Today I want to talk about hunger. There seems to be a lot of confusion when it comes to hunger. Is it good or bad? Do you need to be hungry to lose weight? How do you know if you are truly hungry when it comes to eating or if you are just eating out of emotions like boredom and loneliness?
I use to be scared to be hungry. I didn’t want to risk having to feel hungry for a second, because it was uncomfortable and made me nervous that I would eat everything in sight once I did come across food.
I didn’t trust myself to make good decisions because I was in a state of scarcity, and had this underlying fear that there wouldn’t be enough food in enough time to satisfy me. Even worse what if I didn’t have control?
I also hear the opposite from many of my clients too. Hunger feels like a success. The hungrier you are, the more “successful” you are with attempts to feel like you are losing or maintaining weight. Again a control issue. Because if you can control not eating and being hungry, in your head it makes sense, that you are on the path of stop-any-disease.
Let me set the record straight.
Day to day hunger is neither good or bad, wrong or right, it just is. It can take some time to get use to what being hungry truly means and I will explore that further. But first I want you to consider this.
How much you deprive yourself today is a direct reflection of how much you will indulge in the future. You may be able to restrict yourself for a day, a week, or even a month but if it is not a sustainable way of eating, it will leave to deprivation, which will lead to overindulgence.
I remember a few sporadic Saturdays over the past few years in which I wouldn’t eat until around lunch time. I am a total breakfast person but would get lost in a project and simply put off eating. My mind would play these games with me and I would feel strong and accomplished by not eating, telling myself I did good for not having to eat breakfast right away.
What do you know, I would eat my breakfast at noon and then be ravenous all day long and end up eating more than I normally would if I had just eaten my breakfast upon waking like normal (different for everyone of course). Because I was depriving myself in the morning I would inevitably end up overeating for the rest of the day.
What is hunger? And how is it different from a craving?
Hunger is that gnawing in the pit of your stomach, when your stomach is growling. You may even potentially feel light headed or weak. Usually it is when you haven’t eaten in hours and isn’t just a need for a certain type of food. It is a genuine need for fuel.
A craving is typically a want for a certain kind of food or texture like something salty, sweet or crunchy.
Hunger is not a victory or something to fear.
Just because you are hungry does not mean you are on the path to success with changing your body. Hunger does not indicate victory. Being hungry throughout the day is normal and something that we should allow ourselves to feel.
I often hear people say that breakfast makes them feel hungrier but just remember it is normal for our bodies to be hungry throughout the day. It is also ok to eat throughout the day too. However, if not eating all day is your strategy and you are not really getting the results you are seeking, consider a new way.
I think one of the main problems is we get caught up in the fear of being out of control. We fear that if we eat consistently throughout the day we will overeat and fall off track. We are also afraid to experience hunger because of the same reason. Lack of control of eating everything in sight when we do eat. The solution lies in self trust.
Turn to self-trust.
I talk about self trust a lot and I ask you to take a moment to ask if you trust yourself. It seems like a silly question because the immediate response is almost always that of course we do.
Our actions though will tell us if we really do. Not eating when we are starving is a sign of not trusting ourselves when it comes to food, just as not allowing ourselves to be hungry is a sign of a lack of self trust. Either way we are hung up on control on what will happen “if” instead of just letting in play out.
Get comfortable with what you are feeling.
If you normally fear hunger, allow yourself to experience it from time to time. Practice it in a “safe” place. Intentionally let yourself get hungry and have a planned snack or meal and practice eating until you are 90% full. In other words you feel like you could still have a bite or two.
Or if you typically feel hunger is a victory allow yourself to eat small meals throughout the day, again practicing the 90% full rule. See what play outs.
Practice and do it over and over again and let the outcomes unfold as they will. You may overeat at one point, you may feel like you lack control at other times but practice with relentless commitment until you feel control start to release its tight grasp.
If whatever you are doing IS working, then great, keep at it. But if you are trying the same thing over and over again and not getting anywhere, it is a sure sign that it is time to try a new way.
Trust that there is a new way and then go do it.