The Hunger Games (April 21, 2013)

For my April 21 article about beating snacking cravings, The Hunger Games, either click here or keep on readin’! 

 

It’s 3:30 p.m. You’ve been to the gym, eaten the healthiest meals possible — everything is going according to plan — until your afternoon munchies kick in. One Timbit turns into 12, and before you know it, your healthy day has been completely derailed. We’ve all been there.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. A really clean diet is essential to the lean, toned body we’re all seeking. Yes, exercise is crucial to overall health and muscle development, and yes, it burns calories. But even if you’re exercising, if you need to lose weight you simply won’t be able to do it while keeping up a high-calorie diet. You won’t burn enough calories with your thrice-weekly trips to the gym to burn off aforementioned Timbits, let alone lose the extra pounds leftover on your midsection from the holidays.

If you’ve read my column before, you’ve likely seen the phrase “abs are made in the gym, but shown in the kitchen” — and the experts agree. Anywhere from 65-90% of your body mass index (BMI) is reflective of your diet. The food you put in your mouth carries more weight (pardon the pun) than your exercise routine.

So what do we take from this? Clean eating is the most important piece of the weight loss puzzle. Unless you’re running daily marathons or are Michael Phelps, you won’t get your dream bikini body without cleaning up your diet. Knowing this, you meticulously plan your meals, take a special trip to the grocery store, and banish your husband to the basement for even saying the word ‘brownie’. This plan works perfectly.

Until you get hungry, that is.

Or at least you think you get hungry. Did you know that, on average, 80% of perceived hunger is actually misidentified thirst? You should be drinking water all day long — not only to avoid hunger, but to keep adequately hydrated. You’ll feel energized, healthy, and shockingly un-hungry. Your skin will be better. You’ll bloat less frequently and less severely. Your workouts will be stronger. I drink upward of four liters a day, and frequent trips to the washroom are truly the only downside.

If you’re having a craving, drink a glass of water. If you’re struggling with portion control at mealtime, drink a glass of water before you sit down to the table. You won’t believe how much food is left on your plate.

When I’m feeling hungry, I rely on a simple 1-10 rating system. One is post-Thanksgiving dinner full, 10 is ravenously hungry. You want to eat at around a six. At a six, you’ll be able to control your portions and easily make the right choices. A salad will satisfy you at a six. At a nine or a 10, you’ll scarf down the first bag of Cheetos you can get your hands on. Nine or 10 is not good.

Eating before you get too hungry will keep your portions small, your blood sugar in check, and your metabolism revving in high gear. An added bonus? Your cravings will all but disappear.

Another trick of the hunger-banishing trade? Use your head. When you’re hungry and reach for the greasiest, cheesiest pizza you can get your hands on, think before you grab. Ask yourself “would an apple satiate me right now? Would some poached fish?” Be honest. If the answer is no, and only pizza will do, you’re not hungry. You’re having a craving. Be conscious of the difference. Think about what you’re putting in your mouth, why you’re putting it there, and prioritize your health.

Finally, if you’re finding yourself incurably hungry throughout the day, you may not be getting enough protein. Add some lean meat, wild fish, beans, nuts, tofu, and eggs to your diet, and you’ll feel more full than you can believe. Snack-time protein is the most challenging to find, but check out the accompanying recipe for an under 100-calorie protein-filled snack.

I promise, if you’re honest with yourself, these tricks will make a huge difference in both your calorie consumption and your waistline. You don’t have to sign up for any programs or buy any special book. It isn’t an expensive pill or magic powder to sprinkle on your food. They’re simple, free, and they work—all that is required is some dedication.

Molly Daley is a nutritionist and runs the healthy cooking, fitness, and wellness website, Diary of a Formerly Fat Girl. Find her at www.DiaryofaFormerlyFatGirl.com , or follow her on Twitter, @DOAFFG

Molly’s Hunger-Killing Angel Eggs

This protein-packed snack will curb even the most substantial 3 p.m. snack cravings. Tasty, filling, and super clean, they’re far less expensive than a protein bar, and are a satisfying alternative to their naughtier, devilish cousin. The best part? Ready in a flash, you’ll be happy with your angel eggs before you can even be tempted by your co-worker’s bag of BBQ chips.

1 egg, hardboiled

1 tbsp. plain hummus

1 tbsp plain, 0% fat Greek yogurt

Dash of paprika

Pinch of salt

Splash of hot sauce (optional)

Peel your egg, and cut in half vertically. Place the whites on your plate, and scoop the yolk into a bowl. Mash yolks with a fork. Add your hummus and yogurt, and mix thoroughly. Add your paprika and salt (and hot sauce, if you like things a little spicier), and mix. Spoon into your egg whites, and enjoy.