Are You Hungry?

 Hungry again?  It was just an hour ago since lunch, but here you are, digging through the snack drawer trying to find something to munch on. Have you ever had those days when you feel hungry all day long, can't get satisfied, and you just keep doing a search and seize mission on all available food?

It's important to recognize that there are two types of hunger:  physical and emotional.  Both types may make us feel like heading to the kitchen for a snack or a full scale meal, but we need to learn to calm the emotional hunger if we want to stay at a healthy weight. Let's take a look:

  • Physical hunger begins when your blood sugar level drops: you haven't eaten for some time and your gas gauge is heading toward the big E--empty. Your stomach sends strong signals by rumbling its discontented emptiness.  Some people will get shaky, irritable (however, there are lots of other reasons for that!) light-headed, weak, nauseous, and head achy when their blood sugar level drops. It's harder for your body and brain to work at their peak performance levels:  don't run a race and expect your best time or take an exam on empty stomach!
  • Emotional hunger can be defined as the desire to eat in the absence of physical hunger. You still feel drawn toward food and want to eat, but your blood sugar level is normal. You are looking to fill some emotional need with food.  Emotions such as being sad, angry, lonely, happy, depressed, bored, stressed and anxious, can cause people to feel hungry---really, any emotion at all.

If you've been on many diets, you may have learned to think of physical hunger as a good thing.  It's fun to visualize those hunger pangs as little PacMan guys running around eating up the fat in fat cells (that doesn't really happen, unfortunately.) The trouble is, getting too hungry can backfire:  you end up eating too much and giving up on the weight loss plan.  Many diets are just too restrictive: it hurts to be hungry. You know, diet does have that word "die" in it, which is a rather negative note...

When you want to eat yet again, try to Examine Your Hunger:

Are you physically hungry?

  •  Is your stomach growling?
  •  Do you have any other physical hunger symptoms: light-headed, weak, and cranky? If you do, then label it the physical hunger it is.
  •  Solution? Have a good, healthy snack or meal. Less nutritious food usually won't feel as good in your body at this point. Twinkies won't cut it, but whole grain crackers with low fat cheese and carrots will. 

Are you emotionally hungry?

  •  If your aren't physically hungry, then stop before you eat, if possible!
  •  Promise yourself that you will not eat for 10 minutes.
  •  Redirect your activity:  walk, knit, drink a glass of water, play on the computer, or call a friend. After you've been working on this awhile, start to examine why you feel like eating.
  •  At the end of the 10 minutes, if you still want to eat, you can:  sit down at a table with the food on  a plate, and slowly savor every bite.  Enjoy it without guilt!
  •  Reflect.  Try facing that emotion head on, feeling it and experiencing it. Food doesn't take away the emotion, it just masks your ability to feel it as sharply.  It's like the damper pedal on the piano or the muffler on your car. It deadens the sound. Food only fixes physical hunger.  It's time to get healthy and learn to deal with the emotion without food.  Get help from a friend or therapist if you need to,  it's OK!                       
  • Repeat!
It takes time, determination and a lot of repetition to change a behavior.  We are trying to change the way we use food. Food is fuel.  It's meant to be enjoyed and to feed our bodies well.  Food is not to be used to quell emotions and to avoid facing them. Using it in this way leads us down the path to the dark side...into the deep, dark chocolate pit, and it's hard to get out of there!  Let's start working together on this, one hunger drive at a time.  Deal?

To your health!