Dear Healthy Professor: Why do I always start gaining weight this time of year?
Answer: Colder temperatures drive us back indoors to cook more, bake more and eat more. The fall marks the beginning of the eating season, with back-to-school bake sales, football feasts in front of the TV and apples (as in apple cider donuts, apple crisp and apple pie).
Not to mention that the holidays are not far away. Did you know there are only 75 more days to eat until you make another New Year’s resolution to lose weight?
Current magazines are filled with photos of tempting fall delicacies and whimsical
Halloween treats. Already we are being bombarded with mouth-watering recipes for Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas cookies displayed alongside articles about ways to avoid holiday weight gain.
Crazy, isn’t it? Is there a way to approach this season with diet sanity?
Here’s an idea. What if we stop
obsessing about what we should or shouldn’t eat and concentrate on internal cues to self-regulate food consumption? What would the scale read if we only ate when we were truly hungry and stopped when we felt satisfied?
I have a way to remind you how to assess hunger and satisfaction by using the fingers on your hand. Here’s how it goes.
The little finger is famished, the ring finger is hungry, the middle finger is satisfied, the pointer is full and the thumb is stuffed. You should avoid eating to the thumb, because it’s a sure way to have stomach distress and gain excess weight.
You probably knew that, but did you know you shouldn’t reach the little finger and let yourself get famished either? If you wait until you get the jitters from low blood sugar, normal drives for survival will make you eat right past satisfaction and fullness all the way to stuffed.
Another reason not to let yourself get too hungry is that it is
almost impossible to eat slowly when you are famished. Eating slower will allow you to be more aware of when you are satisfied; that zone where you no longer are hungry but not full either.
Most people feel hungry about 3-4 hours after a meal, so if you think your stomach feels empty an hour after eating a meal, it’s probably not food you are hungry for.
It’s not a good idea to stuff yourself with low-calorie foods either. This doesn’t help you to stay in touch with your true hunger signals. Sometimes you may eat until you are full even before you knew it.
Think about hunger, satisfaction and fullness. When you reach for food, look at your fingers. It’s a simple reminder that might be the helping hand you need to make a different resolution this January.
Nina Marinello is
the coordinator of nutrition education in the athletics department at the State University of New York at Albany.