Are You Really Hungry? 5 Signs to Check
Mindless eating is one of the biggest hindrances I’ve faced towards weight loss. Sometimes, you just can’t trust your appetite when it comes to food. Stop for a second and think about it. Are you really hungry?
Many external factors can push you to reach for a snack even when your body doesn’t need food. It’s important to know what real hunger feels like so you can avoid eating when you’re not really hungry.
Why don’t we know when we’re hungry?
Human beings have an innate sense of hunger and fullness. Think back to when you were a baby. No matter how much mom tried to force down those last few spoons of baby food – once you were full you’d refuse to eat.
But through the years, you learned to please mommy by cleaning out your plate. Now as an adult, you still go out for lunch or cocktails to keep your friends happy… even if you’re still stuffed from your last meal.
Societal norms, not hunger, determine our mealtimes. It’s a lot more convenient for students and workers to eat lunch and take coffee breaks at the same time rather than stepping out of the office whenever they feel like it. As a result, we’ve gotten so used to our mealtimes that we experience discomfort without eating during those hours.
It’s this feeling of discomfort and not real hunger that a lot of people actually experience. This discomfort can be brought on by countless other factors, including stimulation from seeing or smelling food, emotions or even nutrient deficiency.
Eating past hunger
In her book Conquer Your Food Addiction, Caryl Ehrlich explains “Some people become irritable, shaky, or disoriented if they are not fed at their usual mealtime. Others experience hunger as feeling lightheaded, empty, low, headachy, or hollow. At times a growling stomach prompts an eating episode. Some eat when they get depressed. External stimuli are abundant, as are emotional and physical ones, yet few of these are hunger, just some other strain on your nervous system.”
“You may have been eating past hunger for such a long time you can no longer differentiate between hunger and the feeling of anxiety, stress, boredom, or any number of other emotional or circumstantial stimuli,” she warns.
What is real hunger?
In order to identify hunger, you have to understand what it is. Not all “hunger” is created equal. And it’s important to respond to the different kinds of hunger properly.
REAL Hunger is defined as “the painful sensation or state of weakness caused by need of food.”
Real hunger cannot wait a few hours. It demands to be fed. A few bites of nutrient-dense food will appease hunger while mountains of bread, coffee, soda and other non-nutritious food will merely stuff and bloat but never truly satisfy.
Are You Really Hungry?
Before you eat, take the time to listen to your body and evaluate your hunger. Use this table to differentiate true hunger from false cravings.
|True Hunger||False Hunger|
|True hunger builds up gradually. Hunger usually starts 3 hours after your last meal.||False hunger is sudden and can strike anytime. If you ate within an hour or two then you might just be experiencing false hunger.|
|Any kind of food will satisfy your hunger. You have no specific craving.||You are craving a particular food.|
|True hunger results from the need to fuel your body. It isn't associated with any emotion or activity.||False hunger is associated with emotions such as stress or depression which make you think you're hungry. It is also associated with activities that you do while eating. If you always eat while watching movies then you'll start to feel hungry whenever you watch movies.|
|You stop eating when you are full and you don't binge or eat mindlessly.||You usually binge or overeat as you usually eat to fill a void.|
|Eating in response to belly hunger doesn't result in guilt or shame because you know you needed the food.||Eating in response to false hunger usually results in guilt or shame.|
Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re not.
Giving in to false hunger can be a toxic habit with health risks including obesity, diabetes and digestive problems. It’s not okay to eat because of your emotions. Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re not – not when you’re too full or when your plate is empty.
Food is fuel. You don’t pull into every gas station you see without checking your tank. And you definitely won’t fill your dear car with junk that won’t give it ample energy. How much more your own body?
Let me know what you think!
Follow me on Snapchat for more of my diet and exercise regimen.