Am I Really Hungry?
5 ways to get in touch with your appetite
The real trick to managing weight is to eat less, but not to feel hungry or
deprived. Being hungry all the time is a death sentence for any weight loss
The desire to eat starts with a twinge, and before you know it, you're
rummaging through the fridge. But the real question is: Are you really hungry,
or was that a twinge of habit, boredom, or some other emotion? Understanding
your own eating habits and learning to recognize true hunger is an essential
weight loss tool.
The decision to eat is affected by a host of factors: sights, smells, social
settings, and more.
We eat to satisfy our appetites but also to soothe emotions, celebrate
victories, satisfy cultural expectations -- and because it just tastes
Scientists have been researching influences on appetite and hunger for
decades. The body's systems are complex. "Hunger hormones" (ghrelin) in
your blood and an empty stomach signal the brain when you're hungry. Nerves in
the stomach send signals to the brain that you're full, but these signals can
take up to 20 minutes to communicate -- and by that time, you may have already
eaten too much.
Rating Your Hunger
When you sit down to eat a meal, you want to be hungry, but not ravenous.
(Letting your blood sugar get so low that you feel ravenous often leads to
binge eating.) And your goal is to stop when you're comfortably full.
To get into the habit of evaluating your hunger, rate your hunger and
satisfaction level before and after every meal. Here's a numerical scale you
0: Ravenously hungry, salivating.
1: Hungry, belly growling.
2: Mildly hungry; you may need a light snack to hold you over, but you could
hold out a little longer.
3: Satisfied; don't need to eat any more.
4: More than satisfied; ate too much.
5: Stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey.
And whenever you're about to run to the kitchen or break room or detour to
the nearest drive-thru, ask yourself these questions first:
- When was the last time I ate? If it was less than 2-3 hours ago, you're
probably not feeling real hunger.
- Could a small, nutritious snack rich in fiber tide you over until the next
- Can you drink a glass of water and wait 20 minutes?
If you find that you don't easily recognize the signs of hunger, schedule
your meals and snacks. Divide your eating plan into several small meals, spaced
every three to four hours. Rate your hunger each time you sit down to eat, and
try to become more aware of what real hunger feels like.
More Mindful Eating
Most of us wolf down our food without really tasting it from time to time.
Do you suffer from "eating amnesia" when the hand-to-mouth activity
becomes automatic -- usually in front of the television or while reading a
book? Bad habits are hard to break, but if you want to control what you eat,
you must become more mindful of everything you put into your mouth.