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How to Know if You are Really Hungry – Part 2

We eat when we are happy. We eat when we are sad. We eat to celebrate. We eat when we are bored. Sometimes, we don’t even know why we are eating at all. One of the main reasons so many people are not at a healthy weight is because at some point, they stopped listening to their body. They don’t know when they are hungry and when they are full.

Scientists have been looking into what contributes to our appetite and hunger for many years. Our bodies are complex and Ghrelin, the so-called “hunger hormone,” signals your brain when you’re hungry. Nerves in the stomach send signals to the brain that you’re full, but these signals can take up to 20 minutes to communicate, and by that time, you may have already eaten too much. Moreover, the decision to eat is affected by a host of factors like sights, smells, and social settings.

When you sit down for a meal, you want to be hungry. However, you don’t want to let your blood sugar levels get so low that you feel ravenous and go on a binge. Having a planned meal at a planned time cuts down on how much you eat and improves the quality of your meal.

How do you tell real hunger from emotional hunger?

Real Hunger

grows gradually

can wait

you stop when you feel full

you feel good after eating

you feel energized

Emotional Hunger

 —hits suddenly

you crave a specific food, usually high in fat or sugar

needs to be satisfied instantly

no amount of food fills you

you feel guilty after eating

you feel heavier or bloated

Before you order a pizza or run to the kitchen, evaluate just how hungry you really are. If you ate less than 2-3 hours ago, you are probably not feeling real hunger. If you must have something, snack on a cucumber, celery, or other veggies to tide you over until the next meal. Or drink a glass of water with fresh squeezed lemon juice. It will fool your body and stop the cravings.

One of my favorite tricks is to include lean protein in your meals and snacks. They last longer in your tummy and keep you feeling fuller. Also, don’t gobble your food like it’s a food eating contest. This often gets to be a habit because most of us feel constantly rushed, stressed, or just have a limited time to eat. I often resort to eating in the car while driving, simply because I wouldn’t get to eat otherwise. It’s not ideal, but life happens.

When you do get to sit down for a meal, practice mindfulness. That means, no eating in front of your television, computer, and other distractions. Eat slowly and chew your food well. Take pleasure in your meals. Focus on the quality of food, not the amount. Appreciate the flavors, aromas, and textures.

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