Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Control Your Hunger

Whether you are looking to maintain your current weight or lose a few pounds, staying in control of your hunger is the most important step in controlling your weight.

A lot of research out there tells us our metabolism will be destroyed unless we always eat breakfast, never go more than 4 hours without eating, and religiously eat small meals throughout the day. Indisputable evidence to the truth of these statements is yet to be seen, however we do know a lot about hunger and how our body reacts to it.

When we wait too long to eat we become irrational. Our body craves fatty, sugary, salty, high calorie foods to quickly satisfy our hunger. Often people do not feel hungry for breakfast, but by lunchtime they quickly become so hungry they over eat less healthy foods. I think of the times I have felt way too hungry, I certainly have never torn apart the fridge looking for some broccoli or kale. Set yourself up for success, learn to identify hunger and balance meals and snacks to stay in control throughout the day.
What Does Hunger Feel Like?
Some people can literally hear their stomach growl and know it is time to eat. Some people get headaches, feel weak or are unable to concentrate. Others describe feeling nauseous, dizzy, and sick. Some people have dieted for so long, or eat so erratically they claim they cannot feel hunger anymore. Spend a day or two really listening to the needs of your body. Try to maintain your usual routine and eating habits but focus on how you feel throughout the day. If you usually skip breakfast and eat a late lunch try checking in with yourself on the hour and assess your energy level. Look for your bodies hunger signals. Notice how you feel when you do eat, do you feel in control of your choices, or do you feel too hungry and overeat? Do you find your emotions and stress drive your eating habits? Do you find distractions like the TV prevent you from enjoying your food and cause you to overeat?

Separate the Emotional Attachment to Food
Realize not all desires to eat are driven by hunger. We tie food to celebrations, social gatherings, stress, depression, and boredom. Food is everywhere and we need to control our interaction with it. When a coworker brings in cookies we may instantly feel the desire to eat one. We may feel overcome by stress or emotion and turn to chips or sweets to find comfort. We may feel bored and snack on something tasty that is in the kitchen cabinets late at night. These desires to eat are not the same as hunger. It is perfectly healthy and normal to indulge in these desires from time to time, however indulging too often can lead to weight gain and displacement of healthier foods we could otherwise be eating. As you become in tune with your body you will learn to identify real hunger from these other desires to eat. You well feel more in control to decide whether you will indulge in these treats or if you are better off waiting until you are really hungry to eat.

Learn How to Eat
When we are hungrier we are likely to eat more, when we are less hungry we should make a conscious effort to eat less. Eating regular meals helps maintain an even distribution of energy and can help prevent crashes in energy and overeating later. We can use a rating system to help identify our hunger and help us to stop eating once we have consumed enough. When you start to feel your hunger signals rate them on a scale of 1-10. Are you starting to feel a little hungry, or are you so starving your mood changes and you feel sick. Do you eat until your feel pleasantly full, or do you feel so uncomfortable your stomach hurts. Eat when your hunger signals are around a 3-4 and enjoy the food you have to eat. Eat slowly and mindfully until you are a 5-6 on the hunger scale.

1-starving, dizzy, unable to concentrate

2-very hungry, grumpy, low energy

3-rather hungry, stomach growling

4-starting to feel a little hungry

5-satisfied, not hungry or full

6-a little full, satisfied

7-slightly uncomfortably full

8- feel stuffed

9-very uncomfortable, stomach pain

10-feel so full you are sick

Eating healthy, mindfully, and regularly is not easy. You will need to be open to change and dedicated to improving your health and quality of life. Making small changes every day is achievable and you can stay in control of your hunger. You can separate the desire to eat from actual hunger. You can learn to eat healthy and resist the temptation of other desires to eat. Stay positive, stay focused, and stay motivated. You can do it!

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