This article is the second in a series detailing the science-based approach to healthfully nourishing ourselves known as Intuitive Eating and the sensible approach to good health described by Health at Every Size.
What are you Hungry For?
Isn’t it crazy that the answer to the question above isn’t automatically, “Eat something?” Instead, in our weight-loss and diet-focused culture, it is likely to be: drink water or black coffee or tea, eat celery, or carrots. Hardly ever does the answer come back as, “What are you hungry for? Eat that.”
Weight-loss dieting interferes with hunger signals as we struggle to be “good” and “not eat.” Dieters train themselves to see hunger as the enemy and not to give in, until the inevitable, guilty overeating episode. Starving your body during dieting has predictable consequences: decreased metabolic rate, obsession with food, food cravings, irritability, and moodiness to name a few. The more you deny your physical hunger, the more intense food cravings become. Dieters are fighting against natural and important biological systems that are trying to ensure that we get enough food. Hunger is a normal body signal that should be expected, embraced, and fed.
Don’t Wait Until You Are Completely Famished
Waiting to eat until you are intensely hungry makes it impossible to think about moderation, mindful eating, or anything except EAT IT, ALL OF IT! Learning to notice and honor physical hunger is the foundation of feeding yourself normally and trusting your body signals.
Hunger Signals Vary
Different people have different sensations when hunger is present. Some feel and hear stomach rumbling; others may feel easily distracted and unable to focus their attention. Some get irritable or headachy. As soon as these signals occur, it is time to eat. Acting on this signal early, instead of waiting until it is overwhelmingly powerful, is key to being able to think about your choices. Eating at the beginning of the presence of hunger signals also allows you to pay attention to the sensation of your hunger diminishing and your fullness beginning.
For lifelong dieters, these signals may be unrecognizable at first. In this case, feeding yourself every three to four hours will allow your body to obtain regular nourishment and will begin to provide dependable hunger signals. Illness or stress may interfere with hunger signals, but it is important to eat something on those days, too.
Respect Your Hunger
Showing respect for your body’s hunger signals also means making time to buy the foods you want to eat and to keep them accessible at your workplace, in your car and purse. Keeping foods handy will support your goal to honor your hunger. These maybe nonperishable things such as nuts, nut butter and crackers, trail mix, or other satisfying foods.
Try asking yourself, “Am I hungry?” and “How hungry am I?” These internal questions can help you to choose what fits with your hunger. For example, you might just need a piece of fruit, or maybe it’s time for lunch, even though it’s only ten o’clock in the morning.
Getting in touch with and honoring your hunger nourishes your body in an extremely personal and powerful way. What diet plan or blogger knows better than you about your hunger and fullness signals? Taking back this control is an important step in normalized eating.
For More Information
Intuitive Eating www.intuitiveeating.com
Ellyn Satter Institute http://ellynsatterinstitute.org
Health At Every Size: www.haescommunity.org