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Understanding Hunger and What to Do About It

Updated: Aug 27, 2020

First name Always, last name Hungry?

How can you stick to a diet when all you are is hungry? The short answer is: you don't!

“Your body will always tell you want it needs, you just need to learn to listen more carefully to what it's telling you it wants”

A food Journal is a great starting point to start to understand the patterns surrounding your eating and hunger. Also when you are hungry start asking yourself the question "what else am I?" Even the Centers for Disease Control and prevention (the CDC) recommends the following:

"Write down everything you eat and the time of day you eat it. This will help you uncover your habits. For example, you might discover that you always seek a sweet snack to get you through the mid-afternoon energy slump...It’s good to note how you were feeling when you decided to eat, especially if you were eating when not hungry. Were you tired? Stressed out?

1. Highlight the habits on your list that may be leading you to overeat. Common eating habits that can lead to weight gain are:

  • Eating too fast

  • Always cleaning your plate

  • Eating when not hungry

  • Eating while standing up (may lead to eating mindlessly or too quickly)

  • Always eating dessert

  • Skipping meals (or maybe just breakfast)

2. Look at the unhealthy eating habits you’ve highlighted. Be sure you’ve identified all the triggers that cause you to engage in those habits. Identify a few you’d like to work on improving first. Don’t forget to pat yourself on the back for the things you’re doing right. Maybe you usually eat fruit for dessert, or you drink low-fat or fat-free milk. These are good habits! Recognizing your successes will help encourage you to make more changes.

3. Create a list of “cues” by reviewing your food diary to become more aware of when and where you’re “triggered” to eat for reasons other than hunger. Note how you are typically feeling at those times. Often an environmental “cue”, or a particular emotional state, is what encourages eating for non-hunger reasons.

Common triggers for eating when not hungry are:

  • Opening up the cabinet and seeing your favorite snack food.

  • Sitting at home watching television.

  • Before or after a stressful meeting or situation at work.

  • Coming home after work and having no idea what’s for dinner.

  • Having someone offer you a dish they made “just for you!”

  • Walking past a candy dish on the counter.

  • Sitting in the break room beside the vending machine.

  • Seeing a plate of doughnuts at the morning staff meeting.

  • Swinging through your favorite drive-through every morning.

  • Feeling bored or tired and thinking food might offer a pick-me-up.

...Ask yourself these questions for each “cue” ...

  • Is there anything I can do to avoid the cue or situation? This option works best for cues that don’t involve others. For example, could you choose a different route to work to avoid stopping at a fast food restaurant on the way? Is there another place in the break room where you can sit so you’re not next to the vending machine?

  • For things I can’t avoid, can I do something differently that would be healthier? Obviously, you can’t avoid all situations that trigger your unhealthy eating habits, like staff meetings at work. In these situations, evaluate your options. Could you suggest or bring healthier snacks or beverages? Could you offer to take notes to distract your attention? Could you sit farther away from the food so it won’t be as easy to grab something? Could you plan ahead and eat a healthy snack before the meeting?"

Learning how to eat right is as much about learning what our individual body requires. While there are general nutrition guidelines, it's important to recognize the important of what works for YOU and YOUR BODY! Getting to know how to eat right involves getting to know yourself!


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