Your body is like an amazing computer. If you know how to listen, it will tell you when you're hungry and also when you've had enough to eat. If you've been a chronic dieter, you may not be able to recognize the signals your body is sending you. Overcoming emotional eating requires you to trust your body to tell you how to feed it.
What does hunger feel like?
What hunger feels like might be different for everyone. Take some time this week to allow yourself to get hungry and make note of the physical sensations you experience. I'd guess you know what it feels like when you've gone many hours without food and your stomach is screaming at you. This isn't necessarily the hunger I'm talking about. It's the soft, subtle tugging you feel as you're just starting to get hungry that is often ignored.
- Comes on gradually
- Hunger can wait
- A variety of foods sound good
- Stops when you're full
- Eating doesn't make you feel bad about yourself
- Comes on suddenly
- Feels like you must eat now
- Craves specific comfort foods
- Doesn't stop with a full stomach
- Triggers feelings of guilt, shame & powerlessness
The Hunger Scale
Once you recognize the physical symptoms of hunger, the Hunger Scale is a useful tool to help you know when you should start and stop eating.
Important note: This scale is for physical hunger only. At this point, we are dealing with physical hunger to help us learn to differentiate our hunger cues.
The scale runs from -10, which is starving, to +10, which is stuffed. At zero you are neither hungry or full. When your body gets to a -2 it needs food. When you get to +2, stop eating. You're probably thinking that's not a very big zone, and you're right. This amount of food at each meal will keep you satisfied--not hungry and not full.
Keep in mind if you eat this way, you'll need to eat more often. I suggest 5-6 small meals per day spaced about 2 1/2 to 3 hours apart. However, the timing is not a hard and fast rule. Remember, you are learning to trust your body. Eat when you're hungry, and stop when you're physically satisfied. This will probably mean stopping in the middle of a meal sometimes. It might feel uncomfortable, but do it anyway.
If you can learn to eat this way, you'll solve your food issues. Later this week we'll talk more about emotional eating, but in the meantime, pay attention to your hunger. Notice how your body feels when it needs food, and keep filling out your Emotional Eating Tracker.
Join the Conversation
Can you describe the physical sensation of hunger? Can you feel the difference between physical and emotional hunger?
A Great Resource
This hunger scale came from a great book called "If I'm so Smart, Why Can't I Lose Weight" by Brooke Castillo. It's a great resource chock full of awesome information.