How to tell when you’re (actually) hungry

We are overwhelmed with exposure to food –social media, TV, magazines – no wonder we are obsessed with eating!   A lot of us have lost the ability to tell if we are actually hungry, and can end up eating out of habit, emotionally, rather than listening to our physical needs.

Food is also given a lot of power in our lives: It can make us feel happy, sad, and guilty. 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 strategy, we are left feeling depleted, disappointed, and even angry.

Food is not the enemy.

We’ve lost our balance when it comes to food, and we need to remind ourselves that food is actually not the “enemy” but our biological source of necessary and beneficial nutrients. We live to eat; we no longer eat to live.

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, signalling a need for calories

Why don’t we experience hunger anymore?

There are many different reasons – but one of them is not being in tune with our body, and thinking we need to feed it every three hours, regardless if we are hungry.    Other reasons include emotional eating, and bad habits we slip into like eating at the movies, having dessert when we are full, and eating big portions.

How can we tune back into hunger?        

  1. Stay well-hydrated. This seems simple, but sometimes we mistake thirst for hunger and this can be an easy fix.
  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. You don’t need to go as extreme as fasting, but you can wait to eat until you feel those hunger triggers. You’ll know and recognize when it’s time!
  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 fuelling your body with optimal materials. When you allow yourself to get down to empty, you become more aware of the need to fill that tank back up with really wholesome foods. Don’t waste this precious opportunity on empty calories and depleting foods. Build your store up with the nutrients you need to feel good. Your journal will help you to identify these foods, but start with what we know works for most people: vegetables, nuts and seeds, and clean protein sources.