Is it hunger . . . or something else?

Physical hunger is a powerful drive. Sometimes, hunger can be so intense that it leads to overeating of energy-dense foods. Ever notice that you crave pizza or fast food when you haven’t eaten all day? The last thing you want at that moment is an apple or salad.  Becoming crazy hungry is often the downfall of healthful intentions.

Eat thoughtfully and manage hunger by paying attention to it:

  • Learn to recognize when hunger begins. At that point, you’ll be much more open to adding a filling fruit or vegetable to your meal or snack. The added volume will slow you down, giving you the chance to notice that you’re beginning to feel full while you’re still eating.
  • Learn to stop eating when you’re beginning to feel full. Remember that you can eat again when hunger returns.

Of course, there are many opportunities to eat that have nothing to do with physical hunger. There’s eating as a sensory response to tempting foods. There’s eating simply by habit at designated mealtimes. There’s the “clean plate club” eating your parents may have taught you. There’s social eating with your friends.  With thoughtful eating, you can learn to listen to your body.  It can be helpful to thoughtfully plan your meals before ravenous hunger sets in and you find yourself reaching for the quickest, and sometimes least healthful, foods. Remember that you can eat with others without making the same choices they make. Or, pack up half your plate so that nothing is wasted and you have a lunch for the next day.  If you shop with others, you don’t need to buy everything they buy.

Unfortunately, we sometimes mistake other needs for physical hunger. Emotional hunger can lead to eating out of anxiety, anger, loneliness, boredom, stress, fatigue or even happiness. Thoughtful eaters learn to recognize the difference and find better ways to “feed” emotional hunger.