1. Eat to Maintain Your Weight - as stated in the introduction, many studies have shown that eating every 2-3 hours can help you maintain or even lose weight...if done properly! An average woman requires about 2,000 calories a day, which should be broken down into 5 meals of about 400 calories each. That does not really seem realistic however, so try this instead. Keep your 3 main meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) but make each of those a bit smaller, and eat a mid-morning snack, and an afternoon snack. The idea behind this is to keep your metabolism firing all day and never letting your body enter "starvation mode" where it is simply storing fat. Also, if you are eating snacks, when you reach the dinner table, you will be more likely to restrain yourself from eating too much.
2. Reach for the white stuff - stay away from salt and reach for the calcium. Eating snacks with high amounts of calcium such as dairy products help in multiple ways. Calcium actually helps your body metabolize and remove excess fat from the body, not to mention building strong bones. Salt on the other hand can get out of control very quickly and can lead to such problems like high blood pressure. Not only that, but the more salt that is in your body, the less calcium your body retains, which should be of even more importance for those of you increasing in age and beginning to face problems like osteoporosis!
3. Drink Your Water People - water is a great way to fill up your belly and ward off some hunger pangs. Not only that, but thirst often hides its symptoms as either hunger or fatigue. So the next time you are in your office or at home and feel either hungry or fatigued, go drink a cold glass of water and see how you feel 10 minutes later. Offices, cars, winter months, and the worst of all; airplanes, are all very dry environments that can make you 'feel' either hungry or tired, when in fact you may just be thirsty.
4. Fix Your Own Snacks - prepackaged and ready-to-eat foods tend to be high in sugar, salt, and calories. Protein and sports bars are a perfect example of this. Aim to package your own snacks at home. If you find yourself running low on time throughout the week, then take some time on Sunday before your week begins by preparing snacks for the week and storing them in your fridge, that way, you can just grab and go. Also, if you have a snack with you that you brought from home, you are less likely to be tempted to buy something from the vending machine at work.
5. Balanced Snacks - many of us feel that swapping out that chocolate bar for a pear is a great swap, and it is, but eating just a pear may make you feel hungry again pretty soon. Fruit are mostly carbohydrates with some fiber in them which is great, but balanced snacks should contain all 3 macronutrients; carbohydrates, protein, and fat (oh my gosh, did he say fat?). Eating something like a chocolate bar, or a refined-flour carb (such as a piece of white bread) will cause a nasty chain reaction. Once the carbohydrate begins to break down in the stomach, it moves into the bloodstream within about 20 minutes, peaking your glucose levels. Your hunger alarm then sounds off making you hungry again, not to mention that within the next 20 minutes, that glucose is either used up as immediate energy or stored as fat. Aim for snacks that have all 3 macronutrients listed above (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) and if you can't do that all in one piece of food, then make yourself a combo. For example, reach for an apple, and throw some yogurt and cheese with it. Fiber, protein, and fat all metabolize slower, keeping you feeling full, longer.
6. Kick Stress to the Curb - really focus on your body and train yourself to notice and be aware of your individual signs of stress. Stress causes a spike in the hormone cortisol which increases appetite, especially for sweets. Both men and women succumb to this, but women are especially emotional creatures who really fall victim to stress eating. Try and manage your stress in other ways such as meditation or exercise to help kick your stress to the curb!
7. Don't be too strict on yourself - Remember that we are all humans, and humans need to indulge every now and again, or we will all go mad. Nobody, and I mean nobody on earth can go without a little cheat snack or meal here and there. The problem arises when you make the occasional snack or dessert much more frequent. Think of the 90-10 plan. 90% of the time should be by the book and as healthy as possible, then other 10% of the time you can cheat a little, but still make it sensible. Do not sit down and eat a whole bag of chips in one sitting and think that it is okay. If we do not indulge every so often, we are more likely to crack and go on a binge bender!