Hunger is a physical sensation. The grumbling stomach, the aching, clenching stomach that screams FEED ME! But is that hunger a physical need for calories to sustain you… or is that hunger a physical response to an emotional need?
What is “hunger”?
Full Definition of Hunger
- 1 a : a craving or urgent need for food or a specific nutrient b : an uneasy sensation occasioned by the lack of food c : a weakened condition brought about by prolonged lack of food
- 2 : a strong desire : craving <a hunger for success>
When you’ve gone a sustained period of time without food, be it 3 hours or 30… hunger CAN be a real physical sensation. But our mind can often trick us too. Many times, our body can give us a false sensation of hunger. There are MANY psychological reasons behind these triggers:
- Habitual Eating
Hunger because it is your “normal eating time”. Even if your stomach is already full, you can still feel hunger simply because it’s the time you “normally eat”. We are all creatures of habit, and the times we typically eat are a major sequence in our habits of daily living.
If you can hold out eating until your “normal meal time”, do that. It will help you keep from over eating.
- Traditional Eating
The way you grew up eating, and foods you ate as a child have a huge influence on you as an adult. Cultural foods, family traditions, and favorite childhood foods can have a strong psychological influence on your food decisions.
Break out of your food rut and try different foods. Take a close look at the way your food is prepared. Just because your mother ALWAYS made a family favorite with a whole stick of butter… doesn’t mean there aren’t alternatives! Modify family recipes to make them fit your macro needs. Use a little less rice, and a little more chicken!
- Emotional Eating
Stress is a HUGE trigger for bad food choices and over-eating. Stress and depression are likely the BIGGEST triggers for unhealthy eating in our society. For our whole lives we’ve been “trained” that food = celebration and good times. Whenever we celebrate something good… we eat! From birthdays, to new jobs, to graduations, to religious holidays… we celebrate with FOOD. So on occasion, (or frequently) when we get depressed, stress, or just down on ourselves, we crave the “comfort” that food brings. When we were a child, often our parents “rewarded” us with good behavior with candy, sugary and foods… This drives us later as adults to do the same thing to ourselves. It doesn’t always have to be depression that drives bad food habits! Sometimes we kill our diets when we’re HAPPY!
You need to learn yourself, and every time you feel hunger, really focus on WHY. Learn what your stress triggers are, and find alternative outlets for the stress. Exercise is an EXCELLENT alternative, as it BURNS calories instead of adding them on top! Physical activity is a GREAT stress reliever, be it a gym session, or simply a walk around the block.
- Boredom Eating
Many times when we are bored, idle, just sitting around looking for something to do, we will feel “hunger”. So often, when we are really busy, and our brain is focused on activity, or we are “on a roll” doing a task, we will completely forget to eat! The opposite happens when we are bored and just looking for something to do.
Don’t give in to it! Find something to keep you busy… OTHER than making a trip to the fridge!
There are dozens of triggers that cause the sensation of hunger… that have nothing to do with the physical need for food. The best solution to all of the above triggers is having a PLAN instead of fumbling through your day and week nutritionally. If you know in advance (and prepare in advance) what foods you have on your plan, what you plan to eat for breakfast lunch and dinner, and what your go-to snacks will be… you’re 75% of the way to a solution.
The other 25% simply comes from getting a handle on your psychological triggers, when you eat poorly, and WHY! NOBODY eats 100% perfectly. Sometimes absolute RESTRICTION is the worst thing you can do. Treating yourself on occasion is perfectly healthy, and FITS into a successful nutrition plan. If your “treats” become daily occurrences… you have an issue.
If you feel like you could use help with your nutrition, options to avoid nutrition “slips”, and a little accountability with your diet… That’s what we do! Give us a call, and we can absolutely help!