Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Why We Eat! by Larry Robinson

Have you ever looked down to see crumbs all over your lap with a telltale wrapper clutched in your hand and asked yourself, "Why did I eat that?" Or after your second helping of spaghetti followed by ice cream resulting in a horrendously full stomach you've thought, "Why did I eat so much?"

There are many reasons why we over eat and eat when we are not even hungry. The reasons are easy to understand, but the reality of changing these behaviors is very complex. The desire to eat stems from many different signals and triggers. The average person eats 20% of the time from physical hunger and 80% of the time for reasons besides hunger. Why do we eat when we are not hungry? In learning to distinguish our reason for eating, we can address behavior changes that will help us to eat more nutritiously.

Here are some of the reasons why we eat besides hunger:

PHYSICAL HUNGER AND HORMONES - The hormones Ghrelin (eat now) and Leptin (stop eating) are your body's on and off switches for your appetite. The problem with that is your brain doesn't get that message from your stomach for about 20 minutes after it's had enough food.

FOOD CRAVINGS - Cravings can cause you to eat for pleasure, rather than for hunger. Often food cravings are set off by fluctuating sugar levels. Do a "pantry makeover" and eliminate foods that trigger these cravings such as snacks that are high in salt, sugar and fat.

EMOTIONAL EATING - Food can provide comfort when you are experiencing emotional challenges. Learn to substitute eating with other things you enjoy like reading, talking to friends, book groups or exercising.

STRESS - When you are under stress, your body releases the hormone Cortisol. If your stress continues, the Cortisol levels remain high and stimulate your appetite which can result in weight gain. Find ways to gain relaxation and coping strategies for your stress.

LACK OF SLEEP - When you are sleep deprived, your Ghrelin and Leptin hormone system of appetite does not work efficiently which  can increase your hunger. When you lack sleep, you feel sluggish and tired. Your body knows that sugar will provide a "pick me up" so you tend to reach for less healthy food choices in this state. It is important to get enough sleep to keep your hunger and sugar cravings under control.

MINDLESS EATING - This is like being in "auto-pilot", eating without attention or intention. Most of the time, mindless eating is connected to a "trigger" like watching television, going to the movies, or simply eating because the candy bowl was in front of you. Try to eat with attention and intention making mindful choices about what you are eating and how much.

Our bodies and brains are wired for survival, safety and comfort. If food has become a way you comfort and soothe yourself, you will have to re-learn new coping behaviors. If food has become something you turn to when you are bored, you will have to find alternative ways to stay busy and entertained. The reasons we over eat are simple, but changing those behaviors is complex. It's no wonder that weight loss is a big challenge for so many. To develop healthier coping strategies that will work for you, it's important to learn more about the connections between your brain and your food choices.

Here are some tips to help you with those connections:

FIT TIP #1 - Write it all down! Keep a food diary, along with a journal describing emotions that trigger overindulgence.

FIT TIP #2 - Be mindful! Eat with intention and attention. Don't eat in front of the television, in the car or "on the go." Pay attention to your meal. Sit down in a comfortable place, use a plate and utensils and enjoy it.

FIT TIP #3 - Understand the difference between feeling satisfied, full and stuffed. You need to stop eating when you feel satisfied. Eating until you are full or stuffed could very well mean that you have eaten 1,000-2,000 extra calories!

Larry Robinson is a Personal Trainer for On Top of the World Communities.

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