Easy Way to Lose Weight-Just Pay Attention!

I am currently in a house where lunchtime is also catchup-on-reading-time for the others at the table. Many other Americans use meal time for catching up on email or  playing games.

A recent study shows that when we aren’t paying attention to what we eat, we tend to eat more and even get hungry sooner.  When we are distracted, we can’t remember how much we’ve eaten and memory is tied to satiety.

Researchers found that distracted eaters, who were playing computer solitaire, “felt significantly less full just after lunch. . .  and at the taste-test session a half-hour later, they ate about twice as many cookies as those who had lunch without playing games.”

So, if you want to eat less to cut down on the calories, but hate that hungry feeling, just pay attention to what you are putting in your mouth. Look at it, smell it, taste it, notice the texture, chew slowly and you will find you are satisfied with less. What an easy way to lose some pounds!

Another study has shown that by just leaving 3 bites on the plate, we can cut 1oo calories per day (Eat Your Way to Happiness p. 95, Elizabeth Somer, MA, RD).  If all you do from now on is to start looking at what you are putting into your mouth, you won’t even miss those 3 extra bites. A year later, that will lead to a loss of 14 pounds. Without dieting!

Go To Sleep To Lose Weight

With all the advice about exercising and moving more to lose weight, it seems contradictory to read advice to sleep more, but a number of studies associate short sleep times with obesity. The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine discusses one that was conducted at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. It found that “patients who had sleep times less than seven hours had an increased likelihood of having obesity . . . when compared to a reference group of patients sleeping eight to nine hours.” The researchers’ theories to explain this include the simple observations that people who are awake during more hours a day have more hours to eat and people that are tired tend to exercise less. They also mention the “reduced leptin and elevated ghrelin levels” that occur with sleep deprivation.

According to Clete Kushida, MD, PhD, RPSGT, a neurologist and sleep specialist at the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic in California, even after one bad night’s sleep the level of the hormone leptin, which controls hunger, decreases. The level of grehlin increases. It is a hormone, produced by fat cells, that causes you to feel like you need more fat calories and increases hunger.

Stuart Quan, MD, from the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, found that teens who sleep less than 9 hours have increased risk of being overweight five years later.”

“In a 2007 study published in Sleep Medicine Review, researchers from the University of Chicago found that ‘partial sleep loss may increase the risk of obesity and diabetes via multiple pathways.’ After one night of sleep deprivation, the body has an impaired ability to handle a glucose load.” (WebMD)

Sleep specialist Richard Simon, MD, quoted at the National Sleep Foundation website, states that “because the psychological manifestations of fatigue, sleep and hunger are similar, as adults, we sometimes confuse them—we tend to eat when we’re actually sleepy, because we think fatigue is a sign of hunger.”

Eve Van Cauter, PhD, terms sleep deprivation “the royal route to obesity.”

It’s no wonder that it is, given that according to John Medina in Brain Rules, “sleep loss means mind loss. Sleep loss cripples thinking, in just about every way you can measure thinking. Sleep loss hurts attention, executive function, immediate memory, working memory, mood, quantitative skills, logical reasoning ability, general math knowledge.” Eventually it even affects fine and gross motor movements.

So, of course, we are in no shape to make the best food choices, move our bodies very fast, or even to do the math to count calories or remember how much we’ve already eaten!

Late Night Eating-Does it Cause Weight Gain?

The information has been confusing. Many weight loss gurus have warned against eating after 7 in the evening.  Many other experts have said “calories are calories,” no matter when you eat them. Now, a few studies have shown that eating schedules do matter.  One conducted at Northwestern University, found that “eating at the ‘wrong’ time leads to more than twice as much weight gain, even when the overall calories consumed are the same as those eaten at appropriate times.” Yes, the experiment was conducted with mice, but the lead author of the study speculates that it’s due to “the interplay between body temperature, metabolic hormones such as leptin, and the sleep-wake cycle.

For humans, nighttime is a time for rest, as the body temperature declines, she says. ‘Eating at night is contradicting your body’s natural circadian rhythm,’ she says. ‘The leptin levels are starting to rise, and are supposed to be discouraging you from eating.’ Rising leptin levels suppress appetite.” (More at MedicineNet.com )

At the end of a 3 ½ year study with humans, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a group of night eaters gained 13.6 pounds while the non-night eaters gained only 3.7 pounds .

Besides the metabolic factors that need further exploration, we know that when we are tired, we are less likely to make healthy choices. What pulls us to the refrigerator late at night? Vegetables and fresh salads? Probably not.

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