What if I told you that the feeling that prompts us to walk into the kitchen and open the fridge or pantry is caused by different types of hunger? So often we think of hunger as being one feeling – that gnawing sensation we experience in the morning after our nightly fast or the feeling we have when we get home from work in the afternoon and are anxiously awaiting dinner.
This week I challenge you to try this: next time you feel “hungry” take 10 seconds to stop and differentiate between which type of hunger you’re experiencing. An added perk to taking the time to think about your hunger is that often times we will realize that we do not actually require food and that instead it is something non-food related that we are craving.
Let’s start by going through the three types of hunger that we experience.
When we think “hunger” this type of hunger is often what comes to mind. This is the hunger that we experience when it has been a long period of time, usually 5-6 hours, since we’ve last consumed food. Quite often when we experience stomach hunger our stomach begins to growl. At this time our bodies require food in order to function optimally.
The concept of mouth hunger is probably new to most. An accurate depiction of mouth hunger would be when we crave a food for it’s particular mouth feel or taste. Have you ever craved chips because you’re wanting the crispy crunch and salt? Or craved ice cream for that smooth, cold sensation you get in your mouth? Anytime we eat because we know a food will taste good we are eating because of mouth hunger.
Heart hunger refers to eating because we are experiencing a particular emotion or because of a learned behaviour. This could be indulging in a decadent food after a stressful day at work or needing to have some sort of dessert after a meal.
One of the best ways to determine why we’re eating is to make sure that we are being mindful when we eat. My clients tease me about how often I suggest that they be mindful when eating out, at a party or on vacation. Being mindful is easy to say but what exactly does it mean? What do we do to actually be mindful when we’re eating?
When I say mindful eating it sounds like some spiritual hocus-pocus where you eat in the dark with candles and incense. However, increasing your mindfulness can make a huge difference in how many unnecessary calories you consume in a day.
Below I’ve outlined my top 8 tips for increasing your mindfulness when eating (because this post got a little long, we will break it up to make it a little more manageable). If you begin implementing these strategies into your daily life you may even find that a few of those pesky pounds effortlessly slip away. It is truly amazing how often or what we choose to eat is due to simply being on autopilot during meals or snacks.
The first thing I suggest doing when you feel prompted to open the fridge or pantry for something to eat is to consider the three types of hunger we discussed earlier. Are you eating because you’re bored? Are you eating because you know there is tasty food in the house? Or are you eating because your stomach is growling and your energy is low? Determining why you’re deciding to eat is the first step in being more mindful.
Are we ever really eating anything nutritious when we are standing alone in the pantry with the lights off? I encourage my clients only to eat when they are seated at a table (the driver’s seat of a car does not count). Sitting at a table while we are eating forces us to focus much more closely on what we are actually eating, allowing us to better connect with how satisfied we feel.
Distractions can be your phone, television, computer or even the newspaper, a book or a magazine. I’m sure most of us have experienced a time when we’ve been watching a movie or TV show and eating something, whether it’s a bowl of popcorn (which can be a good snack – see here) or a bowl of grapes, and all of a sudden we reach down and the bowl is empty. Typically when this happens we still have that “hungry” feeling (normally it is mouth hunger) because we don’t really remember eating what was in the bowl because we were so focused on something else.
Later this week we will talk about the other 5 tips but for now, I recommend working on implementing these 3 🙂
Yours in Health,
*Note: If you feel like you would benefit a program targeted at understanding why you crave the foods you do, check out a Craving Change™ facilitator near you.