I don’t know about you but a big part of me loves being at home; it’s warm and cozy and I almost always have a snack or treat that will meet my wants and needs. It’s the latter that gets me in trouble sometimes. I find I eat more freely at home than I do when I am out during the day. Is this something you’ve experienced?? As I have mentioned before I am a bit of an emotional eater, my biggest trigger being stress, and our kitchen is perfectly set up so I can hide in there and ransack the cupboards without any one knowing. I have often considered putting little post it notes on foods or on the cabinet doors themselves as an extra moment I am forced to think about my decision…
Anyways, there are two tricks that I use to try to minimize my impulse eating (short of tagging up my cabinet doors): a healthy kitchen, and paying attention to my hunger signals. I find the healthy kitchen to be infinitely easier than hunger signals. A kitchen clean up can be done in a matter of hours – get the danger foods out, replace with better options and organize the refrigerator and pantry. Learning to recognize and understand your hunger signals takes a lot of time and practice, as does retraining yourself to find new activities to relieve the emotions.
- Identify your normal hunger signals including: full, hungry, thirsty
- How to know if you’re truly hungry: your stomach is growling, you have severely decreased energy, healthy foods sound appealing, it has been 4-5 hours since your last (real) meal
- Pay attention to other body sensations including thoughts and emotions: these can often mask themselves as hunger
- Possible emotions that could lead you to eat: stress, boredom, sadness, anxiety, insecurity, anger, frustration
- What to do if you’re bored: Make a list of boredom busters and keep near you (I have one in my planner and in my cell phone). Some ideas include reading lists, house projects, art/craft projects, etc
- What to do if you’re angry or frustrated: VENT- call a good friend or write about what is upsetting you. When possible unwind with a movie or a shower/bath, find some quiet time
- What to do if you’re craving comfort (anxiety, insecurity, sadness): get plenty of rest, power walk, exercise, call a friend for a good laugh
- What to do if you’re stressed: go for a power walk, meditate, breathing techniques, switch activities to get a clearer perspective
- “Front-Row Fridge Foods”: single serve snacks (applesauce, sugar-free gelatin, low-fat dairy, sugar-free pudding), quick-cooking lean protein (fish, cutlets), low-fat dairy (sour cream, shredded cheese, milk), flavored seltzer, precut fruits and vegetables (keep them in clear containers or bags so they catch your eye), low-calorie/point
- “Friendly Freezer”: fat-free or light ice cream and sorbet, unsweetened frozen fruits (use in smoothies, desserts, thaw and have as a snack or with cereal), frozen precut vegetables (use in soups, stews, omelets, dinners)
- “Healthy Pantry”: dry beans (by soaking these the night before using you will save yourself the excess sodium found in canned beans), healthy oils (extra virgin olive oil, safflower oil, vegetable oil), quick-cooking whole grains (pasta, couscous, brown rice, quinoa), plain microwave popcorn (low points, and you have control of the flavor), treats (be sure to choose lower-points value indulgences and keep them all together in containers you cannot see through)
- Proceed with caution: Stash foods and beverages with higher points values (beer, soda, full-fat dairy, processed lunch meats) that need to be refrigerator in the back, so they are harder to spot. Limit full-fat ice cream, high sodium/points value frozen meals, hot dogs, non-lean/high fat proteins. Avoid stocking high-fat cookies, cakes, crackers, high-sodium/fat sauces, fruit packed in syrup, packaged soup and noodle mixes, granola, high-sugar cereals and other trigger foods.
Unsure of where to start?? I would recommend switching to a healthier kitchen while you practice your hunger-recognition – you will still make measurable progress while learning new healthy behaviors. Start small: Remove 10 trigger foods from your home this week, clean out and reorganize your fridge, freezer and pantry. When tracking this week, make a note of your hunger signals- Simply mark whether you are hungry, satisfied or full when you sit down to eat.