Eating only when you’re hungry sounds simple enough, but it can be deceptively powerful. By tuning in to your own body instead of adhering to a prescriptive set of rules set out by a diet or calorie count, not only can you lose weight and keep it off, but you can also develop a better relationship with food, and with your body.
What are the Benefits of Eating Only When Hungry?
The Washington Post explains “In the journal Current Obesity Reports, nutritionist Carolyn Dunn and colleagues from North Carolina State University performed the first review of research papers on mindful eating and weight loss. ‘All studies showed weight loss results’ with mindful eating, they reported. In addition, four of five studies over a follow-up period found continued weight loss. The expected regain occurred in only one of the five studies.
The review concluded, ‘Increased mindful eating has been shown to help participants gain awareness of their bodies, be more in tune to hunger and satiety, recognize external cues to eat, gain self-compassion, decrease food cravings, decrease problematic eating, and decrease reward-driven eating.’“
How to Eat Mindfully
Many of us have become so disconnected from our natural cues that it’s incredibly challenging to simply listen to our bodies. Runtastic suggests a few simple guidelines to make it simple to only eat when you’re hungry:
- Don’t wait until you’re starving to eat something. Crashing blood sugar can cause you to make poor food choices – usually grabbing foods high in fat, salt, or sugar. Pay attention to your body and eat when you’re hungry, not starving.
- Ignore scheduled meal times. If you’re used to eating dinner at noon and dinner at six, you may not even question whether you’re truly hungry at those times. Instead, make meal times flexible and eat when you feel hungry, not when the clock strikes a certain hour.
- Stop when you’re full. Just like eating at set times during the day, we become accustomed to finishing our portions or cleaning our plates – regardless of whether we really want Try to pause every few minutes, take a deep breath and examine whether you are still hungry.
- Outsmart Emotional Eating
Food is far more than just fuel to keep us going. For many of us, it has a lot of emotional associations – we eat when we’re tired, sad, celebrating, or bored.
Geneen Roth, author of Women, Food, and God, and mindful-eating devotee, says “When you no longer believe that eating will save your life when you feel exhausted or overwhelmed or lonely, you will stop. When you believe in yourself more than you believe in food, you will stop using food as if it were your only chance at not falling apart”.
In other words, when you can separate the emotional nature of eating from the physical need to nourish your body, you will have mastered mindful eating and be well on your way to physical and mental wellbeing. That’s exactly what only eating when you’re hungry can help you do.
Next up, we’ll discuss how to identify true hunger, and explain how to master the habit of eating only when you’re hungry.
Until next time!