Don't go hungry

USELESS advice

Lot's of diets tell you not to go hungry.  And it's good advice.  But it's not all that useful.  We can all try to listen to our bodies and only eat when we are hungry.  But if you try listening to your body in Traybake Britain you won't hear a thing above the noise of all that crispy, crunchy, munching.  We eat for pleasure and it's incredibly hard to resist.  Lots of diets will tell you to treat food as a fuel but just you try it and see how far you get.

I say meatballs to that.  Eating is one of my greatest pleasures, and I'm not alone.  We eat to celebrate, to socialise, to relax, for comfort and yes, for pleasure.  And I don't propose for one moment that we change any of that.  Even if you wanted to stop eating for comfort how much time would you have to spend on a psychiatrists couch?

It's argued that eating for pleasure is some kind of weakness.  But eating for pleasure is just as real a kind of hunger as having an empty stomach. It's often more powerful a feeling, but the difference is that it is triggered by food itself.

Research has now found that just by seeing, smelling and tasting foods that are high in fat, salt or sugar, we start producing the hormone that makes us feel hungry. So just by eating we are stimulating our appetites.

The Diet Groove helps you deal with this like no other diet.  On Reload Days you can eat whatever you like, and that is a lovely motivator.  But what about during Fast Days and Burn Days.  You are still up against the worst that Traybake Britain throws at you.  And it can punish you twice over.

First, we are bombarded by food.  We’re now the exact opposite of hunter gathers; you can't go a day without being enticed to eat something.  From the food itself, delightfully displayed on every counter, to the most wonderful enticements to eat it: beautiful photographs of treats blown-up to enormous sizes in windows and posters, loving slow-motion adverts of mouth-watering ingredients, the warm smells of baking pumped out of doorways, the un-refusable offers from colleagues and friends; even our own well stocked fridges offer up irresistible delights every time we reach for some milk. 

Second, when we do give in to that temptation our bodies are swamped by mountains of empty calories that turn straight to fat.  Clearly there’s a ton of sugar in anything that comes from a off a baking tray in Costa, but on average we’re eating 60g of added sugar a day that we don't even realise.  Hidden in everything from a slice of bread to a jar of tomato ragu, we eat nearly 2 bags of extra sugar a month that we didn’t even know were there.  Even when we’re having a drink, our bodies are digesting a meal.  A large latte easily hits us with two to three hundred calories and half of our daily allowance for saturated fat.  Amy didn’t see that one coming.

Compared to our ancestors, we don’t even know what ordinary hunger feels like.

So eating when we're hungry is all very well and good.  If we're running low on fuel the right thing to do is eat.  And with Pure Protein and High Fibre you can eat really healthily and not risk putting on weight.

But what if we feel 'hungry' with every fresh baked whiff or glimpse of golden crumb?

The chances are it’s going to blindside you when you’re least prepared.  Amy will go for any opportunity.  Feeding children in the late afternoon is always a difficult one.  That cheesy crust on the leftovers in the macaroni cheese bowl or a lonely fish finger left on the grill always promise that they don’t count.  Or meeting room biscuits.  Or it might be the hot vol-au-vent to stem the boredom at a dull drinks evening or just that regular little muffin sitting on the counter in your coffee shop.  The more incidental it is, the easier it is for Amy to take advantage of it.

The trick now is to give Amy a sharp elbow in the ribs and to make a bit of space for Thoughtful Brain to take over the situation.  So what do you do if you recognise an Amy ambush? 

Well that’s half the job done.  We’re not trying to turn this into a battle of wills.  That’ll never work as a long-term plan.  But at least recognising the enemy means that you’re not a naïve victim.  And remember it’s not just Amy you’re up against but the weight of our food culture.  So here’s how you can square up to it without just hoping for the best.

1. Barriers

The first thing is to try to tilt the odds into your favour a bit.  These can never be your only weapon as that is just a case of willpower.  But any little rules or habits you can establish just to get in Amy’s way are really useful.  Have a look at the regular threats that you are up against and see if there’s a better way to deal with them.  So if it’s children’s tea time then always make yourself a cup of tea at that time too.  If you’re challenged by meeting room biscuits, could you make a pact to ignore them?  Or what about a Fridays only policy?

And clearly don’t put temptation in your own way.  Just don’t keep sweets, biscuits and cakes at home.  But if you have to for the kids, then make sure that they belong to the kids.  Keep them somewhere you don’t go for them.  Let the kids get the tin out themselves.  Even get them to count their stash. Anything to keep them off limits for you.

Just put your barriers in place the best you can. They might not always hold, but every time they do, counts.

2.  Distance

Step away form the muffin.  It might sound silly but don’t even look at it.  You need space to distance yourself from the ambush and at least give yourself time to think.  This is Amy building up her reward systems.  She wants gratification and the more you think about the muffin the worse her disappointment is going to be.

If you can just remove yourself from the temptation.  If you can acknowledge the thought and let it pass then you’ll be surprised at just how short lived it was.  Normally if you can get through the first minute then you’ve probably made it.  And then the trick is to move on to doing something else.  Which brings us to…

3. Diversion

Once you’ve got somewhere else you’ve got to engage in something quickly to keep the distance.  So check Twitter, make a call, write a message, anything to take your mind off the muffin.  Smart phones are the new diet aid.  And with a bit of luck, one activity will lead you on to a whole new train of thought well away from muffins...  Then get back to work, or the ironing, or take the dog for a walk.  When we are physically engaged with an activity then we naturally keep Amy out of the picture.  She gets engaged to and tends not to wander off. 

It can be slightly more difficult if we are sitting at a desk without being totally absorbed by something.  Then the danger is that we use food as a form of break.  Much better just to limit this to a cup of tea.

4. Alternative

The cup of tea is just a great alternative to raiding the fridge for food itself.  So if we’re just looking for a little reward, a diversion, a nice taste, something to occupy our mouth for a minute, then put the kettle on.

Or try a long, cold glass of water.  Nice sparkling stuff, even.  We are quite capable of mistaking thirst for hunger, so before you tear into that muffin, have a drink.   Why eat extra calories, when a glass of water is really all you needed?

It’s good to drink lots of water on Fast Days anyway.  If your protein intake is relatively high water will make sure that you kidneys aren’t put under any strain.

Buying a coffee is a bit of a daily luxury – so a skinny flat white can do the trick of feeling like a substantial treat.  Or try a no-calorie fizzy drink.  Diet Coke or 7UP etc. Not a natural healthy choice, but maybe a useful tool just to indulge in a bit of a sweet taste can help the food cravings pass. 

Another alternative you can quickly you can throw into the works is a stick of chewing gum.  Not a nutritional choice, not popular in polite circles and it creates a nasty mess if you stick it anywhere but in the bin.  But as a quick fix to take your mind off comfort eating or boredom, it’s very useful.  I’m sure most diet writers don’t mention it because it is such a cheat, and it’s hardly very ‘Paleo’ is it, but it one of the modern world’s few inventions which actually works to fool Amy and keep her quiet.

So, smart phones and chewing gum.  Definitely worth having.  I would urge you to carry a pack.

5. Or just eat.

So how about treating the craving like real hunger and just eating something, only make it Pure Protein or High Fibre?  Maybe there is a level of real hunger in how you’re feeling?  So you don’t get to have the muffin.  But perhaps if you swap the craving for a muffin for a protein fix you can satisfy it.  It might take a bit of effort.  After all, the muffin is sitting there in front of you.  But if you’re on a high street you’re bound to be able to find a more meaty/high fibre snack not too far away. 

Find the nicest protein snack you can.  You can find lots of really tasty stuff, which fits the bill of lean protein but still packs a satisfying flavour punch.  Eat a whole pack of chilli and ginger Mauritian prawns, peel the skin off a couple of chicken legs and tear through them as if you’re at a mediaeval banquet.  If you’re at home, lightly brush a steak with some olive oil, cover it in a shower of crushed sea-salt and peppercorns and flash it at a hot pan once on each side.  You might think this is ‘cooking’ rather than snacking but a few mouthfuls of steak will signal that you are indulging yourself.  And hey, presto, not breaking your diet either.

Or you could just give in.  You only need to jiggle a few days around.  Make this your Reload Day, or part of one, maybe swap a bit of your next Reload Day for now? Could you wake up on Saturday and not have the bacon sandwich?  The only thing to remember is you’ve got to mean it.  A fair swap. 

Damage limitation

But... wait.  Think about how can you limit the damage of giving in?  Why not put it off for another hour?  Why not try a glass of water first?  You never know, the feeling might pass…