Chocolate, Chips, and Ice Cream— Why Choose These? (part 2)

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Discovering Your Eating Pattern


  YOUR Life

Identify common behaviors, like eating in front of the TV or snacking in the car, along with emotions like stress, anxiety, or frustration, that may trigger overeating. Use this information to stop.

Now it’s time to nail down your eating patterns. Do you find that environmental cues lead you to eat more frequently or that you have intense cravings for certain foods? Do you consider yourself a slow eater, a fast eater, an evening eater, a grazer, a member of the clean-the-plate club, or do you have your own label for the type of eater you are? Do you think you eat frequently as a result of stress or as a response to an argument with your boss or spouse? Let’s explore why and when you eat. Answer these questions:

  • Do I eat even if I am not hungry?
  • Do I eat just because others I am with are eating?
  • Do I often eat so fast that I don’t enjoy my food or know what I am eating?
  • If something upsets me or causes me stress, do I seek out something to eat?
  • Do I find myself looking for food when I am lonely or depressed?
  • Do I often skip breakfast and lunch but make up for it later in the day?
  • Do I clean my plate at every meal because I do not like waste?
  • Do I pick food off of my children’s plates when they don’t finish it?

If you said yes to any one of these, fess up! You are using food to do more than to fill a need for hunger. Each and every one of us can be guilty of this behavior. We just need to be aware of the cues that cause us to eat and control them appropriately.

Do I Eat Too Fast?

If you are a fast eater, it is time to consider holding your horses. There is much to be learned from your slow counterparts. Eating fast can cause obesity. It can cause digestive problems. On top of that, when you eat too fast you may not taste or enjoy your food as much as you could. By eating food too fast, you might eat more than you really want to or definitely more than you might need. And if you are really in a hurry you may not even know what you just ate. Now that’s a waste of calories!

It takes about twenty minutes from the time you begin eating to the time your stomach signals your brain that you might have had enough. If you continue to eat too quickly, it is possible to overfill your stomach. That can cause possible indigestion and discomfort. As a result, problems such as constipation, heartburn, or diarrhea may occur.

If you are a fast eater, don’t deny yourself the opportunity to really enjoy your food. We all need to learn to sit back, relax, and take notes from those slow eaters. You’ll find yourself feeling full, feeling better, and maybe even having some leftovers for another meal. That’s the ticket—the meal ticket!

Am I a Grazer?

Cyndi’s Secrets

Eat slowly. It takes fifteen to twenty minutes for your stomach to signal your brain that it is full. Try soup, spicy foods, shellfish, or artichokes—they take longer to eat.

A grazer may seem somewhat sheepish but it is actually a term used for people who like to eat a lot of mini meals during the day. This often works well if you have a busy lifestyle. For a long time this was thought to be unhealthy. Current guidelines and most experts agree that eating five or six mini meals a day can be as healthy as eating three. We now look at the total diet for a day and even several days. Whether you eat three meals a day or many mini meals matters not. The key is to make smart food choices and lead an active lifestyle. Nibbling on potato chips every time you check your e-mail does not constitute a mini meal. Don’t worry—I’ll give you lots of tips to make smart food choices and how to keep active later in this program.

Cyndi’s Secrets

People who skip meals generally have a slower metabolism than those who do not because depriving the body of food causes its metabolism to slow down. So don’t skip any meals!

Do I Starve All Day and Eat All Night?

Do you ever find yourself saying, “I don’t eat that much, so why am I so fat?” It’s possible that you could be what I call “starving fat.” It’s a term I’ve given to people who skip breakfast, and sometimes lunch, and then scarf down everything in sight at dinner and during the evening. This is not a good eating pattern because you end up eating ten times more than is required in order to satisfy your hunger. When the body gets no food or fuel throughout the day, it begins to run down. At the point of physical hunger, almost anything and everything will look appetizing. Food will likely be consumed in more-than-adequate amounts. The body cannot use food as efficiently when it’s fed this way. On top of it, most people wake up the next morning feeling fat again and the vicious cycle starts over.

Do I Belong to the Clean-the-Plate Club?

Years ago, many parents, including mine, would say, “clean your plate.” So I washed the dishes! Just kidding. Actually, we were told that kids all over the world were starving and that we shouldn’t leave food on our plates. We were also told that food costs money, so we shouldn’t throw it out. You may have heard these comments too. If they have stuck with you into adulthood it’s possible that, subconsciously, you might to this day clean your plate because you want to be “good.” Get over it. This can lead to problems with many individuals, because these plates may contain much more than you need to eat at one sitting. Especially with the huge portions available today.

It’s not uncommon for parents with this kind of conditioning to also feel the need to clean their child’s plate. Adults can learn a lot from young children: When they feel full, they walk away—often leaving food on their plates. Parents, in turn, need to walk away from this food too. There’s no need to finish it off just to avoid throwing it out. Either learn to dish up smaller portions, or put it away for another time. What’s the better choice—going to waste or going to waist?

Stop Overeating—Cyndi’s Top Tips

Overeating is the act of stuffing yourself. It’s often done at a holiday meal or a weekend splurge. Everybody pigs out once in a while, but be careful not to let this be a regular occurrence because if you do you are sure to pack on excess weight. Overeating is different from binge eating—when a person regularly, uncontrollably eats huge amounts of food in a short amount of time. That is a disorder that requires medical attention. To avoid the temptation to overeat, follow my top tips:

  • Chew your food. Taking your time to savor every morsel can help you consume fewer calories. Chomping too fast just makes it easier to shovel it in. Relax and enjoy the moment.
  • Don’t eat when you are stressed or bored. If you are having a fight with your significant other, grab a jump rope rather than a jumbo order of fries.
  • Be aware of seasonal sneaky treats. “Oh, its fall—better eat all those pumpkin chocolates since they are only out once a year.” Or “Oh, it’s summer—a few hot dogs and beers are in order.” Get the picture?
  • Keep a food diary or journal. By constantly evaluating your eating habits you can achieve weight management bliss for life.
  • Do a diet disappearing act. Out of sight and out of mind. Don’t make it a habit of keeping unhealthy food choices near you. If they disappear from your cupboard, you won’t be tempted.
  • Don’t skip meals. Starving yourself only results in overeating later.
  • Focus on the “food.” When it is time to eat, focus on the food—and, of course, your company if you are not dining alone. Turn off the TV and computer and put down the phone. These distractions can cause you to eat too much.

Dear Diet Diary

Starting a diet diary is your first step in tackling some of the food-related behaviors that exist. Here you need to log the times you eat, your mood, hunger level, all of the foods eaten, and how much of each food you eat. This diary is just a sample of the type that may help you. I know! I know! Some people don’t like to keep a journal. The thing is that as you learn more about what and how you should be eating, you can put it all together to help conquer your problems once and for all. So at least give it a shot. If a conventional notebook doesn’t work you can always take notes by logging onto your computer. You could start a blog and share with others. Or you could just use your Palm Pilot, PDA device, or Blackberry to record what you eat. Even write it down on the calendar in your kitchen! It doesn’t have to be the next best-seller, or even well written, for that matter.


  YOUR Life

Do something other than eat! Take a warm bath, join a book club, make a fitness date, schedule a massage, or go to the movies. I find that brushing my teeth feels so good that I don’t want to destroy the fresh taste in my mouth by having leftover spaghetti and ending up with garlic breath. It serves as a signal to stop eating.

In the pages of your diary, time refers to the time at which you eat. Mood is how you feel. Are you happy, sad, frustrated, stressed, or nervous? These moods can all affect your eating decisions. Hunger level refers to how hungry you are. Rate yourself from 1 to 5, 1 not being physically hungry at all and 5 being famished. Food eaten is the food you selected and ate. Be specific. How much indicates the portion size of the food you have selected. Again, be specific.

Now let’s set a plan to make some changes. Remember, small changes can add up to big results.

  • This week I will try to . . .
  • This month I will try to . . .

Determining why and what you eat is the key to understanding and managing changes in your overall lifestyle. Just becoming aware of your behaviors can be the first major step in the right direction.

Start by using a diet diary for at least three to five days. Review your diary, or seek a professional to do so, and determine your problem areas and problem times during the day. Now is the perfect time to set some goals, short-term, to get yourself started and motivated. Take it one day at a time. As you begin to see positive results, you will likely feel better about yourself and what you can accomplish. Remember, you are doing this for you. Keep focused and keep motivated.

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