How to Wait to Eat until You are Hungry
In the 21st Century it is all too easy to eat when you’re not hungry: widespread availability of food coupled with advertising means that we are reminded of or offered food more or less continuously. Because of the way the human brain works, all sorts of stimuli can trigger the desire to eat, even in the absence of hunger. We very easily get in to habits of eating in response to triggers and associations which are to do with memories and expectations, rather than whether we are actually hungry right now.
When we eat in response to external triggers rather than our internal hunger, we tend to put on excess weight. Learning to use internal hunger and fullness signals to guide eating offers a genuine alternative to dieting for those who wish to lose weight and to be able to keep it off easily. The process of learning to do this takes effort and thought, but once you reach your goal weight it is really easy to maintain because you have done the hard work of changing how you regulate your eating.
Waiting to eat until feeling definitely hungry is something that suits our biology. Because of the way our taste buds work, if you really want to food to taste fabulous, choose something you like and get hungry before you start eating it. I’d go so far as to say that basic food tastes better when you’re hungry than haute cuisine when you’re not.
Hunger naturally triggers a kind of anxiety.
Some people are not bothered by this feeling and just use it as a signal that it is approaching time to eat. Other people find it intolerable. This can be because of unresolved childhood fears relating to food availability. Many other people are somewhere in between. Wherever you are on this spectrum, being a healthy weight is helped by being able to tolerate mild hunger.
I developed Appetite Retraining in order to teach people how to use the sensations in the stomach and gut to guide eating, so that they could lose weight without worrying about calorie counting or restricting what types of food they could eat. The rule is very simple. Using the Appetite Pendulum©, you wait to eat until you reach -3 (definitely hungry) on the scale. Until then you tolerate the mild hunger of -1 and -2 and you only start eating at -3.
Waiting to Eat: How to Do It
First, you will need to have a technique or strategy for dealing with the uneasy feelings that may be produced by waiting to eat. These uneasy feelings are closely linked with anxiety, so anxiety reduction techniques are helpful. You only need one technique, and you can try out a range of techniques (see the free “Anxiety and How to Manage it” download) to find which one suits you best.
Second, whenever you think of eating, check in with your gut before you turn to food. If your Appetite Pendulum number is not as low as -3, DO NOT START EATING. If you are near food, move away from it if you can.
Third, distract yourself with any activity for a few minutes. After a few minutes of distraction your hunger level is likely to have decreased so you can get on with other things. Also using your anxiety reduction technique at this point will help to reduce the uncomfortable feelings which may emerge at this point. These feelings will pass.As you tolerate the -1 and -2 levels of hunger, notice that you are exerting healthy, gentle control in relation to your desire to eat. Notice what that feels like and what it says about you. Maybe write down those positive thoughts to remind you when you need encouragement in future.
When you reach -3 on the Appetite Pendulum it is time to eat.
Hunger is a sign that your body has used up the food from the last meal and is starting to burn up a bit of stored fat. When you experience mild hunger and tolerate it, you are losing fat.
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