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Fight Food Cravings, Prevent Overeating

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May 29, 2019

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Amy Myers: Today we're talking about how to fight food cravings and prevent overeating. Hello, I'm Amy Myers, and welcome to Farm and Family. Today we're speaking with Dana Carman, registered diet technician and also a graduate student and dietetic intern at Mississippi State University, and Dana is here today to talk to us about tips on how to interpret hunger cues and fight cravings to help prevent overeating. Dana, there are so many of us who have difficulty with weight gain during the holidays. It's almost impossible to avoid all the food and sweets when you're surrounded by it. Is this correct?

Dana Carman: You're exactly right. It's hard to stay strong and turn down the apple pie and candy canes, but there are so many ways to make it easier. If you think about why we eat, it's generally out of hunger or pleasure. The way to maintain a healthy diet is by learning how to control both of these urges. A piece of chocolate cake every once in awhile won't kill you, but eating too much chocolate can certainly take a toll on your health. Today I'm going to share some simple tips to help avoid inevitable cravings. I'm also going to share some information about what makes those hungry. Our body sends a lot of signals and it's important to understand what they mean.

Amy Myers: What are some of these signals? Let's say I'm still having cravings even after I just ate. Does that mean I'm still hungry?

Dana Carman: One possibility is that you're actually thirsty. The same part of your brain is responsible for interpreting both hunger and thirst signals. This can sometimes cause confusion and mixed signals. Staying hydrated and drinking water with meals can help clarify these signals so you only receive hunger signals when your body needs food. To be clear, if you haven't eaten and your stomach is growling, you should always eat. Those are true hunger cues, so you need to be sure to fuel to stay healthy and keep your body healthy.

Amy Myers: That's very interesting. I didn't know that. Are there any other signals I should pay attention to?

Dana Carman: Another signal that's important to note is tiredness. Sleep often gets overlooked, but it does affect how you eat. When you're tired, your body is looking for energy to keep going. Since the calories and nutrients in food provide energy, your body will signal you to eat, so take a nap. That way your body can get energy through sleep. Sometimes it's as simple as paying attention to how you feel. You need to take the time to ask yourself if you're hungry and also ask yourself if you're full.

Amy Myers: I think that can be difficult for many people. I can usually tell when I'm hungry and sometimes I eat more than the serving size before I feel full.

Dana Carman: I'm sure at some point, everyone has felt the discomfort of overeating, and usually that happens well past our full point. Our body takes some time to digest the food we're eating. This can take about 20 minutes. It takes this long for your body to register if you're full. Health professionals suggest eating more slowly to allow enough time to digest before continuing eating. There are a few simple ways of slowing down your eating habits. One trick is to count your chews. Try to count at least 10 chews for each spoonful or bite. You can also try putting down your fork in between bites. Pause between seconds and wait out those 20 minutes. If you're still hungry, then you can make another plate.

Amy Myers: I can see how this would really help encourage self control. It seems like these changes can also become easier with practice. So as you've been saying, eating behaviors can affect how much we eat. Are there any tricks to help make better choices about what we eat?

Dana Carman: That's a great point. A healthy diet is about quantity and more importantly about the quality of foods we eat. Essentially we want to increase our intake of healthy foods and decrease our intake of unhealthy foods. The best way to achieve this is to create a healthy environment that is free of temptation and abundant in healthy choices. Keep the junk food out of the house and out of sight. You will be less likely to eat it. You can also make healthy foods more visible and put them in high traffic areas so you'll be more likely to eat a healthy snack. Electronics and screen time can also pose problems. Ideally, meal time should be at the table and distraction free. Distractions take your focus away from meeting so you're more likely to lose track of the food choices and how much you're eating.

Amy Myers: Thank you for sharing those pointers today, Dana. I'm sure many listeners here could use this advice. Are there any resources to find other tips?

Dana Carman: Yeah. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website is It has several articles and tips on healthy eating. Thank you so much for having me today, Amy. I hope everyone can use these tips to have a happy and healthy holiday.

Amy Myers: Thank you so much. Today we've been speaking with Dana Carman, dietetic intern. I'm Amy Myers, and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day.

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension service.

Department: Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion

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