Eat when you’re hungry. Stop when you’re full.
Sounds simple enough, right?
But what if you feel hungry all the time? What if, even after you wait, you still feel the need for seconds or thirds?
Perhaps what you’re feeling is not so much hunger, but the desire to eat – not the same thing!
When you’re genuinely hungry, it’s because your body is calling for food in order to sustain itself. If our only purpose for eating was just to sustain ourselves, then I believe that nobody would suffer from a weight problem because not only would we eat in adequate amounts, we would eat food that was actually good for us!
The fact is, however, that eating food is much more complicated than that. Eating is a multi-sensory experience that has the potential for so much pleasure. The smell of certain foods alone is enough to make people stop, take a deep breath, visualize, and smile. And don’t even get me started on taste! It’s no wonder that the word “sugar” is almost always followed by “addiction”.
It is what it is. We live in a world of delectable, processed foods, and I’ll be the first to admit that yes, sometimes I do eat out of sheer pleasure or in attempt to “stuff my feelings”. Unfortunately these added sweeteners, flavourings, and preservatives have wreaked havoc on our system, making it very difficult for us to distinguish between real hunger and a psychological craving.
Overeating, incessant snacking, and other dysfunctional eating habits are behaviours that require modification, and the first step towards modifying any behaviour is cultivating awareness. In the case of eating, being aware, or mindful, of how you are feeling the moment before you act (i.e., get second helpings for dessert, etc).
Enter the Timmie Wanechko Wellness Hunger Scale!
Use this scale to help you assess whether or not your body actually needs food at any given moment. Rather than succumbing to the simple thought of, “I feel like having a snack”, follow that up with, “Okay, I might feel like I need a snack, but do I actually feel hungry?“.
How to Use the Hunger Scale
First, study the scale. Read through all the ratings, and start to imagine what each one would feel like.
When you feel like eating outside of your regularly scheduled meals or at “naughty” times (like when you should be sleeping but you’re on the computer), ask yourself:
“On a scale of 0-10, how hungry do I feel?”
Don’t think about the food you were going to treat yourself with, the question is NOT “How badly do I want a bag of chips?”, because we all know what the answer to that question is!
You are simply assessing your actual desire for food or sustenance at that very moment.You are measuring your hunger, not your craving.
Unless you honestly rate yourself between 7 – 10 on the hunger scale, chances are, you do not need food, and instead should find something else productive to do.
If you rate yourself at a 7 – hungry, with a stomach that’s grumbling – you could try drinking a full glass of water and waiting to see if in fact, you were dehydrated and not hungry as is often the case.
But, if you are actually ravenous and starving, then your body needs sustenance and in that case it would do you good to make a healthy choice. Choosing junk food will placate your hunger in the meantime, but the excessive sugar will cause an insulin spike and temporary sugar high, inevitably leading to an energy crash and increased cravings later on.
Stay within the green zone, or between 4 – 6, as much as you can. When you’re in this zone, you’re comfortable, happier, and better able to think and function.
The first step toward mindful eating is awareness; when you can learn how to distinguish true hunger from a craving, you’ll be well on your way to controlling your eating behaviours and ultimately, controlling your weight!
Please feel free to download the Hunger Scale onto your smart phone or tablet so you always have it handy, or better yet, print it out and stick it to your fridge!
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Take care + stay fit,