Many people have disordered eating patterns. Some people don’t eat breakfast, some snack all day, others won’t eat at all during the day and then eat a huge dinner in the evening. We are in an information overload society and can often feel overwhelmed at meal times. Not knowing what we should/shouldn’t eat, counting calories, counting points, fasting or missing out whole food groups.
These erratic patterns can lead to powerful neurochemical changes in the brain that often end up in false hunger signals, cravings and bingeing.
When we continuously override our body’s needs we become resistant to our own body’s natural messages. We don’t ‘hear’ the message or we mis-interpret them. My husband never really feels hunger. He often goes all day without eating and doesn’t even think about it only to compensate later in the evening. Some people, like me, say they feel hungry all the time.
Have you noticed people say things like:
“I’m absolutely starving” or “ I could eat a horse”.
For the majority of people I would guess that the above isn’t actually true.
We don’t know how to recognise our true hunger (or thirst?) signals any more. The following tool will help you tune into and recognise your body’s natural hunger signals again.
So how hungry are you right now?
10 Feel sick
7 Full – STOP
6 Satisfied – STOP
4 Bit hungry -EAT
3 Hungry -EAT
1 Pass out
Eat only when you’re hungry or a bit hungry. Avoid getting to faint or starving as not only will you stress out your body your body will crave something to give it energy fast i.e. a high fat/sugar combo like biscuits, cakes, bread etc.
If you have been raised to finish everything on your plate it’s time to start practising stopping when you feel satisfied or full. Yikes this is a hard one for me!! Especially when the food tastes goooood. I ‘trick’ my brain by telling it that I can have some more later if I feel like it.
Check in every hour or so and start to notice as your own body’s hunger clock regulates itself, you will feel more in control and make better decisions
around food. Stop using the wall clock as a trigger to eat, learn to get in tune to your body’s biorhythms. Start to ask your body want it needs. What type of food or is it really thirsty. Don’t do this out loud in public as you may get strange looks 😉
When we’re distracted during the process of eating, we not only don’t notice what we’re eating, but we eat substantially more of it. Have you ever finished a meal only to realise you don’t remember eating it? I have always eaten fast and I think I eat larger portions because of this. I now really concentrate on eating slowly and attentively. When we learn to ‘eat mindfully’ and appreciate every bite we will leave the dinner table feeling much more satisfied and will avoid over eating or getting cravings later. Our brain actually gets a chance to register the foods that we are eating. You’ve probably heard that it takes 20 minutes to feel full up? That’s because it takes about 15-20 minutes for the satiety signals to reach the brain.
Tips to avoid overeating:
- Eat sitting down at a table and with no distractions. No phone, no book, no TV, no computer…This I find really hard but has made a huge difference to my appetite.
- Put your fork/knife/spoon down between bites
- Use the hunger monitor above
- Use a smaller plate
- Be grateful for the food you are about to eat (yes it really works)
- Before you eat, take in a couple of deep breaths to calm body and mind
- Smell each bite of food before you put it into your mouth, it alerts the brain about what you’re going to eat
- Alcohol can be a appetite stimulant
- Chew your food thoroughly, it should be totally mushy before you swallow. The first part of digestion is on the mouth
- Remember, emotional hunger is sudden, physical hunger is gradual
- Chronic stress and tension can trick us into thinking that we’re always hungry or that we’re never hungry. Pay particular attention during these periods and really tune in to your body’s needs
- Foods higher in protein will leave you feeling fuller for longer
The way we eat are just habits formed over time. It’s just a case of being aware of what we are doing and by bringing awareness to it we can slowly change them.