Don’t Feed Your Feelings
If you’re struggling to lose weight, tuning in and understanding your emotions may the key for breaking through your plateau. By listening to your inner feelings, you will develop the ability to determine whether your emotions or true hunger sensations are driving your motivation to eat. Many people eat when they experience strong emotions –excitement at celebrations, loneliness at home, boredom at work, stress at the end of the day, visual stimulation when watching TV, or simply cravings related to the time of day. However, in order to avoid overeating, it is important to understand why you’re eating and identify whether it’s due to true hunger or simply food desires (appetite).
Understanding the difference between appetite and hunger.
When we eat, we often experience two different sensations: physical hunger & appetite. Physical hunger is associated with sensations that tell our body it’s time to eat. These sensations typically include an empty or gnawing feeling in the stomach, signaling the need for food. Appetite is a separate, but related phenomenon. Appetite is the emotional desire for food. Appetite helps us decide what sounds good when we are hungry. However, sometimes we can have an emotional appetite for food when we are not physically hungry, which can lead to emotional overeating & weight gain.
Identifying hunger and appetite.
To avoid this, practice tuning in and noticing the difference between hunger and appetite. Identify when you feel the physical sensations of hunger, and also when you feel an emotional appetite for certain foods. Do your best to only eat when hunger and appetite occur together, and avoid eating when you are experiencing appetite alone. An emotional desire for food when you are not hungry usually means you have another need, unrelated to food, that needs to be satisfied. For example, you may crave chocolate when you get home from a stressful day at work, but what you truly need is a moment of relaxation & stress-relief to decompress from your day. Keep tuning in to discover what you truly need!
Tips for a more satisfying eating experience.
If you tune in and notice that you are truly hungry, continue to stay tuned into your body signals to prevent yourself from overeating. Here are some great tips to help you do just that:
- Eat mindfully. Try to eliminate distractions during meals, and truly focus on the act of eating. Turn off the TV, put away your cell phone, and fully experience your meal. By appreciating the smells, tastes, and sensations of eating, you will be more satisfied by less food, and will be better able to tell when you are approaching fullness.
- Take your time. So many of us eat on the go, rushing from obligation to obligations. But taking the time to eat and nourish the body is important! Slow down and savor your meal by sitting at a table, chewing slowly, and putting your fork back down on the table in between bites. These small changes can make a huge difference in your eating habits!
- Leave 1/4 to 1/3 of your stomach empty after eating. This is a common practice in other cultures. The Japanese even have a phrase for it- hara hachi bu, which translates to “belly 80 percent full.” By following this principle you’ll have more energy and won’t get that post-meal tired feeling. Reducing your portion sizes by 25% will help you significantly cut calories. Plus, with a small reduction, you won’t’ feel deprived.
- Sit quietly for a few minutes after your meal. Pay attention to how you feel and be thankful for the food that nourished your mind and body.
By learning to distinguish between appetite and hunger, you will be able to satisfy your needs and cut back on emotional overeating you may have never noticed before! This simple skill may be just what you need to break through a weight loss plateau. Try implementing it this week!