Am I Hungry? Listening to Hunger Instead of Your Triggers

“The more consistently you use hunger and satiety to guide your eating, the easier it will become to reach and maintain your natural weight without dieting.” –Michelle May, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat

should I eat a twix?

Should I eat the Twix?

As I said in my last post, I am reading up on understanding weight loss, and I’m starting with what goes on inside of us, our emotions, psyche, to cause us to continue to eat in a way that doesn’t support a healthy weight. I started by buying and now reading a book titled Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle by Michelle May. I am not finished reading this book, in fact, I am only a quarter of the way through the book, but it’s already eye-opening and I’m learning a lot. I already want to recommend it to you before I even finish. However, I will be writing more about this later when I finish the book, so if you want to wait till you hear more from me, just stay tuned.

I’m focusing in on one of the points that Michelle makes in her book: that we have forgotten what it’s like to be guided by our own feelings of hunger when it comes to eating, and hence, we no longer are able to maintain our healthy weight. She refers to our sense of hunger as an “innate tool” that can and should be used to manage our weight. Instead, we eat for a myriad of reasons, or, our personal triggers: stress, boredom, fear, anger, loneliness–the list goes on. She encourages her readers to do things (you have to read the book to find out what those things are) in order to relearn hunger and to let hunger be our eating compass instead of those personal triggers.

I know I eat for two main reasons–boredom and fear. I am sure you understand boredom. But fear? I have a fear of entrapment. Some people might call me a “free spirit”, and some might even say that’s an understatement. While I am relatively settled (especially compared to when I was, say, 20), I am still definitely a free spirit at heart. I don’t like to take on things that might “trap” me into a commitment that restricts my creative spirit. I NEED to be able to express, and for me, expression comes in the form of movement, voice and exploration. If I can’t physically MOVE, freely (yet with tact) voice my opinion and have time to explore, then I feel like my spirit is dying. When I feel I am in a position like that, anxiety comes upon me and I fear there is no way out. So then I want to eat. Comfort food.

You might look at me and think–”you don’t have a problem with food.” I’m not overweight. In fact, I’m quite fit. But, that doesn’t mean I eat perfectly, or for all the right reasons (i.e. hunger). My problem isn’t gaining weight though. My problem is the other effects foods have on me–health wise. I have irritable bowel syndrome and many of the foods I find comforting are also  foods that irritate my stomach in a big way. Further, I am very susceptible to becoming sluggish, fatigued and exhausted, and when that happens, I go into depressed mode and have a hard time doing anything. It’s pertinent that I eat right for my body, mind and spirit. I do better than I used to years ago, but I know there’s much room for improvement.

There are a variety of things you can do to relearn hunger and allow it to be your food compass. But I think big changes require small steps. The first thing I intend to do is one of the things that Michelle suggests: be aware of it and ask before eating anything: “am I hungry?” One simple question. One small step to relearning hunger. I know I can do this much, and in fact have already begun. I am not trying to do anything else, but to just be aware of when I eat if I’m eating for hunger’s sake, or for some other reason. If my answer to that question is, “no, I’m not hungry.” For now, I am willing to decide to not eat and find something else to ease my fear or anxiety, or to say, “yeah, I’m not hungry but I’m going to eat anyway.”

It’s just one small step. A simple pause and a question before eating–”am I hungry?”

Doesn’t that seem like it would bring mindfulness to eating?

My hypothesis is that for now I will mostly continue to eat even if I am not hungry, BUT, I will become more aware of how often I do it, when I do it, and what exactly might be triggering those feelings. I might be surprised at what I find. And if you do it, you might be surprised as well.

Is this something you think you can do too?


9 Responses to “Am I Hungry? Listening to Hunger Instead of Your Triggers”

  1. Jon Jefferson October 14, 2013 at 7:01 pm #

    I believe mindfulness in how we live brings mindfulness to living. That sounds circular but it follows that we tend to be disconnected from the world around us. I am just as guilty as anyone else.

    We eat fast food, merely filling our tank instead of eating foods that help to nourish our souls. The sad thing is, we allow ourselves to become this way.

    • Bethany Lee October 15, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

      Exactly! Jon, you are so right–food should be about nourishing our souls, and we can’t do that when what we put into our bodies is crap and we KNOW it’s crap, and consequently, feel crappy about it. :-)

  2. Susan Cooper October 15, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    I eat unnecessarily for the very reason you mentioned. Fear of not being good enough, fear of not being successful. Boredom is a killer for me. The saying about idle hands so fit me and then there is the eating that accompanies it. I am going the check out that book. I sounds like one I would benefit from. :-)

    • Bethany Lee October 15, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

      Thanks Susan! I am totally loving that book so far. Like I said, if you want to wait to hear more about it from me, I will be writing more. But yeah, that fear thing really gets ya! It’s translated into anxiety (for me), but really, it’s just fear and the thing is, what do they say about fear? Most of the things we fear don’t really come true anyways.

  3. Martha October 15, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    I probably could benefit from reading this book. I can definitely relate to your struggles – I definitely don’t always eat what/when I should. Sometimes I eat simply because there’s food near me, or because others are eating, or because I find it comfortable to zone out while I watch tv with no regard to how much food I’m actually eating. I look forward to your findings!

  4. Cheryl October 16, 2013 at 9:41 am #

    I have many excuses for eating. Did you notice I did not say reasons? Fear, boredom, anxiety, depression, all come to mind. When I take time to actually think about eating and do I need to eat, meaning am I hungry? I tend to not eat and find something else to do.

  5. Steve October 22, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

    I love this approach. We should all be asking ourselves this question before we start eating. It could save some unnecessary snacking and keep the weight down. I know that before I eat something, I ask myself a different question. I ask if what I’m about to eat is healthy or not. It’s saved from eating unhealthy on a few occasions.

    The great thing about questions like this would be that it becomes natural. You start to think it without having to try to think it. You’ll reinforce your good eating habits just by becoming mindful of it.

  6. Heather February 11, 2014 at 9:55 am #

    Mindfulness when it comes to diet and exercise is key! It really is basic but asking yourself if you are really hungry helps so much. I struggle to use food only for fuel! Great post.


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