We are all born with an innate ability to maintain an ideal weight so what has happened and why do many of us find this so difficult to do in these modern times?
One of the main reasons that we grow up with a reduced ability to stay at our ideal weight is that we have lost touch with our hunger signal as our key reason for eating.
If you have ever spent any time with a baby, you will know that, when a baby is hungry, it will cry and then readily open its mouth to receive food (milk at that stage). When that baby is full, it will stop crying and close its mouth. There is then no conceivable way to get a baby’s mouth open and get more food in. Hungry means hungry and full means full for a baby.
So, what happens to that innate way of knowing when you are hungry and when you are not?
There are a number of ways in which we lose that hunger and full signal
Being encouraged to eat up and clear our plates – From the stage of weaning onwards, well-meaning parents begin encouraging their small children to eat and praise them heavily for eating up (sometimes even offering pudding as a reward). I am part of a whole generation of plate clearers who struggle to leave even one mouthful on their plate because they were trained to do this as children.
Eating to celebrate (and commiserate) – From an early age, we learn that there are certain occasions that cannot pass without food being involved. Parties, events and special occasions teach us to eat for fun not nutrition.
Eating because it is time – In addition to eating for celebrations, set mealtimes, teach us that we must eat when other people eat, not because we are hungry.
Food as a reward or a comfort – You may well have experienced being given food as a reward for doing something well or as a comfort like when we are given certain food when we are poorly or injured. This can be the precursor to emotional eating which I come across a lot in the work I do with clients.
Dieting – In addition, any of us who have been on a ‘diet’ have ended up getting used to some sort of deprivation and learnt to switch of the hunger signals in order to reduce our weight.
So, we have got to the stage where many of us eat for lots of other reasons other than hunger and carry on eating a long time after we have stopped feeling hungry at all.
So, how can we work to change this habit and switch back on our hungry signals?
Start with awareness – As with most changes we want to make in life, it all starts with awareness. Start by noticing why you are eating. When you feel the sense that you are about to eat, question whether you are really hungry.
Find your hunger signal – Remember that hunger is felt in the stomach, not in the mind or the heart. Cravings can easily get the better of us if we think about how we feel emotionally rather than physically.
Reflect on when you last ate – This is a good point for a reality check. If you only ate 30 minutes ago and ate well, it is unlikely that you are really hungry. Tell yourself that the urge to eat is not real which will help it to pass.
Create a pause – Having a glass of cold water or taking a few deep breaths really can help by giving you a few moments to think about your real hunger levels.
Distract yourself – The urge to eat which is coming from emotion or a craving will pass quite quickly as it is a feeling, not a real physical sensation. Just doing something else for a few minutes or chatting to a friend can give you the time for the urge to eat emotionally to pass. Remember that the feeling will pass without you eating and might well remain or return quite quickly even if you do eat.
Always eat when you are hungry – Once you are sure that you are hungry make sure that you do eat fairly quickly. It can help to reignite the hunger signals if you carry around a small amount of healthy food and eat that as soon as you feel hungry. Don’t wait until you feel desperately hungry because at that point you are more likely to overeat through desperation.
If you start today with noticing what is happening and then take some steps to re-ignite your hungry signal you will be putting some great building blocks in place which will help you change your eating behaviour, lose those excess pounds more easily and keep them off for good.
If you would like any help with changing your eating habits, please get in touch to find out more about my revolutionary weight reduction programme Slim Habits Hypno which can help you attain and maintain your ideal weight, shape and size easily and naturally.