How easily do you recognize your hunger signals? Do you know what hungry feels like, in comparison to reaching the point of wanting to inhale anything and everything? Do you know what satisfied feels like, versus stuffed too full or having to convince yourself you have eaten enough?
Hunger and fullness are two physiological signs that we should be able to easily recognize, but many of us do not. Perhaps it is because we follow a clock on when to eat because that is the time available or what is convenient for all the members in your household. Or perhaps its because we allow emotions, stress, boredom, etc to be the sole determination of how, what, and when we eat. After following those types of actions for any extended period of time, we begin to lose sight of our bodies’ signals. We may get to the point of only being able to recognize extreme hunger. That “MUST. EAT. NOW!” feeling.
Have you ever not eaten when hungry because you weren’t “supposed to”, only to turn around and eat more than necessary and feel uncomfortable from eating too much?
This is a very common response (and problem) when your not eating based on biological hunger. You are in fact trying to train your body to do something UN-natural and your body is responding with “This Does Not Work For Me!”
There is no score card or points given for refusing to eat when your body was actually hungry because your out dated “diet rules” said you should not eat after 5 O clock at night (For example) Just think, if you know you always get a bit peckish at night and need a little something you could have planned for a little satisfying snack. Instead of letting that urge fester and grown into an all out pig out.
If I told you to concentrate very hard and do not think of pink elephants, the very act of not trying to think of pink elephants will cause you to think of pink elephants. It is the same with food. The more you try not to think about it the more you can’t stop thinking about it. The one sure fire way to stop this craving nightmare is to honor your true hunger in the first place.
How can you learn to honor your hunger again?
There are various things you can be mindful of to help reacquaint yourself with your own hunger cues.
1.Allow yourself to always have access to food.
Now I’m not talking about tempting yourself by having an abundance of taste tempting goodies in your face at all times. I talking about having food available (and yes, some goodies as well) There is a difference between eating food just because it is there and eating something because you know that moderation is good and deprivation can create strong emotions can affect how you perceive your hunger.
This is when those Mindful Moments come in. Ask yourself ” do I want this because…
I saw it and had a strong desire?” or “am I eating this because I can be trusted to eat a reasonable portion to enjoy a treat?” Do you see how taking the time to be mindful can help you to “BE IN CHARGE” rather reacting to a visual stimuli and making an emotional decision.?
Those are two different feelings and your body will respond differently to both. If you eat when simply hungry, you are more likely to be able to approach food in a rational manner, instead of being ravenous and consuming too much and not enjoying the process and allowing guilt to rule your life.
3.Check in with your body regularly
Assess your hunger level on a 1-10 scale. This will eventually become unnecessary and is simply a step in getting your body aware of how it feels when hungry.
4.Don’t consider eating only when hungry as a another diet mentality.
It is perfectly acceptable to eat under different circumstances. Eating as a way of planning ahead (for example eating before hunger due to being in a meeting for hours and you know you will need to eat), and eating something purely for pleasure and Social eating. I may be at someones house and they offer me a cookie, Now I may not actually be hungry at the time the cookie is offered to me, but I will accept and eat it (one, not three) and then just add that as a small treat. Most of the time you will make your host happy and you would have kept things in moderation. Its when you refuse the cookie and spend the whole visit staring at the plate. Then on the way home pick up a package of cookies and eating a whole package because you created “The Perfect Storm” in your head.( I don’t know about you but I have done this.) Doing things mindfully are no reason to feel guilty and can definitely be part of honoring your hunger and intuitive eating.
Some people may feel their stomach growling before others would in their level of hunger. Some may get a slight headache first. Others may get a bit cranky as a sign of hunger. When checking your levels of hunger regularly with the 1-10 scale, focus on what your physiological symptoms are and being to recognize them for the future.
Are you aware of your hunger cues? What things of the above do you, or have you, struggled with the most?