Welcome to Weight Loss Wednesday post. So, how was your week? Do you have a spring in your step?
If you are one on my lovely new followers, hello. I’d like to take a moment to explain to you what Weight Loss Wednesdays are all about. Back in August 2017 I was persuaded to join Slimming World by my mum (read my post here). I had done really well and achieved my two and a half stone lost certificate in December 2018 (that’s 35lbs for my American followers), however, over Christmas I put on half a stone (7lbs) and decided to start sharing my weight loss journey on this blog to help me keep focused. I attend my local group on Wednesday evenings to get weighed and get inspired, so when I get back home I post how I’ve got on; any tips we talked about and what my loss or gain is for the week, using the Weight Loss Wednesday tag.
So following on from last week’s 0.5lbs loss, I was relieved that my inconsistent eating habits hadn’t caused a huge gain but I know that my weight doesn’t always reflect what I’ve been up to for that week, sometimes it shows on the scales the following week. So coming home from last week’s Image Therapy I knew that I’d have to do better this week to see the losses that I was looking for. I can’t say that I’ve been back on plan 100% but I’ve been cutting down on the high-syn foods when I needed an emotional boost this week. When I stepped on the scales tonight I had a 0.5lbs loss.
Being on Slimming World means that you should never feel hungry, but sometimes we don’t eat to fill a physical need but rather an emotional one. Slimming World have already thought of how they can hep their members with this tricky issue and following on from our discussion in group tonight, I thought I’d share the article from the SW site.
I would love to hear from you if you’re an emotional eater too. What do you do to stop yourself reaching for those high syn foods? If you haven’t got any tips, I hope you find this article as helpful as I did.
When it comes to weight loss, your desire to eat can be a friend, not an enemy. Discover how to satisfy your appetite, conquer your cravings and decode your hunger cues.
Looking forward to and really enjoying food is one of life’s great pleasures. And there’s a reason we talk about having a ‘healthy appetite’ – for many of us, going off food can be the first sign we’re coming down with something, and when we feel peckish again, we know we’re on the mend. When we’re trying to slim, though, we can have mixed feelings about our appetite, and even start to feel as if it’s sabotaging our weight loss plans. It’s great news, then, to know that having a healthy appetite is a good thing when you’re losing weight. In fact, satisfying it with generous portions of Free Food will help you stay on track, lose weight and keep it off, all while enjoying your meals and never needing to feel hungry.
More than hunger
It’s easy to think that hunger and appetite are the same thing, but there are some important differences. Hunger is a signal your body sends when it needs more fuel to keep it running effectively. Appetite is your overall desire to eat, and while being physically hungry is one reason you might reach for food, there are lots of other complex processes involved. To begin with, there are various chemicals in your body that influence your appetite, from hormones that encourage you to start and stop eating, to neurotransmitters that send signals inside your brain.
Then there are the physical aspects of eating, such as the taste, the action of chewing, and the stretching of your stomach as it fills with food. All of these play a part in how satisfied you feel after a meal. Even if all these signals are helping you to feel full, it’s possible to ignore them because you’re distracted – perhaps because you’re watching TV while eating, feeling ill or worrying about something.
Our senses – taste, sight, smell and even hearing – can also influence how much, when and what we want to eat. Have you ever suddenly felt your mouth water because you caught a whiff of freshly baked bread, or not felt hungry until you heard the rustle of a bag of crisps? Plus, sometimes what you drink can interfere with these signals. Alcohol, for example, stimulates your appetite, so the more you drink, the more you feel compelled to eat – that night, and the morning after.
It’s getting emotional…
On top of all those physical reasons why we might feel hungry, our emotions can affect our appetite, too. The gut is sometimes called the ‘second brain’, and it actually does send signals straight to our little grey cells. The pathways go both ways, too – which is why our stomachs might start churning when we’re nervous, or feel full of butterflies when we’re excited. And for many of us, the automatic response to any difficult emotion, whether it’s stress, worry, shame, guilt or disappointment, is to eat.
‘Because we often grow up associating food with comfort and distraction, it can feel like we really do need to eat when we’re upset,’ says clinical psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos. ‘You might initially feel better because you get a short serotonin spike when you eat. But that wears off quickly, leaving you with uncomfortable feelings, and often a new layer of guilt or frustration with yourself about what you’ve eaten.’
So when you’re not hungry yet still craving food, what you’re really craving could be an emotional boost, or a bit of assurance that you can cope, or that you are loved or appreciated. But the human brain likes to do things on autopilot, so, for example, if you get into the habit of reaching for food when you’re stressed, it won’t take long for the brain to make an association and trigger thoughts of food whenever you’re under pressure. ‘And every time you eat because you’re stressed, you reinforce the incorrect belief that you can’t cope without it,’ says Dr Papadopoulos. ‘If you haven’t developed any other ways of soothing yourself, you can’t think of them when you feel upset or under stress.’
Eat more, lose more
Feeling deprived of food, which can happen when following a restrictive diet plan, may itself create uncomfortable emotions. ‘Hunger can make us feel agitated,’ says Dr Papadopoulos. And given that we need food to survive, it makes sense for the brain to send out ‘red alert’ signals when food seems to have become scarce. That’s why simply slashing the portion size of what you normally eat, or cutting out certain foods altogether, doesn’t work for many people.
A smarter approach is to work with your appetite, by making food choices that will maintain or even increase the amount of food you’re eating to help you feel full and satisfied, while also cutting back on calories – exactly what you’re doing when you’re Food Optimising. The scientific name for foods that tick the magic boxes of filling and low calorie is ‘low energy dense’; technically, foods with the fewest calories per gram, and those we call Free Food at Slimming World. Plus, some foods are extra filling due to the protein and fibre they contain – you’ll find them marked ‘P’ and ‘F’ in your Food Optimising book. So there’s more to weight loss than simply calories in and calories out.
‘A lot of people give up on diets because they feel hungry between meals. Our research shows eating low energy-dense foods can help overcome that problem,’ says psychologist Dr Nicola Buckland. Take carrots, for instance – you would have to munch your way through a whole bag (around 250g) to consume 100 calories, whereas you can eat 100 calories-worth of chocolate (around four squares) in seconds! Or, compare two lunches: a baked potato with cottage cheese and a large mixed salad; or a plain ham sandwich on white bread. One is likely to leave you feeling full and satisfied, and one thinking: ‘What else can I eat?’ Yet both contain roughly the same amount of calories (around 300).
A new study* has found that people who base their weight loss on low energy dense foods feel more satisfied and lose significantly more weight than those who simply count calories. In a lab setting, women who’d eaten generous meals of low energy-dense foods based on Food Optimising felt less hungry, more full and had less desire to eat at the next meal than when they’d had smaller portions of higher energy-dense foods. The study also compared women following Slimming World’s Food Optimising plan and going to group once a week with women following a calorie counting-based programme. After 14 weeks, the Slimming World group had lost more weight than the calorie-counting group, and also felt more in control of their food choices, enjoyed their food more, and showed greater confidence in their ability to stick to their weight loss plans.
The pleasure principle
Have you ever eaten a meal that you didn’t really enjoy, then felt like having something else afterwards to compensate? That’s our appetite at work again. Alongside choosing Free Food with properties that help us feel full, our meals need to look, smell and taste good. ‘Being physically deprived of food creates hunger, but being emotionally deprived of food also has an effect,’ says Dr Jacquie Lavin, Slimming World’s head of nutrition and research. ‘Meal satisfaction comes from a combination of fullness and enjoyment. So even if we have enough calories to keep us going, we will still want more if we’re not eating food we enjoy.’
Making delicious and tempting recipes from low energy-dense foods helps you feel like you’re not missing out, especially when they’re lightened-up versions of your favourites, using herbs and spices to add flavour without Syns. ‘If you’re eating low energy-dense meals that keep you fuller for longer, with healthy snacks and a treat every day from your Syns, you’re less likely to crave unhealthy foods because you’ll have satisfied both your physical and your emotional hunger,’ Jacquie says.
Getting in tune with your true appetite takes a bit of practice. So, if you notice you’re eating when you’re not hungry, remember it’s just part of your journey to a happy relationship with your appetite, and you’ll learn a little more each time about what makes you reach for certain foods. And when you do feel like eating, embrace your appetite – keep Food Optimising and relish every mouthful! Because once you’ve got the balance right for you, you’ll be on track to reach target and stay there, while enjoying your food more than ever.
*Weight loss will vary due to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose.
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