4 Steps to Master Your Hunger
Hey ladies! Thanks for joining in today! I wanted to share some knowledge with you girls about something that I get asked aaallll the time: WHEN and HOW MUCH someone should be eating – and the truth is, it's different for everyone! I know that's not the sexy answer you're looking for, but don't worry! I have 4 steps for you to follow to master your hunger and figure it out.
I want to start by describing how amazing the human body is. Did you know that our bodies are our BEST measure of how much food we should eat and when we should eat it? Yup, that's right! We have internal cues that tell us exactly that – food timing and quantity.
There is a lot of research that suggests that kids are SO good at knowing when and how much to eat – because they listen to their bodies!! As we grow up, we start to ignore these signals for many reasons – sometimes it's our parents tell us how much to eat, and sometimes it's our environment that tells us we need to eat at 8:00 a.m., noon and 5:00 p.m. And lastly… there's social media that tells us silly things like you can't eat past 6:00 p.m. All of which makes us lose the connection to our internal hunger and fullness cues!
If you think about it, you may have been listening to your hunger cues when you were 3 or 4, but when's the last time you truly thought about your hunger? Tuned in to what your body is saying? It's maybe been months or even years for some of you! And that's why I wanted to chat about the 4 steps you can take to master your hunger!
Throughout this post, you'll see journal exercises that will help you to navigate each step! These are meant to be reflections because we typically don't sit around and think too much about what our stomach is saying to us! Enjoy!
Step 1 – Identify YOUR Hunger Cues
The first step in mastering your hunger is to really figure out what hunger signals are specific to YOU. That's right – they might not all be the same from one person to the next, so hear me out… For example, you might be someone who hears a growl or gurgle sound and that's your clue for knowing your body is asking for food. Someone else might be feeling a little pain or stitch in their stomach telling them that they're hungry, but they don't hear a thing! Some people might actually have both!
These are both physical cues for hunger, but others exist as well!
Other girls will experience hunger in a psychological way. A great case is the 3:00 p.m. wall! Energy is LOW and suddenly, you're not feeling like working and you get distracted super easily – sound familiar? OR it can also be irritability. If you haven't eaten for a few hours and everyone and their dog is getting on your nerves, that might be YOUR cue that you're hungry.
Journal Exercise: Reflect on your hunger cues - What clue is my body giving me when I am hungry? Is it one thing or a combination of things? Physical only or psychological as well?
Step 2 – Identify the TYPE of Hunger
The next part of the puzzle is figuring out the type of hunger you're having once you've clued in that you ARE hungry.
Hunger type has 3 categories:
Physical hunger is the classic type of hunger – the physiological response to needing more food! This one is bound to happen if you haven't eaten in a few hours. This is when your body is asking for energy, sustenance and you need to eat!
Mouth hunger is all about texture – this is the type of hunger where you're needing something smooth, crunchy, melty, cold, hot, etc. Often times we have a desire for a certain texture and it's really important to clue into that too – this helps us determine what KIND of food our body is wanting. In physical hunger, you might not really care what texture or temperature of the food you're getting but with mouth hunger – this makes a difference for the satisfaction of your meal!
Lastly but not least is Emotional hunger – and I think you know where I'm going with this one. Emotional hunger is when we want to eat for pleasure, sadness, reward, etc. Emotional hunger can happen for both positive and negative emotions we're experiencing – and that's okay! Identifying that you are having emotional hunger is part of the process in accepting that emotional eating is okay and part of life!
A journal Exercise specific to emotional hunger: Will food satisfy your hunger? Is there another way you can satisfy that emotion better?
Stress – having a bath, meditating, etc.
Reward – go on an outing, go shopping, etc.
Boredom – Play a game, journal, etc.
Journal Exercise: One day this week when you are able to prepare a meal and eat it directly after – think about what kind of hunger you're experiencing and write it down. Example: If you think it's mouth hunger, then identify what kind – see if that affects the food you choose to prepare! Write down the type of hunger you had, the food you decided to have and the satisfaction it brought you (if you listened to it or not!). How did that make you feel? Explore it!!
Step 3 – Identify the LEVEL of Hunger (and fullness)
Now we've talked about the cues and the types, but what about the INTENSITY!? That's where the Hunger Scale comes in. The Hunger Scale is something you can try to identify at any point in your journey to master hunger. This scale helps us to determine how hungry we actually are and also how full we actually are. This tool is best used AT meal time and throughout. Here are some tips for using the Hunger Scale appropriately:
1. Try to identify where you are on this scale. Ideally, you will be a 3-4 before you eat! This can be done while preparing food or just before having it.
2. Again, try to ask yourself this at some point towards the end of your meal – where am I on the scale?
3. Once you have finished eating – see again where you fall after 10 minutes. Here, you'll want to fall between a 6-7 most often!
4. Troubleshooting: If you can't identify hunger or fullness then consider your routine. Are you skipping meals, eating regularly or snacking/grazing all day? Look at this pattern to give you some more insight!
Journal Exercise: I suggest trying step 1 before this exercise! Try journaling for 3 days in a row and pick one meal where you will try and use the Hunger Scale as described above. Write down your thoughts – where you're at, where you end up, how do you feel? What came up during this exercise? Do you have any conclusions or changes to make? This is very individual but will be helpful to bring awareness to your meal!
Step 4 – Anticipate your Hunger.
This is the last step and very specific to active women just like you! At this point, you're likely clueing into your hunger and thinking more mindfully about your food and that's awesome! BUT I want to let you know that eating more mindfully also takes into consideration anticipation!
By working on steps 1-3, you will likely figure out how you will feel in a few hours – and this is KEY. Because even though you might not feel very hungry that moment, you also know your workout is coming up and you might be hungry during it!
What you do here is very straightforward – if you anticipate hunger, then have a snack! You can also start to anticipate the INTENSITY of hunger like in step 3. This will help dictate how big of a snack you might need. Experiment with hard foods for higher intensities while you might find a smoothie or chocolate milk is a better option for something lighter and closer to exercise. Very individual here – but practice with what will make you feel the most energized and less hangry during your workout!
Journal Exercise: Pick a day where you have a workout planned and try to anticipate your hunger. Maybe you pack a snack and decide whether you need it or not. Maybe you anticipate needing a smoothie before you a.m. workout – or not – the night before. This one is individual with your schedule but try to clue into your hunger and energy needs for your workout beforehand! What sits well in your stomach? What makes you feel more energized? Was the amount too much or too little? Get the details!!
Alright, ladies, that's the four steps to mastering your hunger!! I know this is a lot of information and might seem pretty intimidating, but I promise this will help you in the long-run. Truly knowing your hunger and fullness cues will help you regardless of your activity level and at every stage of life! I hope you enjoy these tips and exercises to get more in-tune with your body! <3