Monday, April 1, 2013

Is it Time to Eat? Listening to Hunger Cues for Weight Success
Hunger: it's a tricky thing! Striking that balance and eating the "just right" amount of food is one of the most challenging parts of eating. You'd think that, as evolved humans, we would have mastered feeding ourselves by now. But no, we all struggle with figuring out what, how much, and when to eat.

I cringe when I hear people say that a diet plan worked for them because they "never feel hungry." If they are never hungry, how do they know when to eat?

And I wipe away a tear when someone tells me that they hardly eat because they never get hungry. Their mind/body connection is so severed that their body has completely given up trying to communicate and gone into survival mode by slowing their metabolism down to a crawl to compensate for the lack of fuel. That is just a damn shame.

Then we have the flip side: allowing ourselves to get so hungry that we'll eat anything in sight. As a chronic "go go go" gal, I used to fall victim to this one a lot. I would stall on eating, trying to hold out until my next meal because I was counting calories, and enter my house a starved maniac at 5:45 PM. Then I'd eat an entire meal's worth of calories while I was preparing dinner, and sit down no longer feeling hungry but eating a meal anyway because I had just prepared it. That's just plain stupid.

So over time, a few valuable lessons about eating managed to get through my thick skull:

1. My body will tell me when it needs food, and I need to respond even if it's not "time to eat."

2. Not having healthy food prepped ahead of time to eat when I get hungry is a bad, bad situation.

3. Eating food actually helps me lose and maintain weight, and not eating food keeps me fat. Or "fat," whichever applies at the time.

And then over some more time, I actually started implementing these lessons into my life! The result: I more easily manage my weight when I respond to hunger signals, and I feel annoyed and irritable and "fat" when I don't. That happened enough times in a row to convince my brain that the first plan is better and we should just stick to that.

Hunger is our body's way of trying to be our partner in health. It's saying, "hey, I could use some more food." Instead of pushing it away, its our job to respond by giving it some food. Actual food, not processed junk posing as food. But that's another soapbox for another day.

Today, the trick is listening for that signal and answering back. If its been a long time since you have felt hungry, that signal may be a whisper. Hunger should feel like a definite rumble in your stomach. Not quite burning, but distinct. When that feeling strikes, its time for part two: eating food.

Success happens here when you have taken the time to prepare a snack or meal just for this kind of situation. An example might be some raw almonds and a sliced apple. Or, some unflavored yogurt with a chopped up peach and some walnuts mixed in. Maybe a chopped bell pepper and some cherry tomatoes with hummus. Whatever. Just have it handy and eat it. Then when the feeling hits again in a couple of hours, do it again. 

I know, its not quite that simple. Waiting to get hungry can be scary, and sometimes we really aren't sure if we're hungry. If you haven't felt hungry in a long time, start eating breakfast. You should feel hungry again in a few hours. That's not a signal that eating breakfast is bad because it makes you hungry. That's a signal that eating breakfast is good because it makes you hungry! And being hungry means that your body is burning fuel, not storing it. That's a good thing.

Decoding (and sometimes, getting to) hunger can be tricky work, and developing a trusting relationship between you and your hunger cues can be difficult. If you feel like you need help, seek a Certified Wellness Coach. It just so happens that I am one. How convenient! A coach can guide you through the process of becoming a partner with your body again. How nice!

Get out there and get healthy today...even - and especially - when you get hungry.


Tille said...

Amazing ! This is cool!

Healthy Heather said...

Thanks Tillie! Thanks for reading. :) Have a healthy day!