Did you know that as babies we were actually born with these hunger and satiety cues? Babies naturally eat when they are hungry. They cry asking for food and innately stop when they are full. Along the way, as adults, these cues have been lost or forgotten, and now we need to reacquaint ourselves with them. Lets bring it back to Healthy Hunger
- Establish your why. This is a very crucial step in your ability to get back to healthy hunger. “why” do you want to do this? It has to go beyond the “ I want to lose weight” piece. Specifically, why do you want to lose weight? This “WHY” will becomes your motivating force and the difference between eating the cooking or leaving it alone. People with a strong why will always be more successful than people who don’t. once you have your “why” determined, write it down and place it somewhere where you can be continually reminded that it is more than just looking good.
- Keep a Diary. I want you to record what you are eating. Everything ranging from breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and beverages. It would be extra beneficial to write down what times you are eating at as well. Studies show over and over again that people who keep a food diary not only consume fewer calories, but are more accountable to themselves and in tune with their bodies. I want you to take it one step further, and record your moods and emotional responses to the changes you are making. This will help you when you start doing the deeper work to get you through ‘Heart Hunger’.
- Practice mindful eating. Stop and literally chew your food aiming for 20 complete chews. Put your fork down in between bites. Take a breath. Taste the food. Enjoy the textures. Stop eating on the go, on the run, in front of the tv, in front of the computer screen or when talking on the phone. Be present in the moment as you are eating. When you are eating, try making it the only activity you are engaging in. When you make your first sigh of being full, that is your cue to stop.
- First Raid the Kitchen. You are tasked to go through your kitchen with a big old box and a giant garbage bag. In your box goes your unopened canned and perishable goods which you can provide to those in need, a local shelter or community centre or charity. Into the garbage bag goes the stuff that has already been opened and that you now need to get rid of. It isn’t enough to say “ oh my daughter will eat that box of cookies”. Nope! You will! One night four nights from now, when this shift just seems too hard, you will think just one is ok or maybe two. Maybe you will eat the whole bag, maybe you wont, but we want this stuff out of your house, out of your body and out of your life, so throw it out now instead. By not having temptations around you, you will better be able to remain focused and in control and making and sticking to these necessary changes.
- Then love the kitchen. My hope is that your transition to a whole foods sparked a love for being in the kitchen. To stay healthy, you must really make your own food from whole ingredients from the earth. Processed foods contain so much added preservatives, sugar, salt and unnecessary preserving agents, additives and chemicals that we should not be consuming them in the quantities we are. In fact, I can argue that these foods really are the reason we are facing the obesity epidemic we are today. Please take the time to cook homemade meals. They do not need to be elaborate or fancy, all I ask is that they are made from real food and real ingredients that you can pronounce and recognize. It may seem overwhelming at first as we are all busy people with a lot going on, but that is definitely no excuse to frequent a drive through 5 times a week, or indulge in takeout or delivery on a regular basis. It is possible to eat healthy and wholesome every meal of every day, it just requires getting organized and planning a bit at first, until it becomes easier and more manageable to carry out on a regular basis. My trick is to cook up a storm at one time, allowing extras to be frozen and placed into portioned containers for another day that you may in fact be too busy, or too lazy and don’t feel like making something from scratch. I always recommend meal prep on the weekends, when you have one hour, instead of watching tv or while the laundry is running, to make the time. If you wait to find the time, it wont happen. You have to make the time, make it a priority so it actually gets done. Here are a few ideas to prep for the week:
- Boil a pot of quinoa- it makes for a great protein rich salad topper in the week
- Salads in a jar. For quick lunches at work, layer salad dressing, lettuce, kale, veggies and toppings in a mason jar.
- Hardboiled eggs
- Chicken breasts sliced for salads or stirfrys
- Salmon cakes
- Bean burgers
- Bean salads
- Homemade guacamole
- Homemade hummus
- Nut butters
- Sliced fruit and veg
- Roasted vegetables
These all make for quick and easy meals or snacks that you can take on the go, or freeze for a lunch or dinner at a later time. Making meals ahead of time, grocery shopping, chopping, planning and prepping both meals and snacks will become an extremely important factor in your success. When we are busy, and don’t have anything prepared, we reach for what is quick, easy and convenient.
- Use the Hunger scale daily. The hunger scale is a tool that will help aid you and guide you toward your goals by avoiding mindless eating. This should keep you in touch with your hunger and satiety centres.
- Starving- weak, lightheaded, irritable
- Uncomfortably hungry- hard to concentrate
- Very hungry- ready to eat now, stomach is rumbling
- Slightly uncomfortable- starting to feel signs of hunger
- Comfortable and satisfied
- Perfectly comfortable
- Full- a little bit uncomfortable
- Uncomfortably full- starting to feel bloated. “I ate more than I should have”
- Too full- need to loosen pants
- Stuffed - food coma, thanksgiving dinner full, Christmas dinner full, cant breathe full
Realistically, you should only eat if you are feeling 1, 2 or 3. Put your fork down at 5 and wait until the next meal to eat again. If you are trying to lose weight, stopping at 5 allows you to eat less than your body is burning. Don’t wait for 1 or 2 to start eating. By this point, all rational decision making has gone out the window and the likelihood of you reaching for a salad is overwhelmed by a biologically propelled craving for calorie dense food. Start eating at number 3, when you are very hungry and ready to yet, yet not desperate enough to eat anything and everything in your path. You want to have enough hunger pangs that your cue to eat is evident and clear, but still being able to stay in control of what and how much you are eating, making the right choices for both. Once again, don’t wait until you are weak, light headed, dizzy, shaky or irritable. If you do, your next steps will take you further away from your goals and habits that we are trying to positively change. Always ask yourself, is this taking me steps closer to my goal or taking me backwards away from my goal? Is this helping me or hurting me? Is this in alignment with what I want?
Now, the next part of this hunger scale. When to stop? Stop eating at number 6, when you are perfectly comfortable and satisfied. You may feel like you could or would want to eat more, but could quickly shift to too full, bloated and reach to loosen your pants. It takes 20minutes after you have eaten, for your brain to register full and have the satiety signals kick in. so if you stop eating slightly before you are too full, 20 minutes later you will likely be there. Staying on the hunger scale between number 3 and number 6 should be your goal. This will ensure you don’t starve and don’t stuff, it will also ensure that you feel lighter and more energetic as opposed to lethargic and heavy. If you need to check in mid meal, and see where you are at on the scale, go for it. Actually, I encourage you to do so. Put your fork down, take a breath, and check in with yourself. Over time, practicing this routine will become a sure habit and healthy hunger will be established.