Food is all around us. Billboards, TV commercials, books, blogs, magazines, advertisements, shopping malls. Everywhere we look, food is staring back at us.
Whether it’s the salted pretzel kiosk in the mall, the commercial for the latest and greatest orange juice on the market, or the millionth food blog post popping up in our Google readers, food is an ever-present constant in our lives.
Why then, with food being such a fundamental pillar in our society, do we find ourselves with the mid-afternoon munchies so often as our bellies grumble with dissatisfaction? Welcome to what I call Real Life Hunger Games. Like it or not, you and I play them every day.
But don’t give in to defeat just yet, because I’m here to give you a few strategies for conquering the hunger beast and staying not only satiated but also energized all day long. Are you ready to get in the game? Well then put on your grittiest football face and keep reading!
1. Eat Regularly
I will never understand how people go from 8 o’clock in the morning until 6 o’clock at night with nothing more than a bowl of oatmeal in their belly. I am a big believer in frequent eating. If you eat regular meals and snacks, you’ll be less likely to become “over-hungry.” Shaky legs, blurry vision, foggy brain? This is over-hungry! Even if your stomach is not physically growling, eating balanced meals or snacks every 3-4 hours helps maintain stable blood sugar and fend off cravings.
Another tip: you’ve gotta eat breakfast, folks! I recently watched a clip on the 7 Habits of Slim People hosted by Dr. Oz who, incidentally, people say looks a lot like my dad. I don’t see the resemblance at all, but anyways…back to breakfast. Dr. Oz himself declared that slim people eat a healthy and hearty breakfast every morning. He’s spot on! Eating a morning meal gets your metabolism up and running for the day and supplies energy to accomplish all those tasks on your to-do list.
(No time for breakfast? Just grab a few of these Fruit & Nut Breakfast Treats. Something is better than nothing!)
2. Eat Enough
Pick up any fitness magazine and you’ll quickly discover that staying thin is all about portion control, right? Although not overeating and keeping portions in check is an effective way of staying slim, it’s equally important to ensure that you’re eating enough. Yo-yo dieting not only restricts calories, it also restricts nutrients. Our bodies cannot function optimally without food!
Many people, women especially, try to live on fewer calories thinking it will help them shed unwanted pounds. Going into “starvation mode” only weakens your body’s immune system and wreaks havoc on the way your metabolism fires. Restricting calories also disrupts your body’s insulin secretion and reception processes. (The details are really scientific and sleep-inducing, so I’ll leave it at that!)
So how do you eat enough to stay satisfied and balanced without overeating and gaining weight? It’s all about the foods you choose.
3. Eat the Right Foods
Fruits and vegetables offer the most bang for your buck nutritionally, but calorically they are lightweights. If you want to stay satisfied and keep hunger at bay, you’ll want to focus on incorporating healthy fats and protein into your diet in addition to plenty of plants.
- Eat protein with each meal. A simple lettuce-tomato-and-onion salad just won’t it cut to keep you full. But don’t think that protein means meat, meat, and more meat. While animal protein sources like eggs, poultry, and grass-fed beef are healthful options, remember that protein also hangs out in beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and alternative grains like quinoa and millet. Aim to incorporate a dense source of protein into your three main meals.
- Focus on fiber. Why? Because fiber fills you up! When it comes to fruit, I try to eat fruits that have skins and seeds. They stick with me longer. Apples and pears (with the skin on) and berries contain more fiber than fruits like oranges and bananas. They’re also lower on the glycemic index and cause less of a sugar surge for me.
- Practice effective food combining. If I eat a piece of fruit for a snack, I’ll be hungry minutes later. (Yes, minutes!) But if I pair that piece of fruit with a handful of almonds or walnuts, I’m set for hours. Same thing goes with constructing meals. A bowl of rice and vegetables (purely carbs) will keep me satisfied for an hour or two, but I’ll find myself hungry and getting shaky shortly after eating. Tossing in some chicken or toasted nuts with that bowl of rice and veggies will round out the meal and provide lasting energy.
(Need a high fiber snack on the go? Try this delicious and nutrient-packed Spiced Carrot Hummus. It’s fab!)
4. Listen to Your Body
I can’t stress this enough. Everybody is unique. We all process foods differently. For one person, carbs may be a fantastic energy source and a crucial element to balancing blood sugar. To another, proteins and fats might keep them going strong while carbs quickly bring them down digestively. You may need to eat four or five times per day, I may need to eat six or seven times. You may stay satisfied on a vegan diet, I may need animal protein to feel my best.
Everyone reacts differently to different foods and lifestyle factors. It’s all about tuning into your body’s specific cues, reactions, and physical signals.
I think we’d all also do well to tune out the media. If I ate and exercised and lived my life the way the latest magazine told me to, I would feel so lousy both physically and emotionally. The fact is you and I don’t have “cookie cutter bodies.” We’re different in hundreds of ways.
Let your body’s signals be your guide to how you eat and live.
5. Stay Emotionally Nourished
Don’t rely on food calories alone for nourishment. It’s vital to remember that we’re not only satisfied by what we eat and drink, but also by who we spend time with, the activities we engage in, and the hobbies we pursue. When we think we’re hungry, we’re actually often bored, lonely, or depressed. Pursuing optimal emotional health, not just physical, will lead to lasting success in staying truly satisfied in multiple areas of our lives.
- Surround yourself with people you admire and respect for how they live their lives, overcome obstacles, and make decisions. A strong, supportive, positive social circle will help you stay focused on your wellness goals.
- Identify your “trigger foods.” We all have them. Trigger foods are the ones that start the domino effect of mindless eating, leaving us unsatisfied and taking bite after bite after bite of food that we shouldn’t be eating. All that nibbling leads to feelings of guilt that give way to emotional weakness. Reducing or eliminating trigger foods in your diet will help you stay on track with eating foods that truly satisfy. (Hint: refined carbs and sugar often fall into the trigger food category.)
- Engage in hobbies that keep your mind and body active. Idle hands lead to boredom and boredom leads to overeating for many of us. Food is a hugely important part of life, but life shouldn’t revolve around food. If you find that your life revolves around eating, work on developing hobbies and engaging in activities that enrich your life with non-food nutrition.
How do you battle it out in the Real Life Hunger Games? What are your favorite ways to stay spiritually, emotionally, and physically nourished?