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The Princeton Longevity Center Medical News

3 “Internal” Tools for Weight Control

When most people approach weight loss, they focus on using recommendations for what foods to eat, how much to eat, what types of exercise to do, how much exercise to do, etc.  Generally, this “external” information or knowledge is not enough to support long-term success.  Paying attention to and responding to “internal” information, which are the thoughts, emotions and sensations that we feel, along with external information is needed in order to lose and maintain weight loss long-term.  Here are some basic tips on turning your focus internally.  To further focus on your own “internal” information, counseling sessions with a Registered Dietitian can be helpful.

  1. Use a Hunger and Fullness Scale.  Your body has all of the things it needs to maintain a natural and healthy weight.  But, you need to pay attention to the signals that your body gives you and eat (and stop eating) according to them.  To pay closer attention to your body, use a Hunger and Fullness Scale.  This type of scale can help you gauge whether or not you need to eat and can help you to determine when to stop eating as well.  There are many hunger/fullness scales on the internet so do a quick search to find one that you like the best.  Then make a copy of it and use it each time you feel that you want to eat or finish a meal.  I have included a sample Hunger and Fullness scale below.  This particular scale was developed by Barbara Craighead, PhD and uses a 1 through 7 rating.  To use the scale, ask yourself "Am I really hungry?" before you start eating.  Tune in to the physical sensations you're experiencing and then rate your hunger on the Hunger/Fullness Scale using the descriptions below.  For this particular scale, it’s recommended that you try to stay between a 2.5 and a 5.5.  Avoid letting yourself get down to a 1 on the scale, which is “very hungry”, by keeping planned snacks on hand that you can eat if you fall below a 2.5.  As you eat, continually think about where you fall on the scale.  Stop eating once you feel that you are at a 5.5.  Using a Hunger and Fullness Scale can be difficult, but with focus and practice, you will eventually become more in tune with your internal signals of hunger and fullness and you will be able to realize when you are eating in response to emotions or stress as opposed to hunger.  The next step would be finding alternatives to emotional eating. 

 

Very
Hungry

Moderately
Hungry

Mildly
Hungry

No Feeling;
Neutral

Mildly
Full

Very
Full

Much
Too Full

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

2.5

- Desirable Zone -

5.5

(1= Very hungry; starving, 2= Moderately hungry; ready to eat, 3= Mildly hungry; beginning hunger, 4= Neutral. You feel no sensations of hunger or fullness, 5: Mildly full. You feel satisfied, 6=Very full. Your stomach is beginning to feel a bit distended, 7= Much too full. Your stomach feels stuffed).

  1. Talk to yourself!  Reasoning with yourself can be a powerful tool!  For example, as a parent, I know how easy it is to fall into the habit of finishing what your kids don’t eat.  So, if this is something you do regularly, talk to yourself as you reach for the extra chicken nugget that your kid didn’t eat.  Say “I can eat my kid’s leftover chicken nugget OR I can continue to lose weight”.  Or if you tend to clean your plate at restaurants:  At the beginning of each meal, say to yourself “I can cut my portions in half right now OR I can be upset with myself later on for giving into the temptation of these extra large portions”.Once you feel the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that occurs when you avoid actions that support feelings of failure, you will be more likely to continue making healthier decisions.

  2. Give yourself some rules.  I’m generally not a fan of rules surrounding eating, but sometimes you need simple rules to help you stay on track.  Don’t worry…I’m not talking about “never eat ice cream” type of rules!  Instead, I feel that rules surrounding situations involving food are more helpful than specific food restriction rules.  For example, I have many clients who attend meetings everyday where food is abundant and they find that they eat just because the food is there.   So, if these aren’t “lunch meetings”, a lot of my clients find it helpful to follow a “no eating at office meetings” rule.  These situational rules really work well for most people, so give it a try!  Once you follow your rule for a few weeks, it develops into a habit that you will continue for years to come!

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