Tune into Hunger
NOTES: This has combined.. Tune into HUNGER & MINDUL EATING.
NEEDS EDITED – REALLY its about tuning in before, during AND after eating meals.
If you’re a problem eater, hunger can turn into your worst enemy. What is a completely natural and non-threatening bodily signal for many others might seem erratic, confusing and overwhelming for you.
Sometimes you might experience hunger that is completely ravishing. At other times, you may not feel hungry for hours, or even days, on end.
Being out of touch with your internal hunger and satiety cues can force you to rely on artificial external cues, such as diet plans, calorie counting, or bingeing and purging.
You might also find yourself eating for emotional reasons. Not feeling physical hunger often causes people to use food as a psychological crutch.
After a while of disregarding your bodily signals, it can become difficult for you to figure out how much you should eat.
Instead of mild, natural hunger, you might only experience powerful binge urges.
SPARE CONTENT: TO be sorted
To regain your balance, you need to get back in touch with your body.
Once you do that, you’ll be able to use its signals to ensure that you stay balanced.
If you keep listening to your body, you can avoid being too hungry, too stressed or too emotionally exhausted.
We can use our feelings as a touchstone for what is right and wrong for us.
We become our own guru. We follow our own path. We do what works best for us.
The funny thing about those of us who have issues with food is that even though we spend hours every day obsessing about food, the last thing our minds want to think about when we finally do sit down for a meal is… well, the meal in front of us.
It’s as though one part of us wants us to eat and enjoy it, while the other one doesn’t and forces us to zone out.
If you’re a problem eater, a part of your mind is likely to feel guilty about eating. We don’t want to think about the food we’re consuming. We want to forget all of those diet rules that we may be breaking.
We end up eating in a trance.
We lose the ability to be present while eating.
We lose the ability to feel our own natural hunger and satiety signals.
Diets set up rules around food and disconnect people even further from their own experiences of hunger and fullness.
This, of course, leads to further problems.
If we don’t feel fullness, we don’t know when to stop eating – so we just keep on eating. Many of us overeat simply because we’ve forgotten how to listen to our bodies.
If we stop feeling genuine hunger, we tend to eat for emotional reasons. We seek comfort and a temporary escape from loneliness, stress or boredom in food. This leads to further overeating.
“I’ve worked with lots of binge eaters — you’d think they’d enjoy food. But a lot of them say they haven’t really tasted what they’ve been bingeing on for years.”
This leads to fear and uncertainty!
Not knowing how much food you should consume often causes intense fear. You might find yourself worrying constantly, asking yourself if you’ve eaten too much and not being able to answer the question.
As this anxiety grows more and more powerful over time, some people turn to purging in an attempt to deal with it – and purging makes matters even worse.
We need to get back in touch with how we REALLY feel.
In order to recover from problem eating, we need to get back in touch with our natural, balanced hunger.
Before we can fully trust our hunger again, we need to become aware of it and get comfortable with how it feels. We need to explore and learn as much as we can about our own personal hunger.
It’s like reconnecting with a long-lost friend.
The connection is still there – it’s just that it’s been neglected for a while.
If you want to rebuild your friendship with your own body and its natural instincts, you have to nourish that connection. You have to listen to your body’s needs and you have to respect those needs.
The good news is that the first step in this process is relatively easy.
All you need to do is start paying attention to your hunger cues.
The more attention you pay to your natural hunger cues, the easier they’ll be to notice.
For a long time, I didn’t trust my hunger. I saw it as my enemy – something to be ignored, fought with and challenged.
Yet I realised that in order to really make peace with my body and food, I needed to make peace with, listen to and understand my hunger first. And you do too.
In time, once your hunger signals have been fully restored, you’ll be able to use them to decide what, when and how much you should eat.
You’ll be able to trust them and let them guide your natural food choices.
Hunger is complex. The more you explore it, the more it reveals about itself and your physical being. Once you get familiar with it, you’ll be able to let your hunger guide you, advise you and help you to enjoy your life to the fullest.
Pay attention to hunger before, during and after a meal
Okay, what’s the solution?
Pay attention to hunger before, during and after a meal
The best way to achieve this is to try and start eating mindfully.
You may be wondering what ‘mindful eating’ means. Mindfulness is just another term for ‘being present’.
In a nutshell, eating mindfully is all about slowing down and paying more attention to your food during meal times. It sounds so simple, but it takes discipline and practice.
Mindful eating might help you to get back in touch with those subtle sensations of hunger and satiety.
It can also bring a sense of balance into every aspect of how you eat – and, eventually, how you live.
It might seem ridiculously simple, but eating with awareness will help you to recognise hunger and fullness sooner. You will begin to understand and learn what foods your body really likes and how much food it takes for you to feel full. It sounds easy, but it’s literally life-changing.
Science & Studies
Over the years, numerous scientific studies have successfully demonstrated the relationship between hunger awareness and a more balanced, happier life.
Via subtle feelings, sensations and feedback your body is constantly informing you of it’s current state. You can tap into this insight and knowledge by observing how you feel throughout the day. The more you practice the clearer and stronger the signals will become.
This may sound a little wishy-washy, but it’s all backed up by science. The insula is the area in the brain that allows you to feel and sense the internal sensations of your own body (an ability known as interoception). Studies have shown that when you focus on becoming fully present in your own body the insula actually grows and becomes more complex. In other words, your brain becomes better at feeling what you’re feeling. This is something scientific and measurable.
An in-depth study, which focused on a group of patients in an eating disorder treatment center and took place over a period of two years, revealed that developing the ability to eat in an intuitive way and to recognise one’s natural hunger cues can aid in the recovery of sufferers of all the major eating disorders.
Research like this allows us to conclude that hunger is much more than just a simple bodily response – instead, it’s an integral part of who we are. Disregarding our hunger can have serious consequences when it comes to our overall well-being.
A joint study conducted by Duke and Indiana State Universities revealed that binge eaters who participated in a nine-week program of mindful eating went from binge eating four times a week to just once a week. Even when they did binge, they reported that their binges were much smaller and they felt less out of control while bingeing. Participants of the experiment also noticed that mindful eating helped them to truly enjoy the food that they were eating every single day.
Another study concluded that mindfulness techniques can help people to consume less sugary treats. After eating mindfully for five and a half months, the majority of 194 participants of the experiment reported that their cravings for sweets had reduced significantly. Even more importantly, these cravings remained weaker for as long as 12 months after the experiment had ended!
It’s clear then that the effects of mindfulness on problem eating can be extremely powerful, as well as long-lasting.
How to tune into hunger
Throughout the the day I want you to mentally tune into your hunger and ask yourself one simple question:
“ What does my hunger feel like?”
Everyone is unique and no two people will experience hunger the exact same way. In general though, you can expect to experience at least a few of the signs below:
Physical signs of hunger
- Growling stomach
- Light headedness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Uncomfortable feeling in the stomach
- Empty insecure feeling
- Hollow feeling in stomach
Then rate your hunger level using the Hunger Scale
A great way to relearn hunger and satiety signals is to start to use the Hunger Scale below to rate your hunger levels throughout the day.
- Physically faint.
- Fairly hungry.
- Slightly hungry.
- Pleasantly satisfied.
- Over full.
It’s possible when you don’t let yourself get so hungry your irrational mind takes over.
The trick is knowing you’re at risk before you get to that point.
Use this scale to describe how hungry and full you are, to help you decide when to eat… when not to eat and when to stop eating.
It’s the key to staying in the right frame of mind and it’s the effortless way to lose weight without counting calories, measuring portions, or tracking macros.
Here’s how the scale works…
When you’re at a 1, you’re ravenous and so hungry you could eat anything in front of you.
At the opposite end, you’re at a 10 and it’s where you’re stuff and you’ve eaten so much you feel miserable and we don’t want to put ourselves in either of those positions…
So your goal is to avoid extremes and stay in a comfortable zone. Because it’s here where you think rationally, and it’s here where you make sound decisions.
It’s where you feel light, but satisfied.
You could eat less or more, but if you did, it’d tip the scales and push you into an uncomfortable range.
You’ll practice using your scale with each and every meal…
THE “HOW YOU SHOULD FEEL TIMELINE”
Just Before Eating
Are you physically hungry? Pause and check in. Look for signals like a rumbling stomach, lightheadedness, irritability, etc. You want to be around a 3 out of 10 on the hunger scale.
Just after eating
To be 80% full, shoot for about a 2 or 3 out of 10 on the hunger scale. Pause for 15-20 minutes before you eat more. This will give your brain time to catch up. You want to feel satisfied, not stuffed.
You may start to feel a little hungry, like you could eat something, but the feeling isn’t overwhelming.
You may be getting a bit hungry, perhaps a 4 or 5 out of 10. If you’re around a 3, eat. Not really hungry yet? For now, it’s best not to wait longer than 3 hours to eat something.
Four or more hours
You’re probably quite hungry. If you’re around a 3 or lower, eat. If you’re not really hungry yet? be careful, you may find you need to act fast once your body decides to be hungry — so be prepared with a balanced and quick option, just in case.
Tune into Hunger Habit Options
What will happen when you do this?
If we binge eat our hunger tends to be erratic, powerful and confusing but for us to recover, it’s very important that we get back in touch with our subtle hunger sensations. The sooner we start to tune into our hunger sensations the faster they will return.
Before we can fully trust our hunger, we really need to start becoming aware of it, and getting comfortable with it.
Like reconnecting with a long lost friend. We need to explore and learn as much as we can about our own personal hunger.
For a start – and perhaps for the first time ever – you will really begin to notice food. How it affects your body, what it really tastes like. Overtime you will begin to understand and learn what foods your body really likes and how much food it takes to feel full.
- When you are satisfied
- What foods you really enjoy
- How much food it takes so you feel satisfied.
Because when you learn to listen to your body’s hunger and fullness cues, you make better decisions, and ultimately…
Better decisions lead to better results.
Keep in mind that daily hunger fluctuations are completely natural and normal. As you begin to get back in touch with your hunger, you might notice that it fluctuates all the time. For no apparent reason, you may feel only slightly hungry one day, yet completely ravenous the next. Your body is very complex and its hunger levels depend on numerous factors, such as:
- Exercise and other physical activities.
- Your previous food choices.
- A woman’s menstrual cycle.
- Amount of muscle.
- Amount and quality of sleep.
- Alcohol consumption.
- Mood and stress.
- Drugs and medicines.
Sometimes there are no obvious reasons for day-to-day hunger fluctuations. Nevertheless, we must accept that changes in hunger levels are normal and trust that our body knows best.
If you’re still learning to trust your hunger again, this can be scary. You may feel greedy or out of control, while in reality your hunger is absolutely normal. Try and remember that there’s nothing for you to be afraid of.
Tips for eating with awareness
- It might be helpful for you to have a designated eating place. Sitting down at a table, with nothing but your plate and a glass of water or a cup of tea before you, is pretty much perfect. It allows you to tell your mind, loud and clear, that this is where you eat food. As a result, once you’re finished eating your meal, it’s much easier to just stand up and leave the food behind.
- If you find it hard to let go of stress, try lighting a candle or playing some music. You’ll send a clear signal to your brain, telling it that the food battle is over. So sit down, remove all distractions and do your best to make it pleasant.
- Try and avoid multitasking during your meals. Don’t look at your mobile device, your computer or your TV. Instead, look at the food. Enjoy the beauty of the thing you’re about to eat.
- The old adage which says that “the banquet is in the first bite” couldn’t be more true. Depending on the food and the level of hunger, it takes three to six bites for most people to notice a decrease in flavour and satisfaction. It doesn’t mean that you should stop eating after the first six bites, but it might encourage you to savour your food to the fullest.
“Try to approach food non-judgementally. Many people bring a host of negative emotions to the table – from guilt about blowing a diet to childhood fears of deprivation or wastefulness. I joke with my clients that if I could put a microphone in their heads and broadcast what they’re saying to themselves when they eat, it would have to be bleeped out!”
Like bike riding, or learning a new musical instrument, at first it will feel foreign. But incrementally, day by day, it will become second nature (another way of describing a habit!)
Signs of progress
Once you’re back in touch with your hunger, you’ll be able to use it as a guide when it comes to your recovery journey. Try and ask yourself these questions:
- Are you able to recognise your personal sensations of hunger?
- Are you eating consistently when you’re hungry?
- Are you less scared of your hunger signals?
- Do you feel more at peace with your natural bodily instincts around food?
This is really a life-long skill. There is no fixed end point. Nevertheless, feel free to move on once you’ve got into the habit of eating at least one meal mindfully each day.
Don’t worry if it doesn’t go smoothly. This is challenging and it might be hard to stay committed and focused.