Developing a healthy eating plan is a vital part of improving longevity and allowing you to stay fit, healthy, and active as you continue to age so you can still enjoy all of your favorite hobbies and activities. To start, it’s essential to understand why you eat in the first place. There are two primary reasons that people eat.
In general, most people eat for a combination of the two reasons. They eat when your body is hungry and needs fuel, but you may also over-indulge or eat snacks because they taste good.
Ghrelin is a hunger hormone that stimulates appetite. It will peak just before you eat and fall immediately after consuming a meal. With most people, the ghrelin hormone is not the only thing that compels us to eat, and studies of mice have shown that they will continue to eat regularly, even without ghrelin being present. Some of the factors that play a role in your hunger, besides the ghrelin hormone, are:
Your hunger can also be based on what you do consistently. Your body contains a system, referred to as the leptin feedback loop. Leptin, a hormone released by fat tissue, signals the brain about how much energy has been consumed as well as ho much excess energy has been stored in your fat cells. An increase in body fat will increase leptin. It is these leptin levels that will trigger your brain to adjust its hunger, intake of calories, absorption of nutrients, energy storage, and energy usage. This works to help keep your body balanced over time, but if you have a poor eating plan, it can cause an unhealthy cycle that can be hard to break free of.
There are many aspects to developing a healthy eating plan that you can stick to and be successful at. Instead of trying out one of the newest fad diets, just a few tips, tricks, and a little bit of discipline can help you create a healthy eating plan that can provide you with the nutrition you need and maintain a healthy weight while having a lower risk of failure.
One of the first steps to eating healthy is breaking some eating habits that can severely hinder your progress. Start by addressing issues such as:
Sometimes you eat out of boredom, because it is the social norm, or because something you enjoy is put in front of you. You may eat significantly more than you intended to because you are distracted by a movie, by your phone, by your work, or by a video game. When you mindlessly eat, you will consume significantly more calories than you need, which can lead to excess weight gain and an unhealthy balance of your sugar levels. When it is time to eat, focus on eating, paying attention to your body cues, so you stop when you are full. If your body is not giving you hunger cues, don’t reach for a snack, even if it seems like what you should do, such as getting popcorn at the movies.
If you plan your meals in advance, you are more likely to choose healthy options when you go to the store for your weekly shopping trip, stay in an acceptable calorie range, and make sure that you get a variety of different foods in your diet. Planning ahead can also reduce the temptation to get takeout or make poor meal choices such as fast food or frozen meals.
Protein is not only good for providing you with the energy you need to power through your day, but it also can help keep you fuller longer, as it takes longer for the body to digest than carbs. Protein can also be a great start to your day as it slowly releases energy in your body, allowing it to last longer. Consider including high protein, lower fat items, such as eggs and beans for breakfast.
Smaller plates lead to smaller portions, and since many people still find the need to clean their plate, you can cut a significant amount of calories just by reducing your portions sizes between 20 and 30%. The smaller plates and bowls can also trick your brain into thinking that you are consuming more than you actually are. If you see that you have eaten a full plate of food, you are likely to think that you have eaten enough.
When your food or presentation is brightly-colored, it triggers your brain to eat less. It can also make food that you may not be as enthusiastic about eating seem more appetizing. If you focus on eating a rainbow color of fruit and vegetables throughout the week, you also will likely get all the nutrients you need to maintain good health.
Eating too fast is an easy way to overeat, consume too many calories, and leave yourself feeling distended and bloated. If you slow down your eating habits, your brain will have time to let you know when you are full so that you don’t overeat and experience the negative side effects. If you have difficulty slowing down, try using your non-dominant hand, or eat your dinner with chopsticks. Since these options will be a little more awkward, you will naturally slow down your eating.
Don’t let poor eating habits ruin your health and prevent you from doing all the things that make you happy. By following the few tips above, you can better stick to a healthy diet, and when added to a regular exercise routine, you will be on the path to a healthier you.
If you’ve struggled with poor eating habits and your weight, you might consider joining Prime Women’s PLATE weight management program for postmenopausal women. We are all about portion control and group support.