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Do you think we eat because we are feeling hungry?

You can break the link between the habit and the eating behavior and get back in control

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Winter is coming and the coronary virus is still around. A vaccine will come to the rescue, but it will take some time before we will all get protected. In the meantime, we know the drill, wear a face mask and practice social isolation. The result is that we will start spending less time outdoors, we will move less and eat more and the pounds we shed over the summer once again will start to pile up.

It is not easy to maintain a healthy weight, but we should try to keep our immune system strong. So what can we do? I am going to give you a few simple tips of what you can do at home.

There is more to eating than feeling hungry.

The sensations of feeling hungry or feeling full are regulated by hormones, nerve signals, and chemical messengers in the brain that, when released, drive our desire to eat or tell us to stop eating. You can do a few things to influence those sensations to reduce overeating:

Eat slowly. The signal that tells us we are full is released after about 20 minutes of eating, so if you eat too fast, you are not giving your body the chance to tell your brain that you have had enough.

Avoid foods and drinks that are very high in sugars and fats. The taste and feel of the fats and sugars in our mouths is so intensely pleasurable that it overrides the negative feedback signals of being full. You are more likely to eat larger meals and snacks when they contain very sweet and/or high-fat food items.

Choose foods with low energy density, like fruits, vegetables, and broth-based soups. Because of their higher water content, these foods create a greater volume in our stomach without adding a lot of calories. The expansion of the stomach sends signals to our brain to stop eating since we feel full.

Excess eating is associated with external cues that can be controlled.

If we only ate when hungry no one would be overweight! External cues are what really drive us to overeat. The key to not overeating is to understand how these cues affect us and to create an environment that helps us manage them. Let’s look at some common cues that may influence what and how much we eat:

Emotions. Certain emotions prompt us to eat more. We are often tempted to eat certain foods (and more of them) when we’re tired, bored, feeling down, etc.

Look for other ways to channel your emotional energy. For example, don’t combat your loneliness by eating snacks in front of the television. Call a friend or go for a walk.

Serving size. Eating is automatic. People who are served bigger portions will eat more.

Use smaller dishes.

The location of the food. We tend to eat more if the serving dish is placed on the dinner table rather than in the kitchen.

Place the salad or vegetables on the dinner table and the rest of the meal on the counter or stove.

What we see. We eat more because we see more. It is easy to eat chocolates if you see them every day on a bowl on top of the kitchen counter.

Place the healthier food at the front of the pantry shelf or fridge. Put the fruit in a bowl on the kitchen counter and not in the refrigerator. It should replace the bowl of chocolates.

Make healthy food more appetizing. Serve fruits and vegetables in appealing (colorful, decorative) dishes.

The package. If we buy in bulk (e.g., snacks) we will eat in bulk.

When buying snacks, purchase hundred-calorie packs, or if you buy in bulk, transfer the food to small containers.

By understanding if any of the above factors influence what you eat and how much you eat, you’ll be able to break the link between the habit and the eating behavior and get back in control.

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