What Is Hunger?
Are you hungry? Are you sure? These are questions we don’t ask ourselves. And yet, we need to.
A lot of us are disconnected from our physical hunger signals. We eat by the clock, by the mere sight of food, because of people eating around us, and for emotional reasons.
In other words, we don’t always eat just because we are hungry.
An innate drive
Hunger is one of the primal forces of life. Babies cry when they’re hungry, and caretakers respond with food. This is the beginning of our personal relationship with hunger and satiety. Eating to satisfy hunger is a learned behavior. But, what if something interferes with this learning?
A parent can misread signals. A baby may be fed when not hungry, but fussy or crying for other reasons. Food may be offered to a child to relieve him when he’s hurt or upset.
When food is used as a distraction or reward, the child becomes confused about why we feed him. The process of learning to eat in response to physical hunger becomes interrupted.
Research shows you’re actually trained how to eat by your family. Taste, smell and texture preferences are culturally learned. Being taught to use food for reward or comfort in childhood is one of the strongest shapers of adult eating behavior.
While there is a genetic component to chronic dieting and overeating, it has a smaller effect than the food environment in which you grew up.
Types of hunger
Eating behavior specialists refer to three types of hunger:
- Physiological is triggered by signs, like stomach growling and headache
- Mouth is triggered by the sight, smell, taste, and memory of food
- Psychological is triggered by emotions, like anxiety, anger and sadness
What to do?
- Keep a food and feelings log. When you get the idea to eat, record your feelings first. Regardless of whether or not you choose to eat, note what you are feeling. Explore ways to deal with your feelings without eating.
- Explore the physical signs of hunger. If they are very faint or almost nonexistent, you’re probably not hungry. Be brave enough to wait until you’re hungry before you eat, and then give yourself full permission to eat until you feel satisfied.
- Forget the clock and vow to eat only when physically hungry. Don’t worry if it’s 2 times a day, or 8, let your body, not your mind, call the shots. After a while, you’ll probably settle into a pattern of three meals a day.
Did you learn to read your hunger correctly? Do you wait until you're hungry to eat?
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