Reconnect with your hunger cues
Many people have become disconnected to their hunger, some admitting that they haven’t felt physical hunger in years. If one ate only when they were physically hungry, weight management would be much easier.
July 24, 2012 - Author: Monica Smith, Michigan State University Extension
Do you know when you are hungry?
This seems like a ridiculous question to ask, but many people have become disconnected to their hunger. Some will admit that they have not felt physical hunger in years. If everyone ate only when they were physically hungry, we would be able to manage our weight with less effort. But we all know that there are lots of reasons that people eat: boredom, sadness, happiness, just because it is a certain time, because the food just looks good, because we want to celebrate, and even because someone else wants us to eat.
Eating when you’re not hungry has a numbing effect on the body. Our brain chemistry changes and we feel calmer and more relaxed. After overeating, it is easy to tune out the world. In the short term this can feel really good – especially if life is stressful or chaotic. But if our physical and mental health suffers from eating when we are not hungry, we are simply adding to our problems.
Where did my hunger cues go?
Have you found that you can go all day without eating, only to find yourself so hungry at dinner that you can’t seem to stop eating until you go to bed? There are many reasons this can happen.
When you are busy, it is easy to lose track of time and lose touch with your hunger cues.
In times of increased stress, your senses can be dulled. Your focus may be on what you feel you must do to relieve the stress or anxiety, and your hunger cues may be shut out. Stress has the ability to both suppress and increase appetite, throwing your hunger cues off.
If you begin to stretch the length of time between meals/snacks, your body will adjust by slowing the metabolism. This decrease in metabolism will diminish your hunger cues. It can also affect your body’s insulin and lipid levels, making it harder to manage your weight.
Reconnect with your body’s need for nourishment:
Consider spending a full day just listening to your body and recognizing your physical hunger cues. Begin the day by eating breakfast, then look for the following signs of physical hunger:
- Empty stomach
- Stomach growling
- Light-headed feeling
- Lack of energy
On this day eat, only until your hunger cues are satisfied rather than to the point that you feel full. Keep in mind that if you are feeling headachy, lightheaded, irritable, fatigued or shaky, you have waited too long to eat. There is an increased chance of overeating at that point, so be especially mindful when eating. Notice the amount of food that you eat on this day and the frequency of your meals. Consider how this day differs from your usual eating patterns. If you find that you have lost touch with your hunger cues and frequently eat for non-hunger reasons, or eat more than what your body really needs, it might be healthful to take some time to realign your body’s need for nourishment with your current eating habits.