Can you think of the time where you were MOST hungry in life?
I’m talking one specific incident where you knew if you didn’t eat food soon you would tip over from hunger.
Waiting for Thanksgiving dinner is tough every year….
Waiting to eat until after a meet weigh in comes close….
But nothing compares to that one time in 7thgrade.
We went to the Environmental Learning Center for 3 days, and by the end of those 3 days that is easily the hungriest I have EVER been.
We were fed breakfast, lunch, and dinner but I remember thinking I could fit the entire plate of food in the palm of my hand. Not to mention, the taste was worse than any school lunch.
We were told not to bring any treats or snacks and since I was such a rule follower, I didn’t. Much to my dismay, EVERYONE brought snacks, but nobody shared because they were all SO HUNGRY.
If you remember from an earlier blog (8 Reasons Why I Love Food (And You Should Too)), I was a great kid so long as I was rested and well fed.
I was neither.
I slept like garbage because my chaperone snored, I hadn’t comfortably showered since we left, and I had no time to myself.
I was a pill.
The final morning, I remember loading my bags onto the bus feeling so weak. Then it came time to get on the bus, and I actually felt lightheaded as I climbed the stairs.
On the bus ride I couldn’t even sleep because my stomach was screaming for food.
Then we stopped at McDonald’s.
I ate like I had never eaten before – 20 piece McNugget, 1 large fry, and a shake.
I told you I’m not perfect with my nutrition…
There are maybe a few other times like this in my life.
Then there are times where I plop on the couch after a long day and think I’m hungry….
Or on Friday night after a long, stressful week that everything inside me is screaming for the contents of the cupboard.
Or the times where I’m emotional for God knows what reason (#femaleproblems)…
Those aren’t really times of hunger.
But I KNOW you’ve had moments like this..
Moments where you let the stress, chaos, and emotions of the days and weeks get the best of you and the only remedy appears to be food.
I also know that if you’re trying to diet or lose body fat, this is NOT helping…
Today I want to offer up some strategies to help better recognize TRUE hunger and to better fight the temptation to destroy the kitchen cupboard.
Let’s first differentiate between physical and emotional hunger.
Physical hunger is a physical feeling, sensation, or perception of hunger that is actually felt within the body.
This type of hunger comes on gradually as food is digested and typically shows up a few hours after meals. Physical hunger can be postponed or slowed by eating or drinking.
Physical hunger can be felt in your primary fuel usage centers:
- Head presented as headaches, foggy brain, and light headedness
- Stomach and gut presented as growling or feelings of emptiness
- Energy Levels
When experiencing physical hunger, you are able to make more rational and mindful decisions. You’re more likely to select a variety of healthy, nutrient dense foods that leave you feeling good and satisfied.
The best part about physical hunger?
You’re more likely to stop when you are full.
Emotional hunger is brought upon in response to a trigger or emotional scenario. There is no chance of predicting or estimating when emotional hunger will strike as there are infinite triggers.
This type of hunger comes on sudden and fast. Emotional hunger triggers highly specific cravings for things like comfort foods, highly processed foods, and hyper palatable foods.
Eating to satisfy your emotional hunger is unsatisfying. It’s also unlikely that you are able to stop eating before reaching a state of uncomfortable fullness. This frequently leads to feelings of guilt and regret, which only triggers a further desire to emotionally eat.
Does the reason I’m hungry really make a difference if I stay within my calorie and macro range?
You see, WHY you eat weighs heavily on WHAT you eat, and when your goal is fat loss,
WHAT you eat can make a HUGE difference.
Physical hunger draws you toward real, nutrient dense, whole foods. These are the foods we know we SHOULD eat during a fat loss phase and for overall health.
On the other hand, emotional hunger draws us toward processed, hyper palatable foods. These are our guilty pleasures. The ones that just seem irresistible, and the ones generally recommended as poor for fat loss and health.
Let’s move away from the differences and get into building our defenses against emotional eating.
For all of my clients, I recommend the 10-Minute Rule, and if I’m being honest, this is something I could get better at myself.
Let’s dig into it!
The next time you feel hungry or find yourself running off to the kitchen, I want you to pause and set the timer on your phone for 10 minutes.
In those 10 minutes, I want you to go through 3 step process.
STEP 1: Hydrate
Fill up a glass or take a drink from your water bottle, but drink about 8 ounces of water.
Dehydration has a tendency to present itself as hunger; therefore, a glass of water hydrates you and relieves the hunger.
Let’s say dehydration is not the cause for hunger. Drinking a glass of water fills your stomach and creates the illusion that you ate something. If anything, drinking water buys you time because it tricks your stomach into thinking it’s full to help you make it through your 10 minutes.
STEP 2: Check In
As humans’ things have become so automatic.
You need information, pull out your phone and look it up.
You need to go somewhere; you hop in the car and drive there.
You’re hungry, you go get some food.
The unfortunate part of our society being so automatic is that we don’t always stop to ask ourselves what we really need, find out what we really know, or discover how we truly feel.
That’s why Step 2 is Check In.
Grab your drink of water then ask yourself the following questions:
- What was I just doing?
- Was I just doing a stressful project or activity?
- When was the last time I ate?
- What did I eat?
- How was the quality of the food?
- Where do I feel this hunger – in physical or emotional places?
These questions are designed to help you differentiate between physical and emotional hunger, so you’re able to make the best possible food decision.
Step 3: Get Moving
One of the best ways to alleviate the sensation of hunger is to get moving. Movement stimulates your sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and diminishes sensations of hunger.
My favorite way to go about this is to grab a drink of water, then step outside for a short walk or pick my 3 favorite core exercises to cycle through in the house. As I’m moving my body, I’m thinking about the answers to the questions from Step 2.
Once my timer goes off, my questions are answered, and I’m able to truly determine whether or not I need something to eat.
The most important piece of this 3-step process is to find what works for YOU!
I’ve had clients utilize journaling, meditation, chores, or a conversation instead of a walking or exercising.
Whatever it is, take and modify the 10-Minute Rule to fit your needs and to help you eat because you are truly hungry, not because your emotions are getting the best of you.
About The Author
Jordan Davies is the Co-Owner of Complete Performance. Jordan has her B.S. in Exercise Science and Psychology, and her M.A. in Holistic Health Studies. She is a CSCS certified strength and conditioning coach, and a PN-1 and NCI-1 certified nutrition coach. She loves to study how the human body needs to be moved and nourished and making that fit to your unique lifestyle. Click Here Now to Apply for Coaching with Jordan.