Diet & Nutrition
7 Strategies to Curb Cravings, Practice Mindful Eating and Lose Weight for Good
America, we have a problem. More than two-thirds of adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese. The statistics are staggering, but they shouldn’t lead us to believe the problem is insurmountable. In fact, it’s not, and there’s plenty of proof. More than a half-million people have lost over 50 million pounds by learning to conquer their food cravings that have little to do with physical hunger.
Because our food choices are mostly driven by emotional rather than physical hunger, we eat to satisfy some kind of longing. It’s critical that we redirect our emotional eating.
Every time you’re at a decision point with food — which, by the way, happens over 200 times a day for most Americans — stop and take a few breaths. Ask yourself: What is the best choice for the body I want?
Beat the defeat of unhealthy eating habits and get back to your optimal weight by using these seven strategies that work:
- Embrace the number “15”.Science shows that people enjoy greater success by tackling weight loss in small increments. It’s much easier to think of losing 15 pounds than to worry about losing all your excess weight at once. Dieters can accomplish success 15 pounds at time by eating 15 appropriately sized servings of power-packed foods a day, revving up their metabolism by exercising in 15-minute chucks, and spending 15 minutes a day nourishing their minds with relaxation techniques.
- Get your rest.We Americans are an exhausted bunch of people. Although sleep researchers recommend 7 to 8 hours per night, studies show that 30 percent of us get fewer than 6 hours of sleep a night. The more sleep-deprived you are, the higher your risk of obesity. When you deprive yourself of adequate sleep, fatigue lowers your ability to resist cravings.
- Control cravings before they control you.The first step to reducing emotional eating is to stop when you feel hungry, analyze your feelings, and determine whether your hunger is coming from your stomach or your mind. Ask yourself: What am I feeling? Am I having hunger pangs? Has it been a few hours or a few minutes since I ate last? If you realize you’re not physically hungry, think about what’s going on in your head. Are you frustrated, angry, or annoyed? If your hunger is emotional, you can either ignore it, eat a healthy substitute, or find an activity to fill the need.
- Drink half your weight in water.Drinking water helps fill your stomach and boosts your body’s metabolism. It also keeps you hydrated, which is important because we often mistake thirst for hunger. To figure out how much water to drink, divide your weight in half. If you’re 160 pounds, aim for about 80 ounces (ten 8-ounce glasses) per day. Unsweetened coffee, tea, and seltzer can count in your daily tally. Keep in mind that caffeinated beverages are diuretics, meaning they dehydrate your body. Offset this by drinking a glass of water for each cup of coffee or tea. Importantly, cut out all sugary drinks and sodas, which are known contributors to obesity.
- Practice 15 minutes of meditation.Meditation helps you reduce stress, become centered and prepares you to take on the day calmer, focused, and intentioned. In a comfortable position, inhale slowly to the count of five, and exhale slowly to the count of five. As you inhale, imagine yourself bringing peace into your body and mind. As you exhale, imagine yourself letting go of stress and anxiety. The better you become at managing stress, the more likely you are to achieve and maintain all of your life’s goals, including weight loss.
- Keep track of daily food intake.Research shows that keeping a food diary can actually double your weight loss. One reason is that tracking your food makes you think more about what you choose to eat. Mindless eating is one of the biggest contributors to weight gain. Using a food diary also helps to up your accountability to yourself. By writing down everything you eat, including your cheat foods, you become honest with yourself, which is one of the first steps toward true mindfulness.
- Shop with a list.Using a shopping list when you go to the grocery store is a sure-fire way to cut back on junk food. A study found that women who used shopping lists lost an average of 27 pounds (9 more pounds than those who didn’t use lists). By sticking to the foods on your list and refusing to buy other, unplanned foods, you make smart food choices.
Put these strategies to work and you’ll discover something amazing: These new healthful habits will actually increase your energy and improve your outlook so that you’re better able to handle life’s challenges.
Rovenia M. Brock, Ph.D. is a leading nutrition coach for over two decades and author of a new book, Lose Your Final 15: Dr. Ro’s Plan to Eat 15 Servings a Day & Lose 15 Pounds at a Time (Rodale Books, January 2017). Known for her easy-to-apply diet, fitness and health tips for people of all ages, she served as nutrition coach on The View, helping Sherri Shepherd lose more than 40 pounds. She has contributed to NBC’s Today show, The CBS Early Show, Good Morning America, and National Public Radio. Dr. Ro has been featured in O Magazine, Self, Ebony, Essence, The Dallas Morning News, Memphis Commercial Appeal, and was recently named one of More magazine’s top 5 nutritionists. She holds a Ph.D. in Nutritional Sciences from Howard University and is the author of Dr. Ro’s Ten Secrets to Livin’ Healthy. Learn more at EverythingRo.com.