Our bodies send clear signals telling us when to eat and when to stop—but are we listening?
Your body sends clear and unmistakable signals when it needs attention.
You know what it means when your mouth is dry, your eyelids are heavy or your bladder is full. And while you might be able to ignore those signals for a little while, sooner or later you’ll be driven to drink something, get some sleep, or make a trip to the restroom.
Learning to recognize your body’s natural signals of hunger and satisfaction—and responding appropriately—are skills worth practicing.
Some of these signals may sound (or feel) like this:
- Growling stomach
- Headache or lightheadedness
- Clouded thinking
But are you hearing what your body is telling you with these signals? Your ability to do so could have a direct impact on your health.
On any given day, our bodies send hundreds of thousands of messages to various cells, organs, systems, and metabolic processes in order to keep things functioning in tip-top shape and in a state of homeostasis (a happy medium) – or at least as close to it as possible.
Think about your sleep patterns. How do you know when it’s time to go to bed? Your body tells you. Your breathing becomes deeper and more subdued. You yawn. You think about hitting the sack. You’re tired. Try as you might to not listen, sleep is one of those things in your body’s wiring that is inevitable. Eventually, you will become so tired you have to sleep.
But then look at your eating habits. Thanks to the fast-paced society we live in, it’s easy to lose touch with our body’s signals when it comes to food. We eat on the go, eat on the couch, drive through the takeout line, and scarf down lunch at our desk between meetings.
Unfortunately, if you aren’t in touch with what your body is saying, you are missing out on a key component to your health – intuitiveness. Today, we are talking about intuitive eating. How to know what your body needs, what it doesn’t need, and what it is saying when it comes to your nutrition.
How can you get back in touch with your hunger signals?
Learn when to stop eating
Try to stop eating before you get too full. Too full is uncomfortable. It means you ate too much.
Get in touch with what “satisfied,” or “pleasantly full,” feels like for you.
Use a hunger scale
A hunger scale can help you learn how to tell the difference between true, physical hunger and hunger that’s really just in your head. Psychological hunger is a desire to eat that is caused by emotions, like stress, boredom, sadness, or happiness.
When it’s time to eat, make healthy choices
For your body to be truly satisfied, your meals need to be balanced. This means that each meal should contain:
Don’t deny yourself
Lots of people think that healthy eating means never having dessert or french fries or any of the things they love to eat. That’s wrong.
Your appetite, which can include a desire for sweets or other less-than-healthy treats, is a strong body signal. And part of keeping your body at that “satisfied” level on the hunger scale is eating tastes that you like and want.
A few more tips
- Try not to let your hunger drop to a 1 or 2 on the hunger scale. When you get that hungry, you’re likely to eat faster, make poorer food choices, and keep eating past the “satisfied” point.
- On the other hand, let yourself feel some hunger between meals. Mild hunger is a good thing. After all, it’s a sign that you’re not overeating. Teach yourself to appreciate hunger pangs as a natural part of life, as a sign that you’re a healthy eater.
- Give cravings 10 minutes. When you suddenly feel the need to eat, tell yourself that you will wait 10 minutes. If it was only a craving, you will have forgotten about it by then, and the urge will be gone. If 10 minutes goes by and you still have the urge to eat, you may be starting to get hungry.
- Don’t eat more now because you think you might not have time to eat later. Eat what your body needs now, and worry about later, later.
- Some people find that it’s easier to schedule lots of small meals throughout the day. Other people do better with “three square meals.” Whichever you choose, try to eat on a regular schedule every day, according to how hungry you usually get. Eating regular meals can help you be more aware of hunger and fullness.
- Does leaving food on your plate drive you nuts? Take smaller servings. Save leftovers for another meal. Share plates with someone. Ask yourself what’s more important—a few bites of “wasted” food, or your health?
- When you eat, make your food the main attraction. Sit down at the table with your family. Don’t eat in front of the TV. Don’t read while you eat. Give your attention to what you are putting in your mouth, how it tastes, and how your body reacts to what and how much you’re eating.
Like many things in life, patience may be required, but a process of trial, error, and a little self-compassion is the best path back to a healthier relationship with your body.
EAT YOUR WAY TO A HEALTHY ACTIVE LIFESTYLE
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