By Joy Saudargas, RD, LDN, Clinical Nutritionist within the Crozer Keystone Health System
You’re starving. You sit down to a beautiful, delicious meal and dig in. Then next thing you know, you’re so full you feel uncomfortably bloated. Sound familiar? You’re not alone.
One reason many people are overweight or obese is that at some point in time they stopped listening to their body’s signals that tell them when they’re hungry and full.
Hunger and satiety, the feeling that you have had enough to eat, stem from a balance of hormonal and neurological signals from your stomach to your brain. One of those signals comes from your stomach wall stretching to make room for the food you’re eating. When this happens, a signal is sent to your brain to let it know your stomach is expanding and that you can begin to slow down and stop eating.
At this same time, a hormone, which is produced when your stomach becomes empty to trigger a hunger message, starts to decrease. The result of all of this is your brain receiving messages to stop eating, rather than to start or continue eating.
These signals are always present, but you may not be paying attention to them. Learning to recognize them and manage them better can result in a healthier weight.
It takes about 20 minutes after you start eating for the message to reach your brain that tells you to stop eating. So if you eat very quickly, you could be stuffed by the time this message reaches your brain. Avoid this by eating at a slower pace.
Dining slower will also allow you to savor the flavors of your food, which is also a factor in your satiety. It can also improve your digestion.
Can’t tell if you’re full? Try standing up during your meal. This will allow you to sense how your stomach feels – if you feel comfortable, but not overly full, you have eaten enough. This will prevent you from standing at the end of your meal only to realize you feel bloated from overindulging.
And forget what your parents taught you – you don’t have to clean your plate. You can save leftovers for another meal.
When you are dining, make your food the main attraction. That means not watching TV, reading or doing anything else distracting while you’re eating. This will help you mindfully eat – you will pay better attention to how much you’re eating, how it tastes and how your body is reacting to the food.
It also matters what you’re eating. For your body to feel satisfied, you meals should be balanced. This means that your meal should contain a carbohydrate like grains, fruits and vegetables; protein from meat, fish, eggs, dairy, beans and nuts; and the kinds of fats that help you stay healthy, like those fats from fish, olive oil, avocados, nuts and flaxseeds.