You’ll be able to lose more weight if you recognize the triggers that make you overeat. After you learn to recognize these triggers you need to have a plan in place for when those situations happen. Do you know which triggers are problematic for you when it comes to weight loss? We’ll help you develop a plan for monitoring and managing your hunger feelings.
The most common triggers that keep you off your weight loss goals are emotional. Many emotions make people fetch extra portions of food to make them feel better. Stress is a common trigger for many people. You’re trying to juggle your workload, personal tasks, financial and health issues all at the same time. So many obligations are overwhelming and raise the stress level. Questions you should ask yourself are:
- How high is your stress level right now?
- Does that stress make you eat and crave more food?
- Does your stress level interfere often with your eating plan and regular exercise?
You should think about these questions now. If you realize that stress is a trigger for overeating you can plan ahead. Before you even start to lose weight. There are better ways of dealing with stress. You don’t need to overeat on unhealthy food to feel better.
Effective strategies to deal with stress can be:
- Exercise is the best defense against stress. When you work out your brain produces endorphins that reduce stress levels.
- Meditation and yoga are very useful too. They bring you back to the present moment. Reducing the anxiety about what happened in the past or what will happen in the future. Take a class or try to follow a video course. Today there are many apps out there that can help you reduce stress levels. One of my favorites is Headspace, because it makes it simple to dedicate a few minutes to meditation every day.
Lack of sleep and tiredness is a common trigger for overeating. Do you eat often because of fatigue when you’re not hungry? Do you eat regularly to keep yourself awake? If this is your case you need to have a plan in place for when you get tired.
To tackle this trigger it’s best to plan for enough sleep. This can be difficult to organize for some people. New moms, night-shift workers, people with several jobs and many others are often exhausted. Ask for help if you need it. It’s very hard to plan for successful weight loss when you’re tired. That’s because the lack of sleep causes a hormone imbalance that makes you more hungry. When you don’t sleep enough your body produces more of the hormone ghrelin. Ghrelin and leptin are hormones that regulate your appetite. The more ghrelin you produce the hungrier you feel.
Many of us feel an energy drop and the urge for a sweet treat in the afternoon. Exercise is a good option here too. Take a short 10 minute walk around the house or office. That way you’ll spike your alertness and forget about your urge for sweet things.
You’re home alone after work and don’t have anything to do. You’re watching TV and are uninterested and bored. Because you’re restless you’re going to get yourself something from the kitchen to eat or order something in. Everybody has done this. It’s completely normal and you shouldn’t feel bad about yourself because of this. The problem is if this happens to you often like several times a week. Boredom and loneliness can make you lose sight of your weight loss goals. If this is your case, you need to have a plan in place how you’re going to deal with boredom while losing weight.
The best way to fight this behavior is to replace eating because of boredom, with some other activity. There are several things you could do including:
- Get out of the house for a walk or run. Ask a friend to join you.
- Any exercise is great.
- Go out for coffee with a friend.
- Take the kids out for a walk.
- Find out what’s happening in your town and get involved.
- Listen to upbeat music.
- Take care of tasks that you have been holding off.
- Start a new hobby or rediscover an old one.
The point is to get going. Anything that occupies your attention or gets you out of the house is a good strategy. Be prepared and write down a plan how you will deal with boredom when it sets in.
Special occasions are not going to stop because you want to lose weight. Lot’s of food and often unhealthy food is served at these events. Celebrations are always a high risk if you want to lose weight. On the other hand, you shouldn’t skip these occasions just because you’re afraid you’ll be tempted to eat too much. Getting out and socializing will have a positive effect on your weight loss efforts and self-esteem. So it’s better to learn how to deal with them then to avoid them.
Here are some strategies you can use to prevent overeating on special events:
- A common mistake is that people attempt to “save themselves” for the food at the party. It’s better to eat a balanced diet during the day so you don’t feel starved when you get to the party. If you arrive hungry you won’t be able to resist the food.
- Eat a small high protein snack before going to an event. A low-fat yogurt or a handful of nuts will help you feel satisfied.
- If you know there’s going to be only high caloric, unhealthy food choices ask your host if you can bring a healthy meal with you. Something like a vegetable plate for snacking would be ideal.
- When you arrive at the party concentrate on socializing and talking to people. Don’t think about food too much.
- Visit the food buffet only once and don’t go for any retakes. Allow yourself to enjoy your favorite foods but take only small portions.
- Don’t forget that drinks can be real calorie bombs. Keep in mind that alcohol is high in sugar and calories as are juices and sodas. Water is the best choice. Write down a plan for managing your food intake at celebrations. The fact that you think about it now and write it down makes it much more possible that you’ll succeed in your efforts.
Write down a plan for managing your food intake at celebrations. The fact that you write it down makes it much more likely that you’ll overcome this common weight loss obstacle.
Sweet treats make you feel better when you’re sad. This is normal, but if you’re always comforting yourself with sweets and treats this trigger is going to be a problem for you.
Don’t give in immediately when you feel sad. Delaying the urge to eat when you feel sad for 10-15 minutes can make the feeling pass. Try to substitute your food cravings with a cup of unsweetened herbal tea to help you resist the urge to eat. Playing with pets and calling friends is also a good strategy.
Tune in to overcome weight loss obstacles
There is a rule that can help you deal with all these triggers. Keep in mind this following rule when you want to eat:
- Eat when you’re hungry
- Stop when you’re full
This sounds quite simple and is an effective weight loss strategy. The only problem is that many people have no idea when they’re hungry and when they’re full.
They eat by habit at breakfast, lunch, and dinner with two snacks in between. You will overcome weight loss obstacles easier if you learn to follow this rule. Try to get in touch with your internal cues of hunger and fullness.
Adapted from You Count, Calories Don’t, Ominchanski, L. (1992)
Learn to recognize hunger and fullness
How can you do this? Simply use the hunger scale pictured above. It is a very effective tool that can teach you to recognize your hunger feelings. Pictured from 1-10 are different levels of hunger and fullness. Level one is totally starved weak and dizzy, while level 10 is totally stuffed so that you actually feel sick. You never want to be at these levels or anywhere near them. You want to keep yourself at levels 4-6 and avoid entering the levels colored in red. The green colored levels you should be in are:
- Beginning to feel hungry
- Satisfied, neither hungry nor full
- Just starting to feel full, pleasantly full
Think about your hunger level right now. Where are you on this 1-10 hunger scale? It might be hard for you to decide. You need to practice and teach yourself to recognize your hunger feelings again. This is a feeling we are all born with. No baby is going to eat too much, but just the right amount to be full. As we grow up we are taught to eat “everything up”, not to waste food, to be polite and except food when it is offered,… All this conditioning makes you forget about your natural hunger cues. But you can awake these natural hunger cues again. Every time you eat, ask yourself what your hunger level is before and after you eat. Over time you will recognize your hunger and fullness levels and it will help you lose weight.
Photo credit: By Oneras, via Wikimedia Commons