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The New You: How to see food as fuel and avoid feeling full

Evaluating hunger levels, and how to stay away from overeating.

CLEVELAND — If you think about some of the best memories you have had with family, friends or your spouse… it likely happened to involve food.

"I had a grandmother who loved to bake. Grandma was kind of stoic. But when you saw her, she would be giving you food and goodies and that was her way of showing love," said Cleveland Clinic Licensed Clinical Counselor Trisha Miller.

In our first weekly shared medical appointment, Miller explained that those connections mean that snacks can truly bring you joy. 

That rang true for me. As a kid, there was nothing better than being able to eat animal crackers. During the pandemic, I've found myself snacking more - way more - on comfort food like ice cream. Because who couldn't use some happiness at this time?

But if you find yourself mindlessly reaching for that extra cookie, Cleveland Clinic Registered Dietician Kristin Kirkpatrick told me, to ask yourself if you're really hungry, or if you're just bored. 

"You have to think of your body as a car. We would never sit there at the gas station and once the thing clicks, [think] I'm going to put a little bit more in. There’s no more space. So you have to think of yourself in terms of your cells sucking up the nutrients and everything else. Once you go over the space, that’s where weight gain occurs," she explained.

Miller agrees. "Food is really fuel. Food is really to nourish our bodies."

This week, we also learned that The Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Center encourages their patients to think about where they’re at on their hunger number scale. Zero means you’re hangry (that's hungry plus angry, of course) and ten means you are stuffed.

"You want to stay away from starving which would be a zero or one because if we are starving, we’re going to overeat and we are going to eat anything in front of us," Miller told us. 

"Never eat to until fullness. Eat until you’re no longer hungry," Kirkpatrick added.

Another way to stop overeating is to consider the size of the plate you’re using. Most of us, including myself, always use the bigger dinner plate.  But Miller says you should try the smaller plate that’s in your cupboard.

If I use this [larger plate], I'm putting a lot of food on there. I might want to fill it up. If I use the smaller salad sized plate, I don’t need to unconsciously fill up the plate," she said.

"We eat more when it is there! We eat more with our eyes before our stomach," agreed Kirkpatrick, before adding her number one diet tip:

"The best diet that’s out there is the one you'll stay on long term."

If you're interested in learning more, or signing up for a similar program through the Cleveland Clinic, visit: 

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/departments/wellness/integrative

call: 216.448.4325 or email: cilm@ccf.org