IE: Honoring your Hunger

Posted by Jennifer Campoli on May 13th, 2010
Filed under intuitive eating | No Comments »

A brief recap of previous posts on Intuitive Eating:

Intuitive Eating Changed Me

What Kind of Eater Are You

Reject the Diet Mentality

Guest post on Honoring Health

Last night I came home and felt something in my stomach, in my entire body actually. I was hungry. There was no rumbling or growling…instead my legs felt heavy, my head had a slight dull headache and I was having a hard time focusing. This was true hunger. I used to not know what that felt like and if I did, I had surely forgotten!

As I have learned more and more about Intuitive Eating, I have had the chance to reconnect with my body. I've realized that my body tells me exactly what it needs, when, and roughly how much every day. There is no guesswork. There is no reading books on how to feed my body well. It actually tells me what to do! The key is to LISTEN.

The Intuitive Eating principle on tap for today is a delicious one…

Principle 2: Honor Your Hunger

"Keep your body fed biologically with adequate energy and carbohydrates. Otherwise, you can trigger a primal drive to overeat. Once you reach the moment of excessive hunger, all intentions of moderate, conscious eating are fleeing and irrelevant. Learning to honor this first biological signal sets the stage for rebuilding trust with yourself and food."

This chapter begins with something so simple yet so powerful: "A dieting body is a starving body." Drastic? Not really. Any type of diet that involves calorie restriction is a form of starvation, according to our biological makeup. Our body doesn't know that you still plan to eat later, just not now. It doesn't know that the 7-11 is around the corner. All your body understands is that there is less energy available therefore it is time to adapt. Calorie restriction means a famine. Calorie restriction means to conserve energy so that there is still some left when it's needed.

Many people throw around the term "starvation mode." While I'm afraid this term has been misused and misinterpreted, there is merit to the concept. Anytime your body is deprived of energy, a set of mechanisms are triggered in response. Your metabolic rate decreases (not permanently), salivation increases, leptin levels rise (hormone), insulin production drops. All of this happens to "signal" our brains that we need food. If food is not provided, metabolic rate will remain low, leptin will remain heightened and your body will sustain these levels until necessary. This in a matter of speaking is starvation mode. It is the way our body naturally and biologically responds to a low fuel level.

Along with the biological responses comes hunger signals. Your stomach may growl, you may feel low on energy, your head may event start to hurt. What do most of us do when we diet or are trying to eat "well?" We ignore hunger signals. It doesn't fit into the meal plan, it's not time to eat so we keep going. At least that's what I did! :) I did that for so long that I eventually dulled all hunger signals and though I felt like crap all the time I thought that was normal! I had forced my body to quiet it's response to the energy I was not providing it.

This was my reality until I started to honor my hunger..

So how do you begin to do this?

1. Allow your body to trust you again

Your body is built to "trust" that you will provide it with what it needs. We are the ones in charge here. If you deprive it, it will stop trusting you and will take matters into it's own hands. Your body will sustain whatever condition you put it in for quite some time. But once you start eating again it's thinking "time to feast!" It surges your body with hormones thatmake it nearly impossible for you to feel satisfied! Ever been there? :)

So, start to rebuild your body's trust in you. Allow it to learn that you will have access to food whenever it desires. Does this mean go out and eat 2 pints of ice cream? Not exactly. But when you see the pint of ice cream and you are hungry, have some!

2. Listen for hunger signals

Learn to ask yourself "am I hungry? What is my hunger level?" Listen to how your stomach feels, how does your mouth feel. What sensations do you feel? This is when you start to pay attention to YOU.

Everyone has an individual level of hunger. The easiest way to relearn these signals is to simply check in with yourself throughout the day. Before a meal, during, after, an hour after, an hour before. Spend a few days always checking in with yourself. You will start to pick up on the subtle cues for what your body needs. Are you like me and you haven't really paid attention to these signals for some time? Be patient friend, it will happen and you will learn.

3. Learn to eat before the signals are too strong

Ever gone to the store when you hadn't eaten in 5 hours and every food you came across was the dreamiest thing in the world? How much did you buy on that trip? It is much easier to stop eating when you body isn't past the point of hungry. If you provide your body with food when it clearly asks for it, overeating will not be a part of your life!

Last night was a great example of this. Since starting my Insanity workout program my appetite has been on fire! I'm eating more now than I have in a while and it has taken some adjusting to. I ask myself often, can I really still be hungry? Well, some days YES! So I prance off to dance for 2 hours and only eat 1/2 of my dinner beforehand. Mistake number 1. Come 10pm when I arrive home my body is pissed and hungry! I felt miserable. So at 10pm I made myself a giant giant green monster. It was exactly what this body needed. If I had listened to my hunger signals earlier, I would have eaten more before dance and likely felt fine at 10pm.

Don't ignore your body friends. There is always a message there to hear.

How does your body tell you that you are hungry? And, do you always listen?

Have a wonderful rest of the day!

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