Before we change WHAT we eat, we have to look at HOW we are eating. How many times have you stuffed your breakfast down your throat on your way to work? Have you ever eaten so much so fast that your stomach felt like it was going to explode? We’ve all been there…
It’s important to honor our internal hunger and fullness scales because when we are able to be more in tune with our bodies, we save ourselves from endless moments of regret and frustration. The way in which you eat – fast, slow, distracted, etc – is just as significant a factor in your health as the foods you eat.
So, what exactly is the hunger/fullness scale? Look at your body as if it were a brand new, beautiful car. Would you drive that precious vehicle on empty for miles and miles? Probably not. If our hunger scales are on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being just noticing your hunger, and 10 being starving/ravenous (below empty in the gas tank), we should start planning for food at a 2. This is when we’ll make the most sound, healthy decisions for our bodies. On the other hand, on our fullness scale, 10 is stuffed and 1 is starving. Typically, we want to aim for a 7 or 8 max on the fullness scale when we finish a meal. We want to feel nourished, energized, and satiated, not stuffed.
Seems simple enough right? Start planning for food when you’re at a 2 on the hunger scale and stop eating when you’re at a 7 on the fullness scale. For many of us, putting this into practice may be a bit more challenging than it seems because our eating habits have kept us so out of touch with our internal hunger/fullness scales. Sometimes we eat when we’re bored, sometimes we don’t eat at all, sometimes we shove food down our throats in a rush, sometimes we overeat…We’ve confused our poor bodies so much, no wonder we’re so out of touch with our hunger and satiety cues. It’s time to re-train our minds to be more in tune with our bodies by changing the way we eat. How do we do this? See the list of steps below!
- Give yourself more time at each meal. If you normally eat breakfast in five minutes, give it 10. If you normally take 10 minutes, bump it up to 15. For lunch and dinner, give yourself at least 20 minutes. Why 20 minutes? That’s how long it takes the receptors and hormones in our stomachs to communicate with the brain and say “I’m full.” Don’t have the time? MAKE the time. Rearrange your home and work schedules to give yourself more time. Get your family and coworkers involved too!
- Eat slowly. During these meals, make sure you are thoroughly chewing and savoring each bite. Eat with all of your senses! Enjoy the smell, taste, texture, etc of your food.
- Eat stress-free. When we’re stressed out and we eat a meal, it doesn’t matter if it is the healthiest meal in the world, our bodies will not absorb those nutrients properly. In a stressed state, the body puts digestion on pause. And if your body isn’t digesting the food you’re eating, what happens? Acid reflux, bloating, stomach pain, the list goes on and on. Here are a few tips on eating stress-free:
- Take 10 deep breaths before you eat.
- Eat with no distractions or stressful external stimuli – no work, no TV, etc.
- Focus on the meal in front of you and be grateful for it (eat with all the senses.)
- Eat for energy and satiety, rather than comfort or fullness. Remember, you want to be at about a 7 on the fullness scale. When you’re done eating, make a physical gesture that your meal is complete by pushing your plate away, putting a napkin over it, or crossing your silverware. If you’re eating with other people, state out loud that you are full or done.
Implementing these action steps will make your eating experience much more pleasant, allow your body to more efficiently digest and assimilate nutrients, and prevent you from making some “hanger”-fueled choices, such as yelling at a spouse for no reason or eating an entire jar of olives. When you’re in tune with these signals and you honor your body by feeding it when it’s hungry and stopping before you feel overly full, you’re showing your body self-love. This will pay off when you do begin to start looking at WHAT you’re eating and making some changes to your diet. You’ll notice that the body will respond better and perhaps quicker than usual to certain dietary changes.