Friday, August 26, 2016

Are You Hungry?

Hunger and satiety, aka fullness, are part of the driving mechanism that controls our daily eating habits.  We all experience symptoms of hunger and we all experience symptoms of fullness.  I am choosing to write about hunger and satiety because the symptoms that accompany the two can be ignored.  A classic example is a gathering for a holiday or summer cookout where the desire to consume mouth-watering food and beverages even after our stomachs are full is high.

At the gathering, we may spoon a serving or two of the indulgent food onto our platters because it looks so delicious.  I can say for myself that 95% of the time there is a social or family gathering, my plate is filled. 

Although my plate is filled to the brim, I am tuned-in to my body.  I am mindfully aware to how hungry I am at the beginning of a meal as well as the moment that triggers physical fullness.  The concept of eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full sounds easy, but the reality is there are many variables that come into play when we decide if we are going to keep eating or not.  It is important to be mindfully aware of the physical and psychological  signs and symptoms that we are experiencing on the hunger and satiety scale. 

In Today's Dietitian, March 2013 Issue, author Cheryl Harris, MPH, RD shares an example of a hunger scale to assist individuals with being mindful of hunger and fullness levels.  

By analyzing where you fall on the scale with extreme hunger on one end (1) and "oh my goodness, I think my pants are about to bust" (10), we can learn to consume food in moderation and appreciate food as the nourishment our body needs to obtain a healthy lifestyle. 

“The Hunger-Satiety Rating Scale” listed below  is from Why Weight?  A Guide to Ending Compulsive Eating  by Geneen Roth and reposted by Erica Lesperance, RD, LD in an internet article via the Diet Channel: Diet Essentials: Learn To Recognize Your Hunger Cues.

Satiety 10 = Stuffed to the point of feeling sick
9 = Very uncomfortably full, need to loosen your belt
8 = Uncomfortably full, feel stuffed
7 = Very full, feel as if you have overeaten
6 = Comfortably full, satisfied
Neutral 5 = Comfortable, neither hungry nor full
4 = Beginning signals of hunger
3 = Hungry, ready to eat
2 = Very hungry, unable to concentrate
Hungry1 = Starving, dizzy, irritable

If we are mindful to where we fall on the hunger and satiety scale, we will be able to pay attention to our inner voice, the voice that tells us whether we are truly hungry or truly full. If we ignore the symptoms between 1-3 or 7-10 our bodies will not be in a neutral, balanced state and we will physically feel the effects.

The physical symptoms our body experiences in relation to hunger are internal cues to signal to our brain that it is time to eat.  Hunger symptoms include gurgling or growling in stomach, dizziness, headache, irritability, or nausea.  Our bodies are wired so that our internal physical symptoms of hunger can be communicated to our brain in an effort to motivate an external response for us to eat food.  This is a survival mechanism. 

It is our responsibility to pay attention, to be mindful of where we fall on this scale, and to be aware of our inner voice especially in a society that surrounds us with a plethora of food and beverage options.  We are surrounded by mouth-watering food on a daily basis.  It is important to recognize that our mental desire for the mouth-watering food can take over our physical symptoms of hunger and fullness.  By "mindfully eating" we can overcome our mental desire to consume too much indulgent food whether it is a holiday, social gathering, or an average American day. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Back To School Lunchbox

It's the time of year when the kids are off to school.  As a parent of two children I know how hectic the days may be.  I understand how tempting it is to want to give your child money for lunch to purchase cafeteria foods rather than sending your child with a midday brown bag meal.

I'll be honest.  Back in the day, I used to throw random leftovers and anything I thought my son would eat in his lunchbox.  I didn't give much thought about him having a balanced meal.

This may be surprising for some individuals to read considering I am a dietitian.  The truth is that I am also a parent and I understand how chaotic the days become during the school year.

I admit to the times I would grab anything in the refrigerator or freezer (corn dog, pizza, hot pocket) to feed my kids because they had to be fed "now."

But, now I realize the importance of taking time to plan weekly meals. 

In the past, I would put random food items into my son's lunchbox about 10 minutes before I had to  take him to preschool.

This year, I will be planning all meals for the week to ensure my son and daughter are fed healthy lunches.

I know how busy school mornings are and I hate feeling rushed.

School mornings in my household consist of two children complaining how tired they are and dragging their feet to head out the door because they know we are already late! (seriously walking like zombies out of the's a production for sure).

But with a little preparation, it's easy to fill the kids' lunchboxes with healthy foods and you can feel like one proud parent!

It is up to me to provide my kids with healthy food options. 

It may also be confusing to know which foods and beverages are considered "healthy" to pack into the lunchbox. 

Listed below are suggested healthy meal options.

  • Multi-grain bagels, whole-grain English muffins, tortillas and colorful wraps, whole- grain bread slices, crackers and pita pockets are all great options instead of white bread 
  • Light canned tuna fish, chicken, and egg salads mixed with a small amount of mayonnaise
  • Lean, low sodium lunch meats such as ham or turkey
  • Peanut butter or almond butter spread with slices of apples, bananas, raisins, or granola
  • Veggie or turkey burgers topped with a slice of cheese or guacamole
  • Whole-grain English muffin pizza (spaghetti/pizza sauce on each half, sprinkle with shredded cheese and favorite toppings, heat and eat!)
  • Sliced veggies such as carrot sticks, celery, broccoli, tomatoes, colorful peppers and don't forget to pack your child's favorite veggie dip on the side!
  • Sliced fruits including strawberries, grapes, pears, peaches
  • Whole fruits including bananas, blueberries, apples
  • Dried or freeze-dried fruits
  • Applesauce
  • Yogurt
  • Raisins
  • Cottage cheese
  • Baked chips
  • Veggie straws
  • Cheese stick
  • Trail mixes
  • Pita bread and hummus
  • Granola bars
  • Low-fat or fat-free milk
  • Water
  • 100% Fruit juices
  • Water with a splash of fruit juice for extra flavor
  • Avoid soda and high sugar beverages such as fruit punch
By packing a serving of food from the protein group, whole-grain/multi-grain group, fruit and vegetable group, and low-fat dairy group your child will be consuming the essential vitamins and nutrients he or she needs. 

The benefits of children consuming healthy foods is not only important for their long-term optimal health, but also their academic performance. 

Studies have shown that students with poorly rated diets perform lower on standardized tests.  In addition, experts have found that skipping meals or consuming unbalanced meals interferes with concentration at school.

The benefits of packing healthy foods and beverages into your child's lunchbox are endless.  If you haven't given much thought about your child's lunch in the past, start thinking today!   

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Healthy Living Addict

It's 6:00 a.m.  She wakes up for school, drinks some hot tea with no sugar, gets dressed and goes to class. 

Her stomach is growling for food by 10:00 a.m. but she ignores it and puts a mint in her mouth in an attempt to ease the hunger pains.

By 1:00 p.m she is home from school and tries to eat as little as possible before she is on her way to work by 3:00 p.m. 

At work she drinks diet sodas because she doesn't want to consume calories and the carbonation will hopefully curb her appetite.

On her work break she eats a bag of sliced apples and a Lean Cuisine frozen meal.

By 8:30 p.m. she is back home and begins studying for a college exam while snacking on baby carrots and Fat-Free Italian dressing.

It's now 11:00 p.m. and although her stomach is still slightly growling, she goes to bed because if she is sleeping she will not be reminded of how hungry she is.

The next morning she wakes up and her schedule repeats...

She continues to feel control over her world by controlling the amount of calories that she consumes.

She is refusing to give her body the amount of fuel it requires to function because she not only enjoys the feeling of being thin but she also feels a periodic "high" by withholding food while everyone around her is stuffing their faces. 

To some extent, she enjoys being different from everyone else.

This is the mind of a young woman with an eating disorder.  Her brain and body has learned to function on one-third of the calories it used to several years ago.  She has an addiction to not eating food because the feeling she gets from withholding food provides a sense of pleasure, comfort, and control. 

Unfortunately the "high" that results from withholding food is temporary.  It the meantime, her physical health is suffering because it is not receiving the nutrition it requires to function properly. 

She is not happy. Her weight is less than ideal.  Her stomach growls much of the day.

She uses withholding food as a form of escape.  She doesn't have to feel so much sadness or disappointment or hurt in her soul if she uses food (or lack thereof) as a coping mechanism.

It will take hard work and inner strength to overcome the condition of anorexia nervosa.

While the stressors of life continue through the college years, she starts to enjoy feeling "buzzed" after drinking a few beers with friends. 

When she has several drinks she realizes how hungry she is and eats without caring what the calories will do to her body.  She also does not care about withholding her body from men.

Her family and friends frequently comment on her ability to control her alcohol consumption, but she believes she is fine and does not have a problem.

She doesn't understand why everyone is so concerned about her drinking because everyone drinks in college.

But, overtime she gets sick (literally) of being hungover nearly every weekend and starts to enjoy smoking marijuana instead. 

Her stress and anxiety diminish every time she lights-up and she eats as much junk food as she wants.

Over a period of time she enjoys mouth-watering double bacon cheeseburgers, chips, and ice cream more than the feeling of smoking a joint.

She is now pushing 30 years old.  Her weight went from being significantly under ideal in her late teens from anorexia to being significantly over ideal at age 29 from binge eating.

It will take hard work and inner strength to overcome the addiction of binge eating.

In this woman's case, she went from addiction to addiction trying to cover-up unhappiness, stress, anxiety, fear, and/or responsibilities of life.

The pleasure she felt from withholding food, binge eating, binge drinking, or smoking weed became more important to her than taking care of her soul.

On her 40th birthday, she realizes how lucky she is to still be alive and decides to live the second half of her life much differently than the first.

She is fully aware of her addictive personality but wants to use it to her advantage versus destroying her health and possibly her life.  She becomes addicted to living a healthy lifestyle. 

She starts by planning three healthy meals and two small snacks a day. 

She starts taking walks around the block after work even though she is dog-tired and would do anything to lay on the couch.

She starts becoming thankful to God for her body even though it is far from society's standard of perfect. 

She realizes how lucky she is to have the ability to care for herself.

Because her attitude toward her life changed in a positive way, so did her health.

Living a healthy lifestyle was no longer an addiction to her.  Healthy living was a different way to live life.

Over time, she realized she did not have to cope with life's stressors and sadness by resorting to highly addictive foods or substances.  She realized how destructive food, drugs, and alcohol can be to her health and she wanted the opposite.

She realized that stress, sadness, and negativity exists in life, but she can choose to deal with negativity by taking part in activities that are not destructive to her health.

She is now 45 years old and feels stronger than ever physically and mentally because she took control of herself.  She doesn't let negativity destroy her and instead she destroys negativity.

I have met several people in my lifetime that have been or are currently addicted to food, drugs, or alcohol.  All three can be highly addictive and destructive to our health.

Living a healthy lifestyle involves more than eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy.

Living a healthy lifestyle is a choice. 

We choose whether or not we want to live healthy everyday.

How will you choose to live tomorrow?