Monthly Archives: May 2015

Listen To Your Intuitive Sense of Hunger

Babies naturally have an accurate sense of when they’re hungry and when they’re not.  As we grow up, when does our ability to eat for the right reasons soften? And why?  So much of our tahoeblueeating behavior — IF done mindlessly — is dictated by our environment, culture, and society:

1) Nonstop work and activity. In American culture, a leisurely meal does not happen by default. Those who work outside the home are pretty much at the mercy of their workplace schedule.  Family life, including mealtime, can be dictated by the kids. Our culture values convenience over spending time on food prep and cooking, and fast food is often laden with high levels of sugar, salt, and fat.

2) Never-ending availability of cheap, palatable food. Not long ago with regards to evolution, food supply was scarce.  This is not so today.  We can eat whenever and whatever we think we want.  Even office supply stores have soda, candy, and junk food in highly visible spots.

3) Marketing and advertising messages to eat, eat, eat all the time.  These also play on our natural inclination to eat when there is food around.  These are signals that make us think we want to eat when oftentimes we truly aren’t hungry and don’t need to eat.

How can you work around these obstacles?  Re-train yourself to eat intuitively: that is, listen and observe your body’s hunger signals and respond properly to them, just as you did when you were a baby.  Mentally, you can approach eating with the idea that when your hunger is a 7 out of 10, you should eat. When your satisfaction is a 7 out of 10, stop.

Practically for starters, have balanced snacks on hand, and when you’re truly hungry between meals, eat one!  Raw and/or unsalted nuts could be a healthy choice, and it only takes a true portion – about 20 almonds, for example – to satiate hunger.  If you have a work fridge, you can stash string cheese or low-sugar yogurt and fruit.  For any snack, eat a portion and wait 20 minutes.  If you’re still hungry, i.e. not at a 7 out of 10 level of satiety, eat another portion and repeat.  The same principle is true for meals: take less of each food than you think you might need, eat it slowly, and re-assess your hunger after 20 minutes have passed.  Most of the time, you’ll be satisfied with what you’ve had (registering between a 7-9 satisfaction level if you stop at 7) and won’t truly need more.
Using that approach will help you be less inclined to buy and consume the ubiquitous junk food, and you’ll be less responsive to external cues telling you to eat.  The most salient example is the commercial, created by corporations whose only interest is to get you to buy, with no thought of how it could affect your health.

The 7/10 tactic has a positive effect on your health in a couple of important ways. First, you eat less food overall, and thus buy less. This is because there’s more food for days to come, and next time you shop for groceries, you won’t need as much. In the long-term, eating more healthfully not only gives you the opportunity to save and do more with the money you would’ve otherwise spent, but also arguably saves you from paying more in health care costs down the road.  It saves you money now AND later, enhancing financial health along with benefiting your physical health.  All the payoff starts with mindfulness.

[Photo: Flume Trail, Lake Tahoe, NV]