Are you obsessed with counting calories? Or at least feel like you should be?
No matter because today I want to share with you that the key to success is learning to train your appetite. Your body “knows” when it is ready to be fed; and even how much is “enough”…but do you listen to these cues?
Most of us just eat until we are full or stuffed. We finish everything on our plates, because, let’s face it…there are children starving somewhere!
I have studied this topic for many years and have learned the basics of listening to cues and learning when you are really hungry and not just bored. There are a few sources you can check out for more info;
Geneen Roth: Feeding the Hungry Heart
Linda Craighead: The Appetite Awareness Workbook
In simple terms, we are often misreading our bodies’ signals. You may be misreading certain signals and not understanding others. Yawning can often be mis-interpreted as a signal to eat when actually you may in need of sleep instead. Food can often be used as a source of pleasure, which can be tough to be regimented about what you eat. In that case, you must learn to listen to your body’s cues of when it’s had enough.
It comes down to knowing exactly when you’re hungry, along with reconnecting to your body’s cues on when it’s full. In order to make this a bit more understandable for you; I will share the “Hunger Scale” to creating your own appetite awareness.
1 = Full, not hungry at all
2-3= Starting to feel hunger. You can wait to eat, but you will be hungry soon.
4-5= You are definitely hungry. You have pangs in stomach and a strong urge to eat.
6-7= You are VERY hungry. You may start to get a headache and become irritable.
8-10=Starving!! Hunger is ravenous and urges to eat are uncontrollable.
*The goal is to eat somewhere between a 3 and a 5. If you go past this point, there is more likelihood of bingeing, with your eating feeling out of control. (www.peacemealnutrition.com)
Step 1: Notice how your body feels, in terms of hunger and fullness, both before and after your meal. You can reprogram yourself to know when you’re actually hungry and when you’re eating for different reasons. I had a Weight Watchers leader who taught us the teachings of Geneen Roth and her most popular line was; “if you find yourself standing in front of the refrigerator/pantry/freezer/etc and don’t know what you’re hungry for, then close the door, sit down and figure out what you’re hungry for; cuz it has nothing to do with food!” Wait to eat until you’re between a 3-5 on the hunger scale above. Also, make sure to notice how you feel following different styles of foods. If you opt for a healthy salad topped with grilled chicken and a balsamic vinaigrette; as opposed to a fried chicken and mashed potatoes meal, notice how each effects your feeling of satiety after 20 minutes of finishing the meal. You may surprise yourself over time, how you realize certain foods aren’t worth eating and the healthier options leave you feeling satisfied and much better after.
Step 2: Timing is critical. When you’re trying to lose weight, you tend to think that you are going to be hungry all day long. That is the typical mentality about “dieting” and I’d like to move away from this word and this common theory. Start your day off with a reasonable breakfast; usually within 1 hour of waking. I hear that many people are just “not hungry” in the morning and I will help you achieve the hungry feelings each day by implementing proper techniques; starting with eating in the morning. You may have to eat something extremely light; but just getting the day (and your metabolism) started with breaking your fast from all night, it will make a huge difference in just a short amount of time. Your hunger scale chart will help you as time continues but if you aren’t aware yet (or your body has to start responding better); use regular intervals as a starting point. Once you eat your breakfast, you should start to feel hungry again within 2-3 hours. If you reach a 3-5 naturally, that is telling you that you are already revving your engines! If not, focus on why you may not be hungry yet…slow metabolism can be the issue. Eat a small snack no later than 3 hours after breakfast and notice how you feel in terms of fullness. We will focus on this time structure throughout the day; which will get you about 6 or so meals per day. So different than the “three square meals” we have been taught so many years back! You will be setting your body up for success and you will be alleviating the issues of overeating due to becoming overly hungry.
Step 3: Eat Positive! Being positive through these changes can make a world of difference in your staying the course. Diet mentality sets a negative tone with feelings of deprivation and only foods you hate to eat being the only way you can succeed. FALSE!! Try new foods, recipes, and meal plans. Be open to new suggestions. When you find yourself craving unhealthier foods; rate these cravings on a scale of mild, moderate or strong. If it’s not too high on the chart; try working through it with other practices. Most of the time, it is emotion related and take time to learn exactly what emotions you are trying to “feed”. If it’s off the charts on the scale, then trying a small sampling of the craved item and rating your fullness and hunger after 20 minutes. Don’t throw food down your throat without taking time to properly chew, swallow and breathe. You will feel lighter and more energetic eating less foods and less fatty foods; as opposed to overdoing it and regretting the heaviness in your belly later. If you find yourself too full for longer than 4 hours; you know that you overdid it. Reframe and rechart your next meal. Don’t give up from one (or even more) slip up.
Final tip for you today. I have been journaling my foods every day when I am not getting the results that I am looking for and am always surprised at the outcome. After years of learning these strategies, you’d think I’d have it wired to perfection? Well, it just goes to show you that regular assessment is key to continued success with your goals. Don’t take this for granted in your own habits. Start a food journal. Below, find some tips that can help you along with the rest of this info. I hope it helps you reach your goals more easily than you’d previously believed.
*Before you sit down to eat, turn off the t.v., put your cell phone on hold and focus your complete attention on how your body feels with each spoonful. By staying distraction-free, you’ll be less likely to over-do it because you are focusing on the mind to belly connection.
*Want to keep your body running on it’s fat-fighting mechanisms? Snack on protein-rich almonds or all-natural yogurts with fresh berries to avoid starvation mode.
* It may take a few tries before you can better push yourself away from the table; but each time you practice these tips and strategies, you’ll gain a sense of control and save calories along the way.
*Reference: Oxygen Magazine, Geneen Roth, Linda Craighead