How to Eat Less in 2021
Why We Ate Too Much in 2020 and How to Stop the Madness
The Covid 15
We need to all give ourselves a break as we don our summer outfits and look in the mirror. Traditionally, winter is a time when our bodies crave more carbs, more sleep, and less activity. It's something we all deal with every spring, as we pull out those summer clothes and pack away our parkas.
Think of 2020 as a year-long winter. Not only did we all have the usual urge to eat and sleep more during the colder months because of our deeply ingrained biological habits (born of survival instinct), we also had the most extended period of stress most of us have ever known.
And a side effect of stress? Cortisol.
"Cortisol has been termed the "stress hormone" because excess cortisol is secreted during times of physical or psychological stress. Elevated cortisol levels have also been found to increase weight gain, especially in the abdomen." - Melissa Conrad Stoppler, M.D.
Other factors played a part: less activity, as daily routines were interrupted by lockdowns, and, for those who experienced diminished income, nutrition played second fiddle to affordability. Traditionally, the cheapest food you can buy is also the least healthy. (think dollar menu at a drive-thru)
Eat Less to Feel Better
Thankfully, the worst seems to be behind us, and now people are able to get outside more and be more active.
But fourteen months of grabbing multiple snacks between meals is a hard habit to break.
Not only have you possibly increased the capacity of your stomach, needing more food to feel full, there's also just the habit of it… you may equate TV watching with snacking now, or find yourself craving a bowl of ice cream before bed simply because it's become routine.
The physical side of it: The good news is your stomach is very elastic. If you consistently eat less for several months, you'll find yourself getting full quicker on less food - in the same way you had stretched your stomach's capacity over the last stressful year.
The term is actually "stomach distensibility" - the ability of your stomach to accommodate more food based on repeated binge behavior. Reverse the binging trend and your distensibility reduces, leaving you feeling fuller on smaller amounts.
The mental/emotional side of it: Although we tend to equate consumption of carbs and sugar with getting our happy on, there has been increasing evidence that intermittent fasting leads to better mental clarity and an overall improvement in emotional health.
Intermittent fasting typically involves fasting eight to twelve hours following a meal, allowing your body to burn more fat, and often results in less overall calorie consumption.
According to a study by the University of Illinois' Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition, those who practice intermittent fasting experience increased energy, reduced risk of chronic disease, longevity, and improved mental and emotional wellness.
Tips to Avoid Overeating
- Make all food an event in itself
The very worst thing you can do is "distracted eating".
Distracted eating is when you're watching TV, reading, or browsing on the internet, putting uncounted calories in your mouth, only stopping based on when the activity ends, instead of when you've had enough.
Instead, even if you're just having a snack, put it on a plate, sit down and focus on it. Focus on the taste, chew slowly and eat slowly. Savor it.
- Eat high density foods
There's a diet plan called Volumetrics Diet that preaches eating high-density foods for weight loss.
Eating foods high in water content, such as fruits, vegetables, soups and stews will make you feel fuller with less calories, and you'll be less prone to snack later.
- Drink peppermint tea
Sometimes, all you need is a taste bud fix. A cup of flavorful tea might do the trick, and keep you from reaching for a snack.
Peppermint is known for curbing hunger cravings and aiding digestion.
- Write it all down
Try writing down every single thing you eat in a day.
Count out your crackers, your strawberries, notate your spoonful of peanut butter. You might be surprised at how long the list is… and that's the point. Be aware of how much you're consuming, and the next day, try for a shorter list.
- Don't go overboard on denying yourself
Diets fail when people get frustrated.
If you tell yourself you're never going to eat ice cream again, you could find yourself getting discouraged. Instead, resolve to not eat it today. Or tomorrow.
Pick a day not too far away and plan to eat a portioned amount of the food you've been craving.
- More liquids
There are so many zero calorie sports drinks on the market today, now could be the best time to find a new favorite! Experiment with a flavor you haven't tried before, and stock up on low calorie drink options.
You can even find some good chocolate-flavored protein drinks that will satisfy your craving for sweets and keep you feeling full…but don't overdo it. Although they'll pack less of a caloric punch with better nutritional benefits, they aren't zero calorie, either. Go easy, and find a balance of drinks to keep your taste buds satisfied throughout the day.
- Plan it out
We don't make the best choices standing in front of the refrigerator.
Make a written plan of meals and snacks, with varying tastes and textures, and try to stick to it. If you know you're going to be craving a snack at four in the afternoon, have a low-cal snack prepared ahead of time, so you don't grab something on impulse that will derail your efforts.
You have a craving for a food item that's sitting in your fridge. You open the door and stare at it, battling with your self control. It would really hit the spot! You're about to give in…even though you'll probably beat yourself up about it later.
Instead of getting frustrated, or disappointed in your lack of willpower, tell yourself you can have it… in two hours.
By bargaining with yourself, and sticking to that bargain, you're learning self-control. You're overriding the impulse to have it now, and coming away from the situation feeling more powerful, and less likely to just throw in the towel.
The more control you exert over your cravings, even by just delaying satisfaction, the easier it will be the next time.
- Think in terms of seasons
Although it's good to embrace healthier eating habits year round, it's also beneficial to realize our brains are wired to eat more in the winter.
Think of the warm weather season as the time to back off from heavier meals, focusing on "grazing"- eating numerous small meals or snacks throughout the day.
At the same time, it's perfectly fine to dream of cozy winter days when you'll once again be indulging in homemade macaroni and cheese!