Managing your weight doesn't just mean counting calories and figuring out your BMI. It also means taking control of your emotions and your food cravings. Most of us discover sooner or later that its usually emotions and cravings (sometimes triggered by emotions), not an insatiable appetite, that make us overeat.
If you uncover the triggers that make you overeat and learn how to manage them, you'll have won half the weight-loss battle. Just be sure the coping techniques you develop are those you can live with. If they aren't, you won't stick with them.
Though there is research suggesting that some cravings may have a biological origin, most are brought on by out-of-control emotions or situations. Here are a few common emotional triggers and tips for gaining control over them.
If anger (especially suppressed anger) sends you seeking comfort food, then you're managing your anger by overeating. While food may seem like your most dependable source of comfort, it ultimately leaves you more out of sorts than before. Face the source of your anger head on. Once you've done that, it's less likely to blow up and compel you to eat -- and overeat.
Stress, no matter what its source, is a common trigger for overeating. Ask yourself, do you reach for chocolate-chip ice cream every time your nosy neighbor calls? Do you pack away the potato chips every time you balance your checkbook? You can't eliminate these triggers from your life, but you can try to reduce the anxiety.
First, make sure you get enough sleep. You're more susceptible to stress when you're not rested. Try different relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, yoga, reading, or listening to soft music -- whatever works for you. Try to find other, more positive outlets for your stress.
There's nothing on TV tonight, you've already finished reading that novel, and you certainly don't feel like washing dishes or sweeping the kitchen floor. The refrigerator sure looks good right about now! Before you find yourself rummaging through the freezer for ice cream, do whatever it takes to shift the focus away from food.
Take a shower, paint your nails, throw out old newspapers, or take one last look through that magazine before you toss it. Make a list of your favorite diversions and keep them posted on the fridge.
We're talking here about the blue mood that takes hold of everyone now and then. The blues not only prevent us from doing the things we want to do; sometimes they make us do things we'd rather not -- such as overeat. Instead of letting that funk make you overeat, view it as a call to action.
Getting active is one of the best ways for lifting a black cloud. Physical activity may raise levels of endorphins, which are compounds in the brain that promote a sense of well-being, according to John Foreyt, Ph.D., a psychologist and director of the Behavioral Medicine Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Any exercise will do, just make it regular.
Yes, it's true. Even happiness can make you fat. Who doesn't feel like celebrating when something good happens? And celebrations often involve food. That doesn't mean you should never celebrate because you might overeat. Just learn to compensate. If you overeat at a celebratory dinner, simply cut back the next day.
Before you can take control of your eating habits, you have to take away the power that food has over you. In the process, you can begin to look at what you put on your plate as a positive power instead of an evil force over which you've lost all control.
The following are tips on "de-powerizing" the role food plays in your life from Marsha Hudnall, M.S., R.D., a nutritionist at Green Mountain at Fox Run, the nation's oldest and most respected weight-management retreat for women.
- Think moderation, not elimination. Figure out what's important and what's not. Learn to eat less of the high-fat, high-calorie foods you enjoy the most. Knowing you can still look forward to your favorite foods makes the process something you can live with for a lifetime.
- Eat regularly in response to real hunger. Learn to listen to your body's cues. By eating healthful, balanced meals and snacks when you're hungry, you're less likely to get caught up in out-of-control eating that you'll regret later.
- Say good-bye to calorie counting. Switch your focus from calories to good nutrition. Make your healthful eating changes gradual, so you don't get overwhelmed.
- Picture portions. It's hard to manage your food intake if you don't have a clue what a 1/2 cup serving of pasta looks like or what a 6-ounce glass of juice is. When you start out, measure your food until you've learned to judge portion sizes accurately. If portion sizes start creeping back up, return to measuring and weighing for a while.
- Disconnect with the scale. Don't focus on a number, instead use how you feel and the way your clothes fit to measure success. If you just can't give up the scale, make your weigh-ins less frequent. Weighing yourself once a week is adequate.
In the next section find out how easy it can be to incorporate more physical activity into your current daily routine.
To learn more about senior health, see: