The pandemic is here to stay longer than expected, and because of that, we are forced to stay at home even longer. Being stuck at home with not much else to do, we are prone to mistake boredom with being hungry, or we might be mindlessly eating while working or studying. With the kitchen just a few steps away and food delivery apps just right at your fingers tips, you have instant access to food even if you could not go out. Hence, having a domesticated and sedentary lifestyle plus easy access to food may be a recipe for disaster.
Keep your health in check even when you are just staying at home, especially during a time of a health crisis. One step to a healthier diet is to avoid overeating or binge-eating.
Here are some tips to help you stick to your required calories and avoid going overboard.
1 Stay away from food triggers or temptations
When working or studying at home, establish a conducive space dedicated to your job or studies alone without distractions or temptations, including food. Avoid doing your paperwork on the dining or kitchen table when all the food triggers are visible and within arm’s reach. If you have no other choice but to study or work in the dining room or the kitchen, try to keep foods out of sight during your study or work session and bring them out only when it is time to eat.
Another way to stay away from food temptations is to keep them out of your house in the first place. Now that we are staying at home more than ever and the pantry is the primary source of daily nourishment, stocking up on healthier and satiating food alternatives will force you to eat them. Steering clear from overly palatable, calorie-dense, and overly-processed foods that leave you feeling even hungrier is an excellent way to establish healthy eating habits.
If you want something sweet, swap your usual sugary and processed desserts with fruits. Craving for something creamy? Have some Greek yogurt instead of puddings. Pick whole wheat options for your carb cravings to make you feel fuller instead of processed foods dense in calories but stripped away of nutrients.
2 Apply the “marshmallow test” in eating
Practice self-control when eating and take cues from the famous marshmallow experiment that tests one’s ability to delay instant gratification. When you feel a bit of a grumble from your stomach, do not automatically grab and eat anything to indulge your body’s appetite signals. Instead, take the time to assess yourself first if you are really hungry and wait for a couple of minutes before grabbing that snack in front of you. After a while, the hunger signals may go away, and you may realize that you were probably not hungry in the first place. If after giving yourself that window period before eating and yet your body still gives you the hunger signal, that’s the time to take it as a cue that your body, indeed, needs some nourishment.
3 Drink before you eat
Don’t confuse hunger for thirst, especially when it is not yet your scheduled time to eat. If you think you are hungry, try hydrating yourself with water first. Water is not only a thirst quencher but is also a vital form of nourishment for your body that can fill your stomach and suppress feelings of hunger.
Aside from drinking water, you can also fill your stomach with other drinks that are low in calories but still satiating before you give in to your food cravings. This way, you feel fuller even before you consume solid foods, which will then prevent you from eating more.
Examples of these drinks are black coffee, sparkling water, or zero or low-calorie sodas sweetened by sugar substitutes. Plain black coffee is known to suppress appetite and has virtually no calories that it’s not worth adding up to your daily caloric intake. Aside from black coffee, carbonated drinks can also make you feel fuller. Just be extra careful when drinking fizzy drinks. Make sure you drink plain sparkling water or carbonated juice drinks sweetened by sugar substitutes, both of which have no calories. Regular, sugary sodas are dense in calories, and their sweetness can trigger even more feelings of hunger.
4 Plan your meals
One step to prevent overeating is to plan your meals. Setting what and how much to eat ahead of time will prevent you from randomly wandering around your kitchen that can tempt you to pick out whatever food you want. In addition, preparing your food with full knowledge of its volume and nutritional value will help you consciously choose nutritious foods over unhealthy ones. Meal preparation will also allow you to control your portions.
Aside from knowing and choosing foods with the most nutritional value, meal planning will save you time from worrying about what to eat next as well as from randomly taking regular trips to the kitchen. Instead, schedule your weekends with buying and preparing your food for the next week that you can stash in your refrigerator. This will not only save you time and effort, but more importantly, it will also save you from eating unnecessary calories you are most likely to consume if you did not have a plan in the first place.
5 Practice mindful eating
When staying in the comforts of your home more than ever, it’s easy to fall into the trap of doing everything you want without a thought and all at the same time. This includes mindless eating, which can lead to overeating.
Mindful eating not only means planning what and how much to eat but also where, when, and how to eat.
Set consistent meal schedules that will prevent you from eating anytime you want can make you prone to eating even more. Establishing a routine can teach your body not to feel hungry all the time.
Mindful eating also means developing a conducive eating environment that will help you focus and appreciate your food and what it does to your body. If you are busy on your laptop screen or your phone while eating, you are most likely inattentive to how much food you are eating that it does not seem to satisfy and nourish you anymore. Think about the time you were lying on your couch while having a movie marathon with a bag of potato chips, and all of a sudden, you wonder where all the food has gone—doing something else while eating seems to make the food run out faster. Establish a proper eating setting at the dining table, complete with proper utensils instead of eating in your bed or work desk. Put food on a plate or bowl, and do not just eat straight out of the container. These seemingly trivial ways of eating are often overlooked, but effective first steps in developing healthy eating habits.