Do you only eat when you're physically hungry? And do you always stop eating when you're satisfied?
If you really think about it, you probably find yourself eating for many reasons (not all of which are a biological need for more calories). You might find yourself eating because:
- you're bored
- you normally eat at this time
- you're at a party
- you're really upset
- you're really happy
- there's still food on your plate
- there's food sitting out
- someone offered you food
And the list could go on.
The truth is that hunger isn't the only force that drives us to eat.
For many of us, this lack of awareness around WHY we're eating can throw a real wrench in our progress and long-term success in managing our nutrition.
The occasional indulgence or emotional bout of eating is likely normal and simply part of the human experience. But a consistent detachment from when you're actually hungry and when you're not could quickly lead to unwanted weight gain or just a lack of control. It might seem silly to have to teach yourself how to recognize when you're hungry and when you're full, but in a world where food is everywhere (and delicious!), awareness and moderation can be understandably challenging.
Here are a few strategies you can use to bring more awareness to your appetite, what your body needs and when you've likely had enough.
1. Question Why You're Eating:
Just because you typically eat at a certain time doesn't always mean you have to. When you wake up in the morning, maybe you don't always need to eat breakfast right away if you're not hungry yet. Maybe a glass of water and a cup of coffee is the perfect start to your day and you should delay breakfast a few hours to when you're actually hungry.
Our hunger levels aren't the same every day and what your body needs can change, so taking a second to pause and see where you are when mealtime rolls around can prevent you from eating when you don't actually need to.
2. Consider Alternatives:
When reaching for your next meal, consider your options. If you're reaching for foods such as candy, cake, pizza, or some other kind of highly processed food, consider alternative food choices (like a balanced meal with protein and veggies). If that doesn't sound good an you're wanting only highly processed foods nothing else will satisfy you, it's very possible that you're not actually hungry but using food as some type of distraction.
3. Customize Your Portions:
If you track your macros, it can be very easy to get stuck in the world of "suggested" serving sizes, thinking that you must select and eat your foods in increments of "28 grams." Remember, you have permission to eat your foods in whatever portion size you want. If 22 grams is going to do the trick, eat that much! If your appetite isn't calling for all 28 grams of that popcorn or you don't really want the whole 4 ounces of chicken, you can eat less. Your world. Your rules. Listen to your body.
4. Check-in Often
You've probably heard people say eat slowly and that's actually really great advice. If we're shoving food down quickly, we lose the ability to stay connected to the time when we hit that "satisfied" line. Eat slowly and make sure you're not stuffing yourself. Not eating past the satisfied line will make a tremendous difference in overall calories consumed. You'll probably be surprised at how quickly you're satisfied!
5. Clean Plates Are Overrated
It's easy to get carried away when you're eating something delicious like lobster mac and cheese or a DQ Cookie Jar Blizzard. You want to eat ALL OF IT! It's so good, not a drop can go to waste! But if you're not enjoying it any longer and you're just forcing it down, it's still going to waste. It's particularly important that once a calorically dense food isn't enjoyable anymore and you've really scratched that itch to eat it, you stop. You don't need to clean your plate. You just need to eat until you're satisfied.