or anger -- with hunger,” says Foreyt. If your stomach’s not rumbling and you’re thinking about food, figure out what you’re truly feeling (because it’s not hunger), then deal with that emotion -- without turning to food.
Think yourself thin: Ask yourself if your hunger is actually an emotion in disguise. If it turns out you’re really just bored, find a fun project that doesn’t involve food. Feeling lonely? Reach out to an old friend, not a box of cookies. Stressed? Angry? Don’t raid the refrigerator; try meditating or working out instead.
Indeed, exercise is one of the best ways to avoid emotional eating. “If you can find an activity that you like to do when you’re upset -- whether it’s jumping rope, taking a walk or dancing -- it will alleviate the anxiety and depression you’re feeling” without involving food, explains Sandra Haber, who has a doctorate in social psychology and is a psychologist who specializes in weight management. This is because exercise “shifts around the endorphins in your body in a way that reshapes your mood,” she says.
Anticipate challenges and figure out how to handle them in advance.
If you’re about to face temptation -- while you’re at a big party, at your favorite restaurant or on vacation, for example -- don’t just wing it. Think through your behavior ahead of time.
Think yourself thin: Plan what you’re going to eat and how you’ll get physical activity in, then anticipate problems and how you’ll deal with them, advises Dan Kirschenbaum, who has a doctorate in clinical psychology and is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago.
Don’t beat yourself up for overindulgences.
So you succumbed to a rich dessert or ate too much at dinner. Don’t sweat it. “Focus on it as a problem to be solved and not an awful tragedy to get emotional about,” says Kirschenbaum.
Think yourself thin: “Instead of beating yourself up or viewing it as a moral failure, look at what you did, how you could have handled the situation better, and what you could do differently next time -- then get back on a consistent plan,” advises Kirschenbaum. In other words, put thin thinking back on track, and your behavior will follow.
Stacey Colino has written for The Washington Post's health section and many national magazines, including Newsweek, Woman's Day, SELF, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Parenting, Sports Illustrated and Ladies' Home Journal. Stacey is a frequent contributor to Live Right Live Well.
Recipe of the Week
- Greek yogurt has twice the protein of regular yogurt because it takes 3 to 4 times more milk to make it. Celebrate June Dairy Month with Greek yogurt topped with fresh berries.
- Bok Choy, also known as Chinese cabbage or pak choi, has been grown in China for over 6,000 years. Choose firm stalks, avoiding brown spots and wilted leaves, and add to stir-fry.
- Apple skin is full of fiber & Alzheimer’s-disease-fighting antioxidants -- so eat it! Refrigerate in a plastic bag away from foods with strong odors; they absorb odors easily.
- Collards, mustard greens and kale are available in bags, pre-washed & chopped -- so they’re easy to steam or saute! Eat your greens as a side dish or in quesadillas, soups & stews.
- Avocados are rich in 20 nutrients and great beyond guacamole. Chop for a ham, egg and cheese wrap; slice for a deli roast beef sandwich; cube and toss into linguini and shrimp.
- Black-eyed Peas: Fresh, canned and frozen varieties are all nutrient-rich options -- making it easier to eat your daily veggies. Rinse and drain canned peas to cut down on salt.
- Ugli Fruit, beautiful benefits! Peel & eat for fiber & vitamin C. Choose fruit heavy for size; dents normal and color not important. Store on counter 5 days or refrigerate 2 weeks.
- Radicchio, also known as Italian chicory, is high in vitamin K for bone health. Great in salads: Choose bright, tender leaves; avoid brown or limp ones. Refrigerate up to 3 days.
- Cherimoya, a high-fiber tropical fruit, tastes like a mix of strawberry and mango. Choose firm, unblemished fruit, cut in wedges and spoon out creamy flesh.
- Kale in lentil soup is a double dose of New Year’s luck! Round-shaped lentils symbolize coins; kale, paper money. Both are packed with antioxidants for a year of healthy fortune.
- Tea is native to China, but Americans invented tea bags and first drank iced tea at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. Enjoy hot and reap health benefits from both black & green tea.
- Dried Plums (formerly prunes) may help prevent cancer and decrease inflammation. Slice fruit, stuff with cheese and walnuts, and wrap in prosciutto to make quick party appetizers.
- Oatmeal month is officially January. Cook breakfast oatmeal with 1% milk for extra protein, calcium and vitamin D -- or enjoy whole-grain oatmeal raisin cookies as a smart snack.
- Spices and herbs add antioxidants to every dish. One tsp. ground cinnamon contains as many antioxidants as 1/2 cup blueberries; 1 tsp. yellow curry as many as 1/2 cup red grapes.
- Fish, the best source of omega-3 fats for heart and brain health, may even help ward off depression. Mix canned white tuna, salmon and sardines for an omega-rich seafood salad.
- Orange juice is filled with immune-boosting nutrients that fight colds and the flu: vitamins C and B6, folate, potassium and magnesium. Choose 100% juice with no added sugar.
- Walnuts are a significant source of plant-based omega-3 fats. These fats -- also in ground flaxseed, canola oil and edamame -- provide many heart-healthy benefits.
- Pear, apple and Asian pear slices + yogurt-based dips = winning strategy for game-day parties. Combine Greek vanilla yogurt with chocolate-hazelnut spread for a fast, healthy dip.
- Pumpkin and sweet potato -- fresh, mashed or canned -- adds disease-fighting antioxidants to waffles and pancakes. Use whole-wheat flour to double your fiber and nutrient intake.
- Snack smart to achieve weight loss goals. Choose fast and fully edible fruits like grapes, apples, persimmon and kiwi. Yes, fuzzy kiwi skin is edible! Simply wash and rub dry.
What kind of water do you usually drink?