“You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.”~ Yogi Berra
One of the most effective weight loss strategies is relearning how to tap into how hungry you really are or how full you really feel. Babies are very tuned-in ~ they eat when they’re hungry and they stop when they’re full.
But as we grow up, external forces begin to influence our eating patterns.We are rewarded, (often with desert) when we clean our plate, we are rewarded for good behavior with ice cream or candy, and we are targeted by the food industry to crave more and to eat more. We socialize through meals, we snack through meetings, we drive-thru to grab a quick meal or ‘treat.’
We eat for nourishment, but we also eat to soothe emotions, manage stress, celebrate or mourn, fight boredom, or just because of habit.
In this process, we also lose touch with our genuine hunger. Then the struggle to lose weight demands that we identify hunger as a monster to be tamed, not as a natural biological need.
Our appetite and hunger systems are complex. Certain hormones stimulate hunger, others let us know when we are full. Nerves in the stomach send signals to the brain when fullness is reached, but these messages can take up to 20 minutes to be received, particularly if we are mindlessly eating. By then we’ve already stuffed ourselves.
Here are a few strategies to employ to determine when you’re hungry and when you’re full:
- Check-in with yourself to determine where you are on a hunger scale both before and after you’ve eaten. Dietician Kelly Krieger developed a “Hunger Continuum”: on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is “famished” and 10 is “painfully stuffed.”
She recommends staying between 3 (hungry, but not starving) and 7 (full, but not stuffed.) Eat when you’re feeling at a level 3 to stay in control of your food choices ~ avoid feeling ravenous. Eat slowly, deliberately, and check in with yourself to determine if you’ve hit the 7 mark ~ comfortably full and satisfied.
To determine if you’re really hungry ask yourself these questions:
- When was the last time you ate? If less than 2-3 hours ago, something else might be driving the sense of hunger such as anxiety, boredom, or stress.
- Could a small, nutritious snack hold you over until mealtime?
- Can you drink a glass of water and wait 20 minutes? Sometimes dehydration can mask as and be confused with hunger.
A more developed hunger/full awareness will naturally help you with portion control ~ you’ll have an easier time stopping eating when you’re full. It also supports you eating a wide range of healthy foods with less focus on calories and more focus on being satiated.The awareness scale can be used in any eating situation to enable you to get closer to the healthy, happy weight you desire.
To your good health!
Note: If you’re struggling to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle, consider partnering with a certified weight loss/health coach for accountability and one-on-one support. Request your free, no-obligation 15-minute phone consultation to discover if coaching might be the missing piece in your weight loss puzzle.