Think about the last time you ate. Were you hungry? Bored? Satisfying a craving? Learning to listen to your body's cues can be one of the most powerful ways to manage your weight. Here's how to do it.
Eat when you're hungry; stop when you're full. It sounds simple, right? But triggers to eat are all around, and they often have nothing to do with hunger: the candy on a co-worker's desk when you're stressed, or the brightly colored fast-food sign. Unfortunately, frequently giving in to cues like these can lead to extra pounds. Here are some strategies to become more aware of the "why," the "when" and the "how" of your eating habits and gain control:
When you want to nibble, first H.A.L.T.: Ask yourself if you're Hungry, or if you're really Angry, Lonely or Tired. When it's really emotions you're managing, experiment with alternatives to food. For example, call a friend or go for a walk.
Before eating, get in the habit of pausing to rate your hunger. Think of a scale from 1 to 10 where 1 is starving and 10 is stuffed. Aim to eat when you're at a "3" (somewhat hungry, but not yet starving), and stop when you're at a "6" or a "7" (slightly full or satisfied, but not Thanksgiving stuffed).
If you truly are hungry between meals or planned snacks, reach for something high in nutritional density and low in calorie density such as fruit or vegetables to keep hunger at bay.
One of the healthiest dietary habits you can learn is simply enjoying the experience of eating. Instead of focusing on counting calories or banning certain foods, try turning off the TV and putting away your phone while you refuel.
Take in the aroma and taste each bite. Chew thoroughly. Put down your fork between bites and enjoy the company of your dining companions. And before reaching for seconds, check in with your hunger.
Using these simple mindfulness practices can help you to balance your diet and eat well not just today, but for life.