Mind over matter
Here are some psychological strategies to prevent those imaginary hunger pangs from ruining your weight loss goals.
1. Eat mindfully
Know when you eat and stop by using a hunger scale of one to seven, one being very hungry and seven being very full. If you feel like you are at four, you should have your meal in one to two hours' time.
Never ever let your hunger pangs go below the 2.5 mark - you'll be so hungry that you'll over-rate your stomach capacity and end up eating more than you need. Once you get it right, it'll help you plan your meal timings, said Ms Yum. Regular meals will help prevent overeating.
2. The power of inconvenience
Don't keep unhealthy snacks within easy reach at home or in the office. You are less likely to eat it if it is troublesome for you to get your hands on it in the first place.
"Instead, have a little healthy food corner on your desk, so that you can have healthier snacks when you feel peckish," said Ms Yum.
3. Strategise for high risk situations
You're going for a buffet dinner tonight. Instead of skipping lunch, have a low-calorie meal that can still keep you full so you won't feel so famished by dinnertime that you eat everything you see on the buffet table, advised Ms Yum.
"At the buffet table, focus on healthier choices (meat, seafood, veggies) and go easy on the high-calorie and fat food like pastries," she said.
4. Tell your family and friends
Your snack-loving family tempts you with prawn crackers while watching TV. At work, a colleague keeps offering unhealthy treats. We know it's hard to say no to people who persistently offer food.
However, being straightforward about your new eating plans ("I'm changing my eating habits.") can help ease tensions and prevent any misunderstandings. Learning to say no also trains up your resilience and willpower, said Ms Yum.
5. Sustain your efforts
Motivation can wane over time. Once you've achieved a goal (for example, I stopped snacking while watching TV for two weeks), reward yourself - with a non-food gift, of course!