Food faces

I know it’s tough to stick with your New Year’s Resolutions and most of us didn’t really think them through when we made them. We didn’t think about how we were going to achieve them or the discomfort we would have to go through. Let’s face it, stepping outside of our little boxes is kind of uncomfortable.

This month we are looking at ways to support weight loss/healthy eating resolutions. Here are some things that have been shown to make a difference in whether someone sticks with it or not.

  1. Drink a glass of water when you feel hungry. Hunger is the result of physiological signals received by the brain. Some of these signals come from stretch receptors in the stomach. When the stomach is distended, the stretch receptors are activated and tell the brain that you are full.


This is not the only signal that your brain receives, however. If other signals are over-riding that then chances are you are actually hungry. If the trigger for your ‘hunger’ is a smell, thought, TV commercial or something other than the physiological desire for food then it means your appetite has been stimulated. You may not be hungry at all! While this is one of my favourite habits, it doesn’t work for me when I’m super-hungry because water on my empty stomach makes me feel nauseous. It does work for me when I’m starting to get ‘snackish’, though. Give it a try and see what you think.


  1. Eat a salad or raw veggies before each meal. This trick provides you with much-needed micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), water and fibre. Low blood sugar/glucose (ie. Low carbohydrate level) is another hunger trigger. Fibre not only helps by distending the stomach but also by buffering the impact that consuming carbohydrate has on your blood glucose level.


Having glucose in your blood is important but we want to avoid big swings in concentration. We usually eat a salad or raw veggies with every meal instead of before it. I think I’ll try it about 30 minutes to an hour before our dinner to see if it helps stop us from snacking on the food as it’s being prepared.


  1. Add fibre and/or protein to your breakfast. Take a look at your breakfast. Does it include 3 of the 4 food groups? You remember the food groups, don’t you? They are: 1) Veggies & fruits, 2) Grain products, 3) Dairy & alternatives, and 4) Meat & alternatives. Of these food groups, you will find protein in 3 of them (if you eat whole grains instead of processed). Protein is important because it helps you feel full, just as fibre does.


If you don’t have protein and fibre in your breakfast, add what is missing. A sample breakfast would be: 250 mL of fruit juice (or a whole fruit for more fibre), a slice of whole grain toast with 1 or 2 tbsp of peanut butter or other protein source on top. Alternatively, a cup of steel cut oatmeal made with blueberries or raisins, a smidge of milk and a ¼ cup of nuts or seeds would also suffice. The cold cereal habit was the hardest one for me to break because it is just so easy to pour cereal and milk into a bowl!


  1. Don’t rely on meal substitutes. Liquid moves through the GI tract faster than solid does so if you are consuming a liquid meal substitution you are more likely to feel hungry sooner than if you ate a solid meal. Whether the meal replacement is liquid or solid, it is not usually balanced in its micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) content. The best way to attain micronutrient balance is by eating a variety of different foods. If you are always consuming the same meal replacements you are probably not achieving this balance.


There is a common meal replacement out there that looks like a cereal, smells like a cereal, tastes like a cereal, feels like a cereal and sounds like a cereal, and is eaten at the same time one would usually eat a cereal. I wonder what meal it was intended to replace?

  1. Read food labels! Not all food has a nutrition label. If you are eating food that the government has decided doesn’t need a label then you are probably on the right track! Some examples of these foods are: fresh fruit and vegetables, unprocessed meat, raw nuts and seeds. If it comes in a package, it has probably gone through some sort of processing so it requires a nutrition label.


While reading food labels can be tedious, once you’ve done it a few times you get much faster at it and you know right away which products you want to buy. When it’s been a while since I’ve gone shopping, it always takes me a little longer to get through the store because I read all the labels. Most of us don’t know what goes into our food, thus we don’t know what goes into our body. Do you know what you’re eating?


Stay tuned next week to find out how to decipher a food label!


Do you have any tricks or tips that you use to help keep you on track? Please share them in the comments.

Leah Esplen, MSc (Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology) enjoys moving and eating well but is aware of the challenges that people (including her) face to do so. Her mission is to take the b.s. out of nutrition and fitness information to make it more ‘palatable.’ She believes anyone can make changes to improve their health, as long as they know the right changes to make. When not teaching in the BPK department at SFU, Leah can usually be found presenting at fitness conferences, teaching fitness instructors or teaching MommyMoves® PreNatal and Mom & Baby fitness classes. Amazingly, Leah is not perfect. She wrestles with chronic injury and finding the right combination of nutrition and physical activity to maintain her own health.

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