When I tell people that I try to eat when I am hungry and stop when I am satisfied, the typical response is “of course”. That idea is so simple. And yet as simple as it sounds IT IS NOT EASY and most people don’t eat this way.
Eating when we are hungry may be how our body works but not how our society is set up. The structure of our days can be inflexible. Our meal times may not be when we are actually hungry. And when we get hungry there may be little to no time to eat or perhaps the food that is available is often high calorie and low nutrient density. And it is EVERYWHERE: the gas station, the card store, even the clothing store. Mindless eating is so easy in our society. I challenge you to come up with a place you frequent that doesn’t have food available. And there is often FREE food available: at the secretary’s desk, the lunch area, and even the car fix it place. Socializing also typically includes food and the portion sizes have gotten so big they are laughable.
So as simple as it sounds eating when you are hungry is a challenge. I think it may be like climbing Mt Everest or if not that hard at least as hard as getting up on time on a Monday morning. Before I tried to notice when I was hungry I ate according to the clock: 7:30 breakfast, noon lunch, etc. When I actually noticed my hunger it was overwhelming – I felt nauseous. I was a busy person and didn’t listen to my body. In order for me to start listening to my body I had to get really “quiet” with myself, be super conscious, to actually notice how my body was feeling and what it was “saying”.
I felt like I was learning a foreign language. If my body made this feeling – what did that mean? Hunger? Gas? Nothing? Maybe my hunger would show up as a headache, or being grouchy, or tired? Maybe I would feel weak? Maybe I would be hungry+angry=”hangry“.
After a bit I figured out my hunger would show up in my stomach area as very small pains. It was like my hunger signals were polite neighbors who might knock lightly but leave quickly if there wasn’t a response. The neighbors would come back again and again but were really polite until they got so mad they would try to break the door down. It was an awesome moment when I actually figured out how my body was talking to me! I felt empowered. I also learned that listening to my body for hunger also gave me feedback on lots of other things: like stress and feelings. But that is another blog.
I also had to learn when to eat. Do I eat when I first feel a hunger pain? Or right before the door is going to fall in? I learned that for me I wait until the second or third knock since my hunger is clear but I am not so hungry I am going to eat everything in front of me until I am overfull. But this took time. Getting clear takes a lot of noticing and energy. The good news is once you get used to listening to your body it becomes second nature. It is like learning to use your new phone. At first it takes a bit of learning but then it is easy.
My challenge to you is to try to listen to your hunger. How does your body tell YOU that you are hungry?
Sarah Gold is an intuitive eater, dietitian, chocolate lover, and dog lover,