How do I avoid bad food choices?

February 1, 2014

Q: Is there any way in particular to gain better control of what I eat? I try to eat healthy, but it’s sometimes an uphill battle.

A: Controlling your appetite can be nearly impossible if you do all the wrong things. This is mainly because certain behaviors cause an imbalance of chemicals in your body that make you crave sweets and eat things that aren’t good for you. That’s why it’s important to follow certain rules that will stabilize your hormones, giving you control of what you put in your mouth so you can get the results you deserve. Here’s how.

Eat frequent meals

The body responds much better if we graze instead of gorge. Meals should be spaced approximately two to three and a half hours apart for best results, just as our bodies have digested the food, we eat again. This technique will not only boost your metabolism but also reduce cravings because it sends the signal that your body is constantly supplied with the proper nutrition and energy needed to fuel you through the day.

Drink plenty of water

Medical experts estimate that your body is made of approximately 75 percent water, but you need H2O to breathe, digest food or sweat; therefore, you need to constantly drink more to stay hydrated. Add in few tough workouts a week and it’s sometime hard to drink enough. It’s also important to understand that people often confuse hunger with thirst, and if you drink enough water, you will be more likely to control cravings and eat a healthy diet instead of snacking on sugary foods.

Eat vegetables daily

Everyone knows vegetables are good for them, but what most people don’t realize is that eating several servings of vegetables a day with meals can help control cravings. Vegetables are high in fiber and low in calories, which means they will fill you up quickly, leaving little room for bad foods. Also, don’t confuse naked salads with proper servings of vegetables. Instead, eat one to two cups of fibrous, crunchy vegetables three times daily and include good choices like broccoli, asparagus, brussels sprouts, spinach and tomatoes.

Lean quality proteins

A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that a 15 percent increase in dietary protein could result in a significant amount of weight loss and can suppress hunger. Participants of the study naturally consumed fewer calories and reported feeling more satisfied and less hungry, and lost weight. This is mainly because protein builds muscle, and muscle is the metabolic engine of fat burning. The more quality protein you consume, the bigger your engine. The bottom line is, if you’d rather burn fat like a Corvette instead of a Chevette, eat more quality protein.

Slow-burning carbs

Carbohydrates are judged by how high or low they score on the glycemic index. Foods that have little to no fiber and contain a lot of sugar are considered high and quickly turn to sugar in the body, spiking insulin and causing fat gain, while foods that are considered low are a great source of energy and are used efficiently, promoting weight loss. To ensure that you create a positive hormonal balance with stable insulin levels, it’s important to eat plenty of quality protein such as lean chicken, eggs and fish; replace processed carbohydrates such as white breads, enriched pasta and sugary drinks with oatmeal, sweet potatoes and brown rice.

Get 8-10 hours of sleep

A recent study concluded that failure to get enough sleep causes your body to release a hormone called ghrelin. Ghrelin is an appetite-stimulating hormone that tells your body you need food and will make you feel hungry even when you’re not. However, when you get enough sleep, your body releases another hormone called leptin that makes you feel full and tells you to stop eating. When you feel full, your body is not in crisis mode, and you have the ability to be more selective with your food choices making it easier to eat well.

If you are working hard in the gym and you want results, follow certain rules that will help give you an advantage to lose fat by controlling your body's chemicals instead of letting them control you.

  • Chris Antonio is a personal trainer and former world-class weightlifter. He has been lifting for more than 20 years and has trained a wide variety of clients ranging from All-American athletes to the average person trying to get into shape. To send a question to the Ask the Trainer column, email Chris at or check out

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