How to know you are actually hungry (not just comfort eating)

When I give my presentations at various exhibitions or at events put on by nutritionists, I often remind people that we have a tendency of over-eating but we are actually undernourished!

We live in a food-focused society, which means that the signs of hunger are often ignored and overshadowed by our deeper connection to food. The connection can be an emotional one, where we actually eat to fulfill our emotions (or rather an emotional gap) rather than our physical needs. Or it might be about fulfilling a sub-concious cultural obsession with consumption.

Food is often strongly associated with emotions such as happiness, satisfaction, but also sadness, and feelings of guilt. Diets encourage us to restrict our consumption of foods, or to take the pleasure out of eating altogether. When we “fail” at a particular diet, we can be left feeling depleted, disappointed, and frustrated.

Food is not our enemy

We seem to have lost our balance when it comes to food, and it is helpful to remind ourselves that food is necessary to health and contains the very nutrients we need as builing blocks to energy, vitality, regeneration and health. Now-a-days, in this part of the world, we live to eat; we no longer eat to live.

This is why I invite you to reflect on the sensation of hunger , our physiological drive to eat. What is hunger? What does it feel like? And why are we so afraid now to experience it?

What is healthy hunger?

Healthy hunger is real physiological and biological hunger. Signs that you are experiencing hunger include:

  • A rumbling stomach as the juices inside churn in expectation of food
  • A hollowness or feeling of emptiness, as your body has completed its digestive functions and is now looking for its next round
  • A blood sugar drop and drop in energy levels, signaling a need for calories

Why don’t we experience hunger anymore?

There are many reasons some of us may no longer experience true hunger. First, we have been taught to eat every three hours, and we do so, regardless of whether our body is actually ready for more fuel. We also eat for emotional rather than physiological reasons. I think it is true to say we live in a culture of overindulgence. We often eat out of habit; many of our daily activities have come to be associated with food. A trip to the movie is associated with sweets and popcorn and unwinding at the end of the day involves a hearty snack. We have tangled food up with so many good and bad feelings that it now wields great power over us.

How can we tune back into hunger – and therefore eat for the right reason?

1. Stay well-hydrated.

This seems simple, but sometimes we mistake thirst for hunger. Drink 1.5 to 2 litres a day and you will not feel so hungry.

2. Give hunger a chance.

Give yourself the opportunity to feel the biological signs of hunger. Stop eating every three hours or immediately upon rising. Drink a glass of water and wait to eat until you feel actual hunger triggers.

3. Keep a journal.

Writing down when we eat, what we eat, and how it made us feel before and after consumption is a great way to create greater body awareness. The true benefit of this is not in the collection of data but in the awareness you gain by collecting it.

4. Nourish your body.

Focus on fueling your body with optimal nutrients and avoid the side effects of over-eating but actually being under-nourised. When you allow yourself to get down to empty, you are more likely to choose wholesome healthy foods. Start juicing by taking your superfood Wheatgrass juice every morning with a bit of good quality apple juice or add to a freshly made juice. This way you ensure you load your body with nutrients, and then stick to healthy meals with vegetables, nuts and seeds, and clean protein sources.

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Why is this simple shift a game-changer?

Eating to satisfy true, biological hunger puts you back in touch with your body. When you “listen” to your body, you come to respect it more. Knowing that you have this window of opportunity to fill the tank with either premium nutrients that will fuel your body and give you a feeling of health & vitality or low-quality foods that will slow you down, you will naturally come to make the right choices. It might seem like an overly simplified approach to weight loss, but I encourage you to try it. I guarantee you will learn a lot about yourself, your complicated relationship with food, and what you need to do to make it a simple biological connection instead.


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