In a world where we eat by the clock and diets rule, many people have lost track of their internal hunger and fullness cues: the body’s way of letting you know when it’s time to eat and when you’ve had enough. You have the inner wisdom to control your weight beautifully, but quite possibly, your inner wisdom has been damaged by trying to deny your physical hunger or feeding yourself past the point of fullness.
In this post, we’ll talk about understanding your true hunger. Our next Spiritual Weight Loss category post will help you recognize when you are full.
Mind Games of Dieting
Rather than trusting your body’s natural brilliance to tell you when and what to eat, many people eat according to what their mind thinks is acceptable. Have you ever told yourself that you are only going to eat very healthy foods? After a period of doing so, have you ever ended up unintentionally (or maybe even purposely) giving in and eating what you wanted? Did your mind try to justify the splurge, maybe even telling you to go ahead and eat to excess, promising the healthy eating plan could start again tomorrow?
In other words, have you ever played mind games when it came to food, thinking about what, when, and where you were going to eat? I think most of us have. The mind often takes over and wants to control our eating. It is also a genius at justifying reasons why we should overeat or give in and have what we want.
What is True Hunger?
Ideally, we eat when we are quietly hungry and stop when we are satisfied, but not full. In other words, we stop when the hunger is gone, but before the point of feeling uncomfortable from too much food.
Can you tell when you are truly physically hungry? Physical hunger is felt by a sense of emptiness in the stomach, and only occurs a few to several hours after a meal. Physical hunger builds gradually over time. When you are just starting to get physically hungry, you will feel a bit of emptiness in your stomach or a minor gnawing feeling. Your stomach may growl lightly. The longer you wait to eat, the more hungry you will get. The gnawing feeling intensifies, and your stomach may growl loudly.
If you become overly hungry, you will likely start to feel the signs of hunger elsewhere in your body. You might feel light-headed or experience a headache. You may become fatigued, irritable, or impatient. If you wait long enough, you’ll get to a point where you want to eat everything in sight. If you wait to the point that your body is roaring loudly at you to eat, then you may eat well past the point of fullness. This is because the body believes it is being starved, and wants to compensate by overeating.
Check in With Your Body, Mind, and Soul
Over the next few days, check in with yourself before you eat anything. Unite your body with your mind and soul. Ask yourself, “Am I physically hungry?” Notice the cues your body is giving you to help you determine your hunger level. Is your hunger a whisper or a boom?
Maybe you’re not hungry at all, but you have a desire to eat. Before you act on it, get curious about your craving.
Here are more questions to ask:
- Why am I craving food?
- Is my mind judging my craving, telling me on one hand that I shouldn’t eat and on the other that it’s okay to just go ahead?
- What’s going on at the level of my spirit?
- Is my soul full or empty?
- Am I currently feeling connected with the world and other beings?
- Am I at peace?
- How can I achieve peace and fulfillment in this moment?
Remove Eating Habit Judgements
Don’t judge yourself for a desire to eat that has nothing to do with physical hunger. This is critical. If you judge yourself, you will feel bad, and this can lead to overeating in order to feel better. Just try to learn about your desire and yourself. Get to know the reasons why you are eating. Awareness is the first step to change, and gaining awareness around your eating habits lays the foundation for better habits in the future.
Holly Alastra is a registered dietitian and licensed mental health counselor who has helped thousands of people lose weight over the past 20 years. She wishes you peace and joy with your body, the magnificent vessel of your spirit.