Are You Scared of Hunger?
Years of chronic dieting have taught many overeaters to be afraid of their hunger. Something as basic as listening to the wisdom of our bodies and eating
when we’re hungry feels unsafe.
We’re not sure we can trust our body signals to guide us. Perhaps we will eat everything in sight and never stop. What if we never feel satisfied? Lack of
emotional nourishment in our lives has led us to associate hunger with emptiness and unmet needs.
We definitely did not start out this way. Infants and small children intuitively eat when they’re hungry and stop eating usually before they’re full. The
truth is we can relearn to listen to our bodies and trust them to guide us. In order to do this, we must once and for all give up the idea of overly
If you’ve been a chronic dieter, you’ve probably learned lots of creative ways to ignore or dull your hunger signals. Perhaps you skip meals; drink
calorie-free beverages such as coffee, tea, and diet sodas throughout the day; chew sugar-free gum; or smoke cigarettes.
Maybe you try to stay as busy as possible to tune out hunger signals. These tricks, which are all attempts to fool the body, disconnect you from your
body’s wisdom and do not work well for sustained weight loss.
Many chronic dieters don’t remember what it feels like to be hungry many times per day. Some try to decide through their thoughts whether they “deserve” to
eat. Others eat according to the clock, whether they’re hungry or not. And many tune out hunger by cutting it off at the pass: they eat large meals and
lots of snacks and rarely register hunger.
Our metabolism slows down when we ignore our hunger signals, and putting off eating often leads to ravenous overeating later in the day. When you’re used
to ignoring your hunger, you may not notice the early subtle signals and may register hunger only when it is extreme.
Hunger Is Your Best Friend
Don’t be afraid of your hunger. Welcome it – it’s a wonderful signal and sign that your body is working properly and the machine is revving. Every time you
feel true physical hunger, it’s time to eat!
Hunger is a complex mechanism involving both brain and body – nature’s way of making sure we survive. It involves signals of discomfort and tension that
alert us that our reserves are low, as well as cravings that guide us as to which foods to choose.
Pleasing tastes and the pleasurable chemicals released during digestion ensure we will come back for more. Once we begin to eat, our hunger signal fades
and the pleasure of eating is reduced as we near satiation.
The hunger drive is part of our overall calorie-balancing process, and in combination with signals of satiety, or fullness, it helps us maintain optimal
In other words, our bodies naturally and without much effort will signal us to balance our intake of calories with our caloric expenditure.
You may notice you are hungrier on the days when you exercise than on the days when you are less physically active. Your body is so wise that it even plays
catch-up by increasing hunger if you have been eating too little for a number of days, such as when you are too busy or are ill.
All of a sudden you find that your hunger seems relentless. Most women also notice that they feel hungrier two weeks before their menstrual period.
The body, in its infinite wisdom, increases hunger because it needs more calories to build the uterine lining. Your body does lots of behind-the-scenes
calculations to accomplish many tasks and maintain your body weight.
An important step in balancing your physical chemistry and ending overeating is to get back to basics by paying attention to your hunger signals and eating
only when you feel true physical hunger.
Any of the following may represent hunger:
- Gurgling, growling, or rumbling stomach noises
- A feeling of weakness or light-headedness
- Difficulty concentrating
Eat When You Are Hungry
This is the basic principle of Beyond Diet. The best way to respond to your hunger is to eat according to internal cues, as opposed to the clock or your
schedule. Allow yourself to get acquainted with the unique way you experience hunger.
Choose a day when you can control your schedule to begin practicing paying attention to your hunger cues. Rather than thinking in terms of breakfast,
lunch, and dinner, try to think in terms of refueling sessions.
Whenever the tank is getting low, regardless of the time of day, it’s time to “fill up.” While most people feel hunger within an hour or two of being
awake, some are not hungry until later. If you don’t feel hunger until late morning, don’t eat until then, even though it has been drilled into your head
that you must eat an early breakfast. Wait until your body signals you.
If you are hungry before bedtime, your body is letting you know that a light snack may be in order. Forget any rules you have heard regarding when to eat,
and just pay attention to your hunger cues.
Just follow these simple tips and you will have improved your health much more than what you would do by some of the “quick fixes” offered these days. All