With summer on my mind and vacation in my dreams, I am motivated to look and feel my best – we’ve all heard the term “bikini body ready” one too many times. One thing that tends to get in the way is what happens after rose all day. Here are two recurring scenarios.
Situation #1 – After dinner and drinks out, I come home and head straight for the freezer where I mindfully grab just half a cookie. I go to the bathroom, take off my make up, brush my teeth in hopes of putting an end to another visit to the freezer fairy, only to find myself back at the freezer. Let’s just say, the visits don’t stop here.
Situation #2 – I just returned from a day at the beach with some friends, Mr. Don Julio and Mr. Jose Cuervo. I enter my kitchen, grab a stool and park it like it’s hot in front of my pantry closet. I then help myself to a buffet of Pirate Booty, tortilla chips and Stacy’s Pita Chips.
While this is not a daily occurrence, summer socializing tends to undermine some of our healthy eating habit efforts. Who better to come to the rescue than my dear friend and celebrity nutritionist, Tanya Zuckerbrot?
1. Are there any strategies you can share that will prevent mindless eating when enjoying a cocktail?
Don’t skip meals
- Eat all your meals and snacks regularly. When you skip meals, blood sugar levels begin to drop and low blood sugar produces sudden hunger pangs, which can trigger binging, food cravings, and clouded judgment when selecting foods.
- Blood sugar levels begin to drop within two hours of eating, so eating 4 small meals regularly at 4-5 hour intervals should help minimize cravings and prevent you from mindlessly indulging when the cocktails come out.
Before you go…
Spoil your appetite
- Don’t go to Happy Hour hungry. Instead, have a snack that combines fiber and protein before you head out the door. This prevents you from arriving hungry, which will safeguard you from mindless eating when you get there. When we’re starving, our willpower is sorely diminished. Our body goes into an emergency state when we are starving and our blood sugar drops low, which drives us to overeat.
- It is not always a measure of willpower when it comes to inhaling meals, our basic physiology is involved. When we are hungry, a hormone ghrelin is released in our stomach indicating we are hungry and this same hormone can drive us to choose fatty and sugary foods. Have a small, healthy snack that combines fiber and protein before you go, like a piece of fresh fruit with a handful of almonds or some high fiber crackers with low fat cheese or a smoothie. Clinical evidence shows that fiber and protein have a high satiety benefit in calorie-controlled diets and in weight reduction. The combination of fiber and protein keeps you feeling full, for the longest period of time, on the fewest calories.
Be a social butterfly
- Remember, you’re there to socialize. You were invited because of your charming personality, not your ability to finish all the chips and guac. Focus on your conversations, not what’s in the snack bowls.
- Carry a clutch – This works for situations where you’re standing/ moving around socializing at cocktail parties, bars etc. When you are holding a clutch in one hand, and a cocktail in your other, there are no free hands to hold a plateful of pigs in the blanket or grab a snack.
- Nurse your drink – Don’t forget that as you lose your inhibitions, you’re much more likely you to choose a food you’d never eat when sober. Stick with just a couple drinks and don’t forget to stay hydrated in between to avoid the “drunk munchies”.
• If you’re coming back from dinner with a buzz, hydrate and get some sleep! Starting with a bite of a cookie can sometimes trigger a binge on the entire box. If you’re not hungry, avoid the kitchen! Put a big glass of water next to your bed and get in it. You will thank yourself in the morning.
• If you’re going to be drinking all day, make sure that you’re not skipping meals to avoid the late-night snack attack at home. Before you go out, stock your fridge with non-starchy vegetables and protein in case hunger does hit. Craving something salty? Air-popped popcorn is a great, salty, high-fiber snack. Take a cup or two, sprinkle with salt, and remove yourself from temptation by getting out of the kitchen.
2. Are there any mantras that keep the motivation going when you let your guard down?
- Honor your intentions.
- Don’t settle for mediocrity where greatness can exist – Always strive for excellence and integrity when setting your goal. So, if you let your guard down and messed up, okay, it happens, but now it’s time to move on and get back on track. If you make a mistake or hit a bump in the road, learn from it and keep going.
3. Are there certain foods that trigger unnecessary snacking?
Yes! Refined carbohydrates (think pretzels, bagels, chips, cookies etc) can trigger cravings and unnecessary snacking.
• When we eat these “unhealthy” snack foods (ie refined carbohydrates) our blood sugar levels increase rapidly, giving us a surge of energy. Insulin floods the blood to uptake the glucose into the cells. This blood sugar spike is then followed by a subsequent drop, resulting in a state of very low blood sugar, hypoglycemia. Symptoms of hypoglycemia include hunger, fatigue, and cravings.
When we’re in that state of hypoglycemia (very low blood sugar) we crave more carbohydrates and sugar (pizza, chocolate, junk food etc) because our bodies want to get back to that stable level.
• As I mentioned earlier, alcohol can be a trigger in itself. By lowering your inhibitions, that glass of rose is allowing that little voice in your ear tell you that it’s OK to eat the pizza or grab another cookie. Make sure to drink in moderation and stay hydrated.
4. Are there certain foods that can prevent overindulging?
Yes, you can eat right to safeguard yourself from overindulging.
• In direct response to above, “healthier” foods, foods that are high in fiber/ low in refined carbs, often control blood sugar levels, and when blood sugar levels are more evenly maintained, the subsequent sugar cravings and cravings for unhealthy foods are minimized.
This is because foods high in fiber take longer to digest than refined carbohydrates, so glucose is released into the bloodstream more gradually too. Thus, that spike and drop of blood sugar levels that results in hypoglycemia is avoided, and such drastic cravings aren’t experienced. Examples include whole grains, vegetables and fruits.
• Fiber and protein again here can safeguard you from overindulging as they keep you feeling fuller for longer (see question 1). When you feel full, you’re less likely to overindulge.
• Fluids aka water – Being dehydrated can mimic feelings of hunger. Many times, our hunger is really just thirst in disguise and you can experience symptoms such as weakness, crankiness and fatigue. To get rid of these symptoms we then grab a candy bar when all we really needed was water. By drinking enough water in our day these sudden feelings (and subsequent urges to eat sugar) are not experienced.
Keep a bottle of water by your side (and make sure to actually drink it) in order to stay fully refreshed and flush your system out.
5. Sometimes the day after is worse than the day of. What to do on those days when you’re feeling the after effects and randomly grab whatever is in sight in the hope of feeling better?
- Remove temptations before hand – out of sight out of mind.
- Drink water – Drinking 8-12 cups of water daily is a must to prevent dehydration, and thereby maximize your defense against subsequent sugar cravings.
- Rather than skipping meals to make up for overindulging the night before, start your day with a satisfying breakfast that combines fiber and protein. Combat the diet damage immediately in the morning with a fiber and protein packed breakfast. Sample breakfast: F-Factor High Fiber/Protein Pancake/Waffle (can be sweet or savory), Nonfat Greek yogurt (provides protein) with berries and a high-fiber cereal or high fiber crackers with an omelette or low fat cream cheese and lox – all options help keep your blood sugar levels stable, and minimize additional cravings, as you go through your day.
6. When you see a little Snickerdoodle come your way, how do you avoid temptation in general?
• Plan your meals ahead of time; by planning and journaling, you will be less likely to go off track. Journaling ahead of time sets you up for success.
• Take a step back and focus on short and long term goals. Does the enjoyment of having that Snicker Doodle outweigh the enjoyment of reaching your health goals? By taking that moment to step back and think about it, suddenly the benefits of that Snicker Doodle don’t stand a chance.
To learn more about Tanya Zuckerbrot, visit here website here.