Why Wait Until You’re Hungry to Eat?

What does hunger feel like anyways?

Everyone describes hunger a bit differently. How do you describe that feeling?

I don't like to be hungry. Hungry means that I must not have any food in the house, the cupboards are bare, and there is no hope of eating a meal today. Hungry to me is the same as living in a 3rd world country and I’m on my way to starving (but I don’t, and I certainly am not starving).

Hunger gives me a bit of a panic attack. When I actually realize that I am still in my comfortable state of New Hampshire and life looks just like it did the day before, I know hunger is not starving but the empty feeling, maybe a bit hollow down inside of me.

To think about why I don’t like being hungry (thinking that starvation was just around the corner) was a big eye opener for me. Hunger in reality is a natural signal your body uses to let you know it needs some more fuel soon. That is it.

I know it is easy to let food do more than it is supposed to do. We have let food keep us company because we are bored. We let food be the shoulder to cry on when we are sad. We let food be the hug when we need comfort. We let food be the kicking block when we are stressed. Food is the fuel that keeps our bodies working.

Listening to your body talking to you is an effective way to reduce snacking. Like a turn signal in your car, when you see it you know soon there will be action taken on it. But like the car turning, it isn’t immediate. We don’t have to eat the first moment we notice we are hungry.

How can I start to work on this skill?

You can start with specific meals. For example, don’t have lunch until you actually are hungry. If you have the flexibility to hold off your work breaks until your body sends that hunger signal and you’ve noticed it for 30-60 minutes, then eat. It may mean you wait for hunger only for your last meal of the day. If the other two meals are scheduled by work or family needs, wait on the one meal you do have more control over.

Listen to how your body feels while you eat. Understanding the level at which you need to eat in order to remain comfortably full, not overstuffed, and yet ‘feel’ hunger before it is time to eat again sounds easy but is much more difficult to do. This cycle is one of the key skills for eating for your body's health.

Some of our bodies whisper, other shout, but they all talk to us. For each meal you will listen intently to hear it signal hunger. Hunger has some different levels. We're looking for that range of hunger where you are not emotionally irritated by the feeling or irrational in your judgement of the amount of food to satisfy your hunger.

My friend Georgie Fear puts it this way:

"Here are some tips on recognizing genuine body hunger and distinguishing it from false hunger (emotional or mental appetite):

Real hunger builds gradually, and may go through an initial phase of coming and going before becoming a steady sensation.
False hunger or a desire to eat may arise suddenly and doesn’t last for more than about 20 to 30 minutes. This is because it is generally triggered by an emotion, time of day, smelling or seeing and appetizing food or viewing an advertisement – not a genuine bodily need.
 If you aren’t sure whether you’re feeling genuine body hunger or a false hunger, simply take a 20- to 30-mintue wait-and-see period."

Practice Practice Practice.......Each meal is our chance to practice. As we experiment with nutritional skills, we'll see some mishaps as well as some successful completions. That’s okay. We need to find out what works for us in our individual life's challenges.

I know many of us want to be perfect and not let others see our mishaps. But you are human and so am I. You'll get back up and keep on practicing. It is actually freeing to stop trying to be perfect. You can learn your own resilience through struggles.

Lets stop talking and start doing. There are some crazy real life situations that are happening in my life for the next 6 weeks. Birthday parties, travel, extra work load, kids that are active outside the house, and my 31st wedding anniversary. I could let them control me or I can take charge and realize this is my life and I still want to be in a measure of control. Am I perfect through all that life seems to keep throwing at me? No, but I was better than last year. Isn’t that what it is all about? I’ll keep practicing being hungry before my meals. I know this is the natural cycle my body works best at.

To your best health,
Coach Nancy

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