I am sure you asked yourself this question before. Followed by “what should I eat,” “when should I eat” or “can you just give me a nutrition plan.”
The issue here is that we never learned how to recognize hunger and fullness cues correctly. Or do you remember that class you had in school, the one that helped you learn all about our personal physiological hunger and fullness cues?
Neither do I.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have this class. We learned a lot of useless things back in school. But important physiological and health-related topics were not included in the curriculum.
That lead to the situation we have now. As adults, eating has no relationship to our physiological needs. We eat whatever we like, whenever we want and wherever we are.
We eat based on social norms, influenced by advertising, at a certain time, at particular events, and in emotional situations. We are constantly bombarded with reminders about food. Nowadays, we have no idea how actual physical hunger and fullness feels.
Some people I work with eat when they aren’t hungry. Others will avoid eating when they are hungry. Others suppress hunger with coffee, chewing gum, cigarettes. Most of us (including myself) don’t eat when hungry or stop when satisfied.
If we eat when we are not hungry or don’t stop when we are satisfied, we end up with an unhealthy body composition and overall ill physical health. Also, purposely skipping meals or restricting intake, can lead to nutrient deficiencies and low energy levels.
How can I learn appetite awareness?
Essential appetite awareness might be one of the most useful and accurate ways someone can recognize how much food their body needs.
You can start right now!
Notice (and track) how you feel before, during and after eating. Rank your hunger on a scale from 1 (not hungry) to 10 (starving). When you are truly physically hungry, then eat.
Eat slowly and stop at 80% full. Meal size and frequency depend on your body composition, goals and preferences.
The following six steps will help you get into a habit of noticing how truly hungry or full you are. The more you practice observing physical hunger cues (growling stomach, lightheadedness, irritability, etc.) and differentiating them from just wanting to eat, the better you will get.
- Just before eating
Are you hungry? Pause and look for signals like a rumbling stomach, lightheadedness, and irritability. You want to be a 7 out of 10 on a hunger scale.
- Immediately after eating
To be 80% full, shoot for about a 2 or 3 out of 10 on a hunger scale. Pause for 15 – 20 minutes before you eat more. Then your brain can catch up. You want to feel satisfied, not stuffed.
- One hour after finishing
You should still be satisfied with no desire to eat more
- Two hours after finishing
You may start to feel a little hungry like you could eat a little snack, but the feeling is not overwhelming
- Three to four hours after finishing
You might get a bit hungry. Perhaps a 4 to 6 out of 10. If you are around a 7, then eat. If not, that’s ok. Follow your body cues.
- Four or more hours after finishing
You are probably quite hungry. Again, if you are around a 7 or higher, then eat. If less, wait and keep checking with your body.
In a nutshell, start eating when you are a 7 or higher and stop when you are 2 or 3 (80% full). Write down your emotions, thoughts, and sensations during eating times. Try to learn and practice the difference between the need to eat and want to eat or should eat.
Have you any experiences or struggles with recognizing hunger and fullness cues? Let me know your thoughts and experiences in the comments below or a message and share this post with people you know, who will benefit from these strategies. Thank you.