BRING IT TO BARB Answering your questions on mental health, relationships and life issues

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Dear Barb,

All I want to do is eat all day long when it’s raining and cold outside. I try to resist all day and then cave to my temptations by the end of the day. I’m not even hungry. Why do I have no problem in the summertime? Is there a secret I should know about?

Signed,

Searching for Control

Dear Searching,

Hunger is important for weight loss. It signals your body when it’s time for your next meal or snack.

There are a few secrets I can pass along using a scale that has worked in my favor for years. This was recommended by nutritionists Stephanie Clarke, RD, and Willow Jarosh, RD, of C&J Nutrition. It’s a scale from 1-10: 1 being your absolute hungriest, feeling light-headed; 5 being completely neutral (not hungry and not full), and 10 being really uncomfortably stuffed. You want to grab a snack or meal at about a three on the scale. This is when you’re moderately hungry, and stop eating around a six, just past that completely neutral feeling. My rule? I never allow myself to get to a ten-stuffed or a one-starvation.

So how do you gauge how much hunger is okay? Basically, you want to develop a personalized eating schedule where you eat when you’re fairly hungry (if you waited another hour, you’d be famished) and eat just enough to feel satisfied and be hungry again three to four hours later. This method of being mindful of your hunger, using a hunger scale, is a great way to monitor what and how much goes in your mouth. Keep the numbers in mind every time you’re about to reach for something to eat on those rainy days. Think to yourself, “What number am I?” and it should help curb those unnecessary cravings when you’re not actually hungry and will also prevent you from getting past the point of hunger to where you want to order an entire pizza for lunch.

Another secret to surviving the wintertime eating temptations is simply stay busy. I suspect you are busy in the summer, which helps you stay much farther away from your refrigerator. But wintertime can be a great time to take up big inside projects that require significant time that you wouldn’t otherwise do during the summer months when it’s sunny outside. We all possess “free will,” so get that room painted you talked about or the garage organized. Start that coffee table re-staining or the research on the Internet you have procrastinated about. This will distract you from the temptation of eating all day. Start on sewing projects or hobbies you enjoy but haven’t begun. You will be shocked how time will fly and you’ll need to make time to eat and possibly occasionally forget to eat.

One more big caution I must warn you about. Commercials on the television with food have a huge impact on your appetite. In a new study published this month in the journal Health Psychology, TV food ads were found to significantly increase eating while viewing television in adults as well as children. Use the mute button and stay away from watching marathon episodes of food preparation shows or contests, including cupcake wars. In the new study it showed passive exposure to food advertising on television may contribute to the ongoing obesity epidemic by automatically triggering eating behavior, right then and there while watching TV. Be honest, how many times have you seen something that looked so tasty on television that you sought it out or added it to your grocery list. You are being manipulated but not necessarily controlled.

The control you are searching for is “you get to decide.” If you have read my book, you know that I use many car analogies to reference how we should treat our bodies. So, my advice is, think of a gas gauge. You fuel your body like you would your gas tank for your precious car. Not on empty but not necessarily full. You wouldn’t top off your tank every few miles just because there is a gas station to get gas. You also wouldn’t let it get too low either. You get to decide.

Barb Rock is a mental health counselor for the House of Matthew Homeward Bound program in Tacoma, and the published author of “Run Your Own Race: Happiness after 50.” Send any questions related to mental health, relationships or life issues to her at BarbRockrocks@yahoo.com.

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