You were born knowing exactly how much to eat. Hunger is your body’s way of telling you that you need fuel. By reconnecting with your instinctive signals, you can manage your eating naturally without restrictive dieting and obsessing over every bite of food you put in your mouth.
Perhaps you’ve ignored hunger for so long that you’ve forgotten how to recognize it. Maybe you even see hunger as your enemy. Maybe you confuse hunger with all the other reasons you eat, like mealtime, boredom, stress, or tasty food.
At the same time, you may have learned to ignore the feeling of satisfaction, so you eat until you’re stuffed and uncomfortable. Perhaps you “clean your plate,” “never waste food,” and “eat all your dinner if you want dessert,” instead of stopping when you’ve had enough. And you perpetuate this cycle when you teach your children the same things.
How does recognizing hunger help?
Reconnecting with hunger signals can help you break free from your eat-repent-repeat cycle. Here’s how:
- You’ll eat less food when you’re eating to satisfy physical hunger than if you eat to satisfy other needs. Think about it. If you aren’t hungry when you start eating, how do you know when to stop? When the food is gone of course!
- You’re more likely to choose foods that nourish you. If you aren’t hungry but you’re eating because you’re sad, mad, or glad, what kinds of foods do you want? That’s when I want chocolate, cookies, and salty snacks!
- Food tastes better when you’re truly hungry. Hunger really is the best seasoning, so you may eat less and enjoy it more.
- You’ll feel more satisfied because food is great for reducing hunger but not so great for reducing boredom, stress, or other triggers.
To break out of the pattern of eating on autopilot, get in the habit of asking yourself, “Am I hungry?” every time you feel like eating. This simple but powerful question will help you recognize the difference between an urge to eat caused by the physical need for food from an urge to eat caused by head hunger.
I know from personal experience that this is simple but not always easy. The first step is to recognize that hunger is physical. It’s not a craving, a thought, or a rationalization. By focusing on hunger as your guide, you can become your own internal expert about when, what, and how much to eat.
Food for Thought
The simplest definition of mindfulness is awareness. Awareness of what you’re doing is the first step to changing your behaviors so thought and reflection are an important part of this process. Take a few moments to consider your answers to the following questions. It may be helpful to write out your thoughts so you can reflect on them later.
- How do you know when you’re hungry? What specific signs of hunger do you usually have?
- What other thoughts and feelings do you confuse with hunger at times?
Hungry for More?
There’s a lot more to learn about using hunger to guide your eating. In chapter 2 of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: A Mindful Eating Program to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle, you’ll learn how to tell the difference between physical hunger and head hunger, how to discover your personal hunger rhythms, how to do a Body-Mind-Heart Scan, how to use the Hunger and Fullness Scale to know when to eat, and how stop when you’re satisfied instead of stuffed.
Recipe for Success
- Whenever you feel like eating, ask “Am I hungry?”
- Look for physical signs that your body needs fuel.
Ready for your next helping?
Click here when you are ready to move on to your next Taste of Am I Hungry? It’s Not About the Food.