On my questionnaire that clients fill out before they come to see me I ask the question, “Do you know what hunger and fullness feel like?” I think pretty much every person has answered yes to that question. The interesting thing is that when we talk further about it many people really don’t know or don’t really pay attention to the signals their bodies give them when it comes to hunger and fullness.
Not too long ago some friends were discussing hunger and asked me if hunger was a bad thing. I often get put on the spot with questions like this. People want simple answers to nutrition related questions when a good answer really isn’t just a simple yes or no.
The short answer is that hunger is a good thing. It is your body’s way of letting you know that you need fuel. The key though is to tap into recognizing your body’s true signals of physiological hunger and not all the other noise that gets in the way, like emotional hunger or mindless munching that so many of us fall prey to.
Think about what you feel like when you are truly physiologically hungry. Does your stomach growl? Does your head hurt? Do you get “hangry”? I personally get hangry when I let myself get too hungry and that is no fun for anyone!
One important key to managing your weight is being keyed into your body enough to recognize your signals. We each have different cues for hunger and it is important to mindfully become aware of the signals your body is sending you.
This may take some time and practice before you can get back to the simplicity of eating when you are truly hungry and stopping when you are satisfied (not stuffed). We are born with this ability and babies and kids are very good at recognizing it. With time, though, we can start to forget, confusing our bodies by eating out of boredom, loneliness, stress, or any other host of emotions or mindlessly eating in front of the TV or computer or while we surf Facebook.
A good way to start to key into your body’s cues is to rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 before you start eating. 1 being famished (could eat a horse) and 10 being stuffed (like after a Thanksgiving meal). Just the act of taking 30 seconds to think about how your body feels before eating can have a huge impact. You can do this anytime you feel munchy throughout the day, not just at meal times.
Our aim should be to listen to our bodies and not eat on some arbitrary schedule, but instead to feed our bodies healthy, balanced foods based on true physiological hunger. People who are intuitive eaters and seemingly manage their weight effortlessly listen to their bodies and eat based on true hunger. Many of us have learned to ignore our body’s cues or just simply are not aware of them because of our busy lives. With some practice and consciousness you can get back to that innate ability of listening to your body. This small change can make a world of difference.